There are currently over 450,000 children in foster care in the United States, many within sibling groups. As foster parent retention rates continue to decline and children entering foster care continues to rise in correlation to systemic issues, such as the opioid crisis, there are currently more children in foster care than foster parents available to provide support. As a result of the frequent shifting in foster parenting and lack of resources, children in foster care are often reduced to moving from one placement to another, carrying their belongings in trash bags. At SOS Children’s Villages Illinois, our unique model of care presents a different narrative, where children in Illinois foster care find stability, hope, and love provided by Foster Parents within our Villages.
Across the United States, foster parent retention rates are getting lower. In 2018, the National Council of Adoption produced findings that concluded that more than half of all foster parents in traditional foster care quit being a foster parent after one year of service. Citing lack of adequate training, limited resources, and feelings of being unsupported, foster parents across the United States feel unequipped to handle the challenges of fostering on a daily basis. As a result, children in the care of community foster parents are required to move to new placements, often changing neighborhoods and schools. In fact, children in foster care live in an average of seven different homes and attend five or more schools before reaching permanency (through reunification, adoption, or independence). For sibling groups, this frequent changing increases the risk of separation.
Due to these frequent moves, it is a well-known narrative that children in foster care must always be ready to transfer to a new placement, often owning only a garbage bag or tattered duffle bag to carry their belongings from place to place. The solution to this problem is not only new suitcases, but a new vision for foster care. At SOS Children’s Villages Illinois, our unique model of care prevents these types of moves from happening and creates stability and healing for children.
The SOS Illinois Difference for Foster Care
With a model focused on creating the least-disruptive path towards permanency, SOS Illinois’ mission focuses on providing a loving, stable environment for siblings in Illinois foster care. Our professionally-trained, full-time Foster Parents sit at the center of this alternative model of foster care, as they provide 24/7 support in our single-family, Village homes. As part of our Village model, SOS Illinois Foster Parents receive ongoing training and support from a full network of case managers, workshop facilitators, administrative team members, on-site clinical therapists, and other Foster Parents. Our Villages, filled with these assets, allow our Foster Parents to feel like they are a part of an understanding, empowering community encouraging them to provide the best care possible to the children we serve.
A Difference That Matters: SOS Illinois Stability and Success
The pillars of our model allow for higher retention rates, meaning that the children in our care are far less likely to move. In 2019, our average length of Foster Parent service was five years, creating much-needed constancy. Additionally, when an SOS Illinois Foster Parent does leave our community, the children in their home do not have to pack up and move. Instead, a new Foster Parent joins our community and moves into the Village home with the children. This difference means children at SOS Illinois are not regularly changing schools, losing peer groups, facing separation from their siblings, and feeling the additional weight of uneasy transition. As a result of this difference, SOS Illinois has celebrated a 100% high school graduation rate for over a decade, compared to the national average of around 50% of teens in foster care.
Supporting the Future of Foster Care
The 30 years of success of our community has experienced does not happen alone, but with the support of our generous partners, donors, and friends. Building the future of foster care is a community effort; and we are thankful that you are joining us in our pursuit towards healing and hope. By joining us as a Dream Maker, you can help us ensure that we have the resources we need to keep our mission alive for years to come, creating pathways to lifelong stability. If you’d prefer to get involved on-site, becoming a Foster Parent, Relief Parent, or Child Welfare Specialist means you’ll be a key player on our Villages, providing care, building confidence, and accompanying children in foster care on their journeys towards their forever home. In whatever way you get involved, know that your role is crucial, and you can help change the narrative to recycling garbage bags to creating a cycle of opportunity.