Foster Family Appreciation Week w/Family Support Services of North Florida
View the full WJXT news interview segment here.
Each February, the state of Florida celebrates Foster Family Appreciation Week. The awareness week, which was declared by Governor Ron DeSantis, recognizes foster families across the state and the special role they play in our communities.
Jenn Petion, president and COO of Family Support Services of North Florida, joined the WJXT team to share more about what foster care looks like locally, why caring foster families are so important for kids in need, and the first steps to potentially becoming a foster parent.
Foster Family Appreciation and its Impact on the Local Community
Foster Family Appreciation is the perfect opportunity to honor those who foster, but it certainly is not the only time to spotlight the amazing foster parents in this community. Family Support Services of North Florida’s goal is to provide recognition and education throughout all the weeks of the year – because we know these children are so deserving.
Nationwide, the number of children in foster care across the country has risen steadily over the past decade. Here currently in Duval and Nassau counties, there are more than one thousand foster families who are creating safe and loving spaces for children to learn and grow. There are also currently around 311 children in foster care. This includes children who are actively in foster care due to short-term crises and those who are actively seeking forever families.
Whether you know a foster family personally or have ever wanted to explore the process of becoming a foster parent yourself, you are always invited to learn more about it.
The Basics of Foster Care and Foster Parenting
There are many common misconceptions about foster care – what it entails and what it looks like for most families.
For those who may not know, foster care is a protective service offered when a child must be removed from his/her home for a planned and temporary period of time. Foster families provide for the physical and emotional safety of the child in a home environment that is caring and comfortable.
Some of the children in foster care have been abused and neglected, while others simply need to be cared for while their family is experiencing a crisis, or because their safety is temporarily at risk at home.
At Family Support Services, we believe every child deserves a stable, loving household to grow up in. Our agency works to train new foster parents and connect them with all of the resources they need to succeed, and we connect kids to those foster parents with the help of our community partners.
We also hold a strong focus on keeping families together – providing support to children and parents in challenging situations with the objective of resolving the problems that led to the children being placed in foster care.
How to Become a Foster Parent
It’s important to note that there is no “cookie cutter” foster family. Specifications like your marital status, whether or not you own a home, and your annual income actually have no bearing on whether you can become a foster parent.
That being said, there are a few standards that potential parents must meet from the get-go, including:
- Must be at least 21 years old
- Must be a U.S. citizen
- Must pass a background screening
- Must have a valid Florida driver’s license, a vehicle in working condition and current auto insurance
If you meet those requirements, you can fill out an application and prepare for a home study/ in-person interview.
There is a constant need for new homes – specifically foster families who are willing to take in teenagers. In fact, last year, only 21 homes out of nearly 200 new foster homes that we licensed were licensed as “teen” homes. There is also a high need for homes willing to take in sibling groups so that children in the same family are able to stay together during their time in foster care.
If you are curious about whether fostering is for you, we encourage you to reach out to Family Support Services. Our agency offers quick, simple five-to-ten-minute phone screenings that are super helpful for prospective foster parents. You’ll have the opportunity to have your questions answered by experts and find out more about the specifics of the process.
For more information on how to become a foster parent and to learn more about foster care and adoption locally, visit: www.fssjax.org/what-we-do/foster-care.