Every May, dating back to 1988, when President George H.W. Bush proclaimed May as National Foster Care Month, the Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) takes the opportunity to acknowledge and recognize the tremendous contributions of resource parents. As the DHS Resource Parent Ombuds, I am proud to thank the resource parents of Maryland for their committed support to children and families. Resource parents are handling unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic with determination and perseverance.
Resource parents are the unsung heroes! They may not get the recognition of being on the frontlines, but they are living on the frontlines 24/7. Resource parents are establishing routines and schedules in order to maintain predictability and normalcy in the lives of the children in their care. Each day, resource parents assist with distance learning, maintaining connections and relationships with birth families and peers through virtual platforms, participating in telehealth appointments with children and youth, and virtual meetings with caseworkers. All this is happening when resource parents may be teleworking from home and schools, parks, and recreational outlets are not available.
There are so many people involved in the life of a child in foster care. I want to acknowledge and thank them for everything they do to support children, youth, and families. This includes the child’s social worker, attorneys, therapist, educators, judges, CASA volunteers, teachers, community partners, and health providers. The support that is provided to birth parents and resource parents is critical to healing families and developing lifelong relationships which provides a bridge to safe reunification.
The Foster Care system is in the process of systemic changes transforming the traditional view of foster care as a substitute caregiver to becoming a support to families. Preventing the need for foster care due to trauma is a priority as well as preventing youth from aging out without permanency and connections. There are over 4,500 children and youth in foster care in Maryland. There is always a need for more resource families to partner with birth families or get involved in other ways such as mentoring or supporting families in your communities.
Although the events and celebrations are postponed this month, I want to thank all the resource parents for all the selfless acts of kindness and commitment to care for children. I would be remiss if I did not recognize and thank the resource parents who provided a forever family to children and youth when reunification was not an option. For all the resource parents who provide permanency, I thank you for your love, commitment, and dedication! Resource parents are critical to DHS. We could not do our work without you. Thank you for your partnership and for opening your hearts and homes for children and youth. I look forward to seeing resource parents at appreciation events throughout the state when it is safe to do so.