May is Foster Care Awareness Month-OpEd

May is National Foster Care Month, traditionally an opportunity for us all to focus attention on the year-round needs of American children and youth in foster care. This year, the COVID-19 crisis makes those needs, current and prospective, as substantial and pressing as they have ever been in Florida.

The current challenges are several.  First, all those who care for our abused, abandoned and neglected children are among those most likely to feel the economic impact of the crisis. Foster parents, kinship caregivers and birth parents laid off from jobs at struggling or closed businesses all need timely and substantial assistance in order to meet their, and their foster children’s, basic needs for food and shelter.  However, the non-profit organizations that they rely heavily on for support and assistance are also suffering.  For most, if not all, of these charitable organizations the funding they receive from local, state and federal governments is rarely sufficient to fully cover the cost of their operations and services. They rely heavily on private donations to fully meet the needs of their families and those donations are already rapidly diminishing because of the pandemic.  Not only does the reeling economy put a damper on individual donors’ charitable giving but the pandemic has forced the cancellation of all major events that are the backbone of their fundraising efforts.

The prospective challenges are equally imposing. The economic devastation wrought by the crisis will undoubtedly lead to increased adult substance abuse and domestic violence, which historically are overwhelmingly the predominant reasons for South Florida children being removed from their homes and placed into foster care. Virtually everyone, therefore, expects that the number of children entering foster care will also soon increase dramatically.  More children in the system will require more resources to appropriately and effectively support and serve them and those that care for them.  However, virtually everyone is equally certain that a special session of the Florida legislature will be convened to amend the state budget and will look to cut budgeted allocations to human services as one response to expected decreases in state income.  This, in a state that now acknowledges that its system of foster care and related services is currently underfunded by at least $100 million.  Further reducing foster care funding may assist some with addressing Florida’s potential budgetary crisis but will do so at the cost of exacerbating a very real human crisis – increased abuse and neglect of Florida’s children and the overwhelming of the foster care system created to serve them.

Now is the time to do more, not less, for our abused, abandoned and neglected children.  As private citizens and businesses we must now do all that we can to maintain our individual support of those non-profit organizations that serve and support these children. As a community we must demand that the legislature do the same.

For more information on becoming a foster parent, please call ChildNet at 954-414-6001 or 561-352-2501.

Larry Rein is the CEO & President of ChildNet, the non-profit lead agency contracted by the State to manage the foster care system in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

May is National Foster Care Month, traditionally an opportunity for us all to focus attention on the year-round needs of American children and youth in foster care. This year, the COVID-19 crisis makes those needs, current and prospective, as substantial and pressing as they have ever been in Florida.

The current challenges are several.  First, all those who care for our abused, abandoned and neglected children are among those most likely to feel the economic impact of the crisis. Foster parents, kinship caregivers and birth parents laid off from jobs at struggling or closed businesses all need timely and substantial assistance in order to meet their, and their foster children’s, basic needs for food and shelter.  However, the non-profit organizations that they rely heavily on for support and assistance are also suffering.  For most, if not all, of these charitable organizations the funding they receive from local, state and federal governments is rarely sufficient to fully cover the cost of their operations and services. They rely heavily on private donations to fully meet the needs of their families and those donations are already rapidly diminishing because of the pandemic.  Not only does the reeling economy put a damper on individual donors’ charitable giving but the pandemic has forced the cancellation of all major events that are the backbone of their fundraising efforts.

The prospective challenges are equally imposing. The economic devastation wrought by the crisis will undoubtedly lead to increased adult substance abuse and domestic violence, which historically are overwhelmingly the predominant reasons for South Florida children being removed from their homes and placed into foster care. Virtually everyone, therefore, expects that the number of children entering foster care will also soon increase dramatically.  More children in the system will require more resources to appropriately and effectively support and serve them and those that care for them.  However, virtually everyone is equally certain that a special session of the Florida legislature will be convened to amend the state budget and will look to cut budgeted allocations to human services as one response to expected decreases in state income.  This, in a state that now acknowledges that its system of foster care and related services is currently underfunded by at least $100 million.  Further reducing foster care funding may assist some with addressing Florida’s potential budgetary crisis but will do so at the cost of exacerbating a very real human crisis – increased abuse and neglect of Florida’s children and the overwhelming of the foster care system created to serve them.

Now is the time to do more, not less, for our abused, abandoned and neglected children.  As private citizens and businesses we must now do all that we can to maintain our individual support of those non-profit organizations that serve and support these children. As a community we must demand that the legislature do the same.

For more information on becoming a foster parent, please call ChildNet at 954-414-6001 or 561-352-2501.

Larry Rein is the CEO & President of ChildNet, the non-profit lead agency contracted by the State to manage the foster care system in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.