IL, JANUARY 16, 1998
of public television stations throughout the country have dedicated
air time this month to present "Take This Heart," a powerful
documentary about three children living in a Seattle foster home.
The issues and feelings raised in this documentary are the same ones
experienced by many of the 49,000 children living in Illinois' foster
care system today. The program also highlights the important -- often
unseen -- role of foster parents. Their contributions and sacrifices
are immeasurable, and we need more people who are willing to follow
in the footsteps of the foster family shown in this riveting documentary.
parents care for children who have been abused or neglected by their
parents or significant others. The children are placed into the homes
of foster parents who can give them love, support nurturing and other
things children need. Foster parents receive a monthly allowance that
covers the expenses of caring for each child placed into their homes.
The real reward of the job, though, is the chance to make a difference
in the life of a child.
is the greatest need today? Children of every age and race need foster
homes. The greatest demand is for foster homes serving brother and
sister groups, children with behavior or medical problems, teen mothers
with children, and minority children. Foster parents have the opportunity
to make a life-changing impact for these children. Ongoing training
and support by DCFS and participating private agencies are available
to make the work easier, but foster parenting can be demanding and
does take commitment. Thousands of Illinois families have found foster
parenting to be a personally enriching experience.
who becomes a foster parent becomes a member of a child welfare team
that is dedicated to placing the best interest of children first.
This may mean working toward a child's reunification with the birth
family, toward adoption, or toward other permanency goals, such as
subsidized guardianship. Regardless of the goal, foster parents play
a vital part in helping the team -- and the child -- achieve that
married couples and single persons can become foster parents. It is
okay if both spouses work. People interested in becoming foster parents
must attend training, meet with a licensing representative and pass
both criminal and child abuse background checks. The first step, however,
begins with a willingness to open our hearts and homes to foster children.
The next step is to call the Foster Parent Hotline (800-624-KIDS,
or 800-575-4608 for TTY users) for details and to receive an application
in the mail. It's a simple call, but an important step toward helping
children in need.
Executive Director, Child Care Association of Illinois
Mcdonald, Director, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services