National Foster Care Month is an important initiative led by the Children's Bureau, a national organization that partners with federal, state, tribal, and local agencies to improve the overall health and well-being of children and families across the country. During this month, the bureau takes the time to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, and child welfare professionals who work tirelessly to help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections. Recent research confirms the importance of mental health and wellness support for the foster care population, and the Children's Bureau places a special focus on this area.
Foster care placements often occur after traumatic events, and the need for standardized trauma assessments is critical. Benchmarks, a partner to child welfare services throughout North Carolina, is implementing targeted initiatives to improve outcomes for children and families. The Cabarrus County Department of Human Services has hired a Kinship Navigator to serve as a liaison between social services staff/agency and foster parents and kinship care providers. The Surry County Department of Social Services continues to partner with their local Foster Parent Association to provide physical needs such as clothing, duffel bags or suitcases, gifts during the holidays, and financial assistance covering school supplies and costs of school field trips. The Rutherford County Department of Social Services is implementing a new initiative called the Foster Parent Outreach Program (FPOP)-Vision for 2023, which focuses on the recruitment, training, and licensure of foster parents and better support for existing foster parents by providing additional training opportunities, regular acts of appreciation, increased support, and excellent customer service.
Foster Care Month is also a time to support the children who are facing life's biggest obstacles and promote their resilience and ability to overcome adversity. Providing opportunities for normalcy, bonding, and connection is crucial for these children. The LINKS/SAYSO programs are available to youth and young adults who have been in the out-of-home care system and provide funding for assessment, planning, and service implementation. The Rutherford DSS's LINKS/SAYSO programs are engaged in community activities that promote awareness and bonding. The LINKS program will have their annual retreat in June, which is an excellent opportunity for bonding and learning life skills while providing a sense of normalcy and connection for these children.