Jenn Petion – COO
Family Support Services of North Florida
Celebrating National Foster Care Month
May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recognize that everyone in our community can play a part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care. More than 400,000 youth are in foster care across the U.S., including hundreds of children right here in Northeast Florida.
Jenn Petion, FSS’s president and COO, recently joined Colbi King on Praise 107.9’s North Florida Neighborhood show to share insight on the importance of foster care, what foster care looks like locally, and how listeners can support local foster care efforts.
[CLICK TO LISTEN TO INTERVIEW]
About Foster Care Awareness Month
Foster Care Awareness Month takes place every May, and our agency views it as an opportunity to not only educate the public on the importance of foster care, but also to shine a light on our local foster families and show them they are needed and appreciated.
It’s also a time where we work to recognize that it takes our entire community to ensure positive outcomes for those in foster care – not just our foster families. From teachers and social workers to friends and neighbors of foster families, we all need to work together for the good of our children.
As the lead agency for foster care, adoption and family preservation in Duval and Nassau counties, Family Support Services of North Florida trains new foster parents and provides them with the resources they need to succeed. We also connect kids to families with the help of our community partners.
Nationwide, the number of children in foster care across the country has risen steadily over the past decade. Every child deserves a stable, loving household to grow up in. This awareness month amplifies the importance of supporting local foster families, especially as so many of them have had a difficult year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Importance of Foster Care in Our Community
There are many common misconceptions about foster care – what it entails and what it looks like for most families. Children and teens who are in foster care are just like other kids. They go to school, they have friends and participate in extracurricular activities, and they live right here in our community.
The difference is that they’ve experienced a negative family situation, trauma, abuse, or neglect, which makes living at home unsafe––at least for the time being. While we work with parents to resolve issues and overcome challenges, with the goal of reuniting them with their kids, the children need a safe, stable, and caring place to live. In most cases, their time with foster parents is temporary.
Our agency holds a strong focus on keeping families together whenever possible – 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 in the first place.
Fostering is immensely important because it’s a commitment that makes an immeasurable impact on a child’s life. A stable, loving environment is absolutely critical for a child’s development. When you choose to provide that nurturing space and give your time, energy and care to a child who needs you – you’re making an incredibly meaningful contribution to that child’s future.
Starting the Process of Becoming a Foster Parent
At Family Support Services, we walk you through the entire process of becoming a foster parent by providing you with training, assistance and support. We then connect parents with foster children with the help of our community partners.
It’s important to note that there is no “cookie cutter” foster family. Specifications like your marital status, whether you own a home, and your annual income actually have no bearing on whether you can become a foster parent.
There is a constant need for new homes – specifically foster families who are willing to take in teenagers. There is also a high need for homes willing to take in sibling groups so that children in the same family can stay together during their time in foster care.
If you feel called to become a foster parent – or simply want to know more about the process – we invite you to visit the foster care page on our website.