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Opinion | Foster care takes a village, and supporting families is worth it

Unfortunately, not every child has a safe and loving place to call home.

That’s why after raising my now 23-year-old son, I began fostering children through Spectrum Human Services. I saw the need first-hand, as my aunt has been a foster parent for 30 years, and knew I still had so much to give to children in need.

Cynthia Hollingshed
Cynthia Hollingshed is a Detroit-based teacher and foster parent. (Courtesy photo)

In May we recognized National Foster Care Month, a time to celebrate the people who work in foster care, the foster parents who provide safe and loving homes for children and the biological families who are getting the help they need to bring their children back home. In Michigan, there are thousands of children who need a temporary place to call home, a place where they can grow, learn and thrive with a loving foster parent or parents.

Spectrum is a not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agency that works hard to provide foster parents with all the resources they need to care for children. They know it takes a village to raise a child, no matter how that child came to be in your care. These agencies, and foster families, need support.

Since I began fostering children five years ago, I’ve had multiple children become part of my family. At first, I took on a few overnight placements, and I cared for siblings who stayed with me for over three years. I’m currently caring for a two-month-old baby.

As a full-time school teacher, answering the call to take a foster child can be a lot to take on. Each situation is different; many foster children have experienced trauma and are understandably confused or scared of what’s happening. But as foster parents, we do the best we can to make them feel at home, safe and loved during their time with us.

I’m able to do this because I know it takes a village, and I have a wonderful village. My parents and other family members have stepped up during times of need, so I was able to obtain a car seat and crib to care for a two-month-old. Spectrum is also an ongoing source of support.

Every time I foster a child, I want the children to feel a sense of normalcy, so I enroll them in activities they want to do, like cheerleading or football. While it’s been a long time since I had a baby at home and formula is expensive, my village and I ensure this child will not miss a meal. I take on some costs myself because I want children to feel like they’re at home with me.

Not all foster parents can afford to provide everything for the children in their care, which is why our state should allocate additional resources for foster care. Whether that be increasing rates for foster parents or providing funds so foster children can enroll in activities in their communities, children and foster families deserve better.

Every child deserves a sense of normalcy and the space to just be a kid. Foster parents aren’t taking in these children for money, and anyone considering becoming a foster parent should know you will never get as much financial support as you put in.

But, knowing you are making a difference for children in need is worth it and you’ll have a village of people working at foster care agencies to help you. The bottom line is children need safe, loving homes and becoming a foster parent can give children in need an opportunity for a brighter future.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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