By Les Gara and Amanda Metivier
May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. During a pandemic that’s ravaged families and the economy, you might guess the foster care system and the youth it serves have been harmed as well. There couldn’t be a better time to raise awareness of how we can help and to remember that foster youth, like all of us, deserve a fair chance to succeed in life. We’ve all experienced difficulty, a loss of normalcy and isolation from family and friends during the pandemic. Many foster youth, already separated from parents and siblings, have battled more loneliness and trauma.
To make things harder, we have fewer foster homes today than we did before COVID. Of the licensed families that remain, many have understandably put a hold on taking in youth because they fear infection. That’s been awful for foster youth. But today, with vaccines available for those who want them, we hope families will open their homes again.
Alaska has lost 10% of our licensed foster homes over the past year, and we didn’t have enough before COVID. There’s no official count of licensed homes that remain but are not taking in youth during COVID. Combining both categories of lost homes, one caseworker struggling to find good homes estimates that we’ve lost about 40% of the homes available to take in new youth…
Les Gara is a former state representative and former foster youth. Amanda Metivier is associate director of the Child Welfare Academy, co-founder of Facing Foster Care in Alaska, a social worker and former foster youth.