If you are considering opening your home and your heart to a young person in need, there are some things you should know.
- You are needed. Los Angeles County has the greatest need for foster parents in the country. Over half of California’s 60,000 foster youth live in Los Angeles County. In recent years foster care populations have risen across the country. Many communities have seen spikes as a result of the opioid crisis. When a person becomes addicted to opioids and is unable to care for their child, that child often ends up in foster care.
- You are not alone. The idea of caring for a young person can produce anxiety in all of us. Foster children are often strangers when they arrive in your home. Because of this, the County and many exceptional nonprofit organizations, have developed systems to support foster parents every step of the way. If a child is having trouble sleeping, eating or acting out in school, professionals are available to support you and the child through this difficult time.
- The County will help you financially. Nikes aren’t cheap. Foster parents receive a monthly (tax-free) stipend of around $900 to help cover the added costs of caring for the young person. The foster youth will receive state-provided health and dental insurance, free lunch at school, after school program access and much more. Some nonprofits, like iFoster.org provide membership programs for foster families, which offer great discounts on outings like movies or Disneyland and discounts at retailers like Costco.
- Your employer is required to support you. Many people think their employers will never support them taking some time off to bond with a child placed in their home, but they are wrong. California requires all private employers with 50 or more workers (and all public employers) to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave for bonding in any 12-month period upon the placement of a foster child. California workers are eligible to receive partial pay for six weeks through the state’s paid family leave program. Employees are eligible if they have worked for their employer for 1,250 hours in the previous 12-month period. Some employers are true leaders on this issue, providing full paid parental leave benefits similar to those offered to workers who give birth or adopt a child, so check with your HR department to learn more.
- You will receive more than you give. One thing foster parents often hear is, “That is so nice of you to open your home to a child in need.” The truth is, we are the lucky ones. When you welcome someone into your space, you’re making room in your heart for a new relationship. Together you will laugh, cry, dance, sing, and play. Your time together may not last forever, but the imprint on your soul is permanent.
If you are considering fostering a child or teen, please reach out, call us at (323) 207-0260 or signup online to attend an upcoming information event.
Submitted by Mark, who has fostered five children in Los Angeles County.