May is National Foster Care Month – a time to acknowledge and celebrate the foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors and professionals who help youth and children find permanent homes and connections. This is a special time for Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha (APM), a Philadelphia-based non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life in our community, because it shines a light on the vital work we are doing through our Pradera program.
In Philadelphia alone, there are nearly 6000 children in the foster care system. Each of them is looking for the same thing – a home.
“Every kid needs a place to call home,” says Igdalia Woodland, Resource Home Director for the Pradera Program, “and we’re working hard every day to help them find one.”
That work includes recruiting adults who are interested in becoming foster parents. According to Woodland, foster parents come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are young couples looking to build a family of their own, while other foster parents are older people whose own children have grown and flown. Prospective foster parents can also be single individuals. And while there are a number of statutory requirements, including being over 21 years of age and capable of passing a criminal background check, Woodland says the number one requirement is simple: a willingness to treat these children as their own and meet their individual needs.
Children in the foster care system come from varied situations. Some come from scenarios that are temporary; perhaps a parent is ill or incarcerated or otherwise not capable of caring for the child for a short period of time. In other cases, parental rights have been terminated, and the child is in need of a forever home. Foster parents should be willing to meet each child’s unique social, emotional, and medical needs.
“We know that navigating the foster process can be intimidating,” says APM CEO Nilda Ruiz. “That’s why we are here to help every step of the way.” The members of APM’s Pradera team are there to act as facilitators. They help train prospective parents, collect the requisite documents, create a satisfactory home environment, and troubleshoot during the approval process. The team at APM has successfully place 540 children in nearly 350 homes in the Philadelphia area.
But there is still a need.
Every day, more children find themselves in need of a foster parent to help fill the gaps. “We never have enough foster parents,” says Woodland. “The worst day is the day we get a call from DHS, and we have to say we can’t help.”
During National Foster Care Month, APM encourages adults in our community to think about whether they have room in their heart and their family for a child in need of a temporary or permanent home. While the ultimate goal of the foster care system is family reunification, foster parents play a critical role in ensuring every child in our community has the chance to thrive.
For more information about becoming a foster parent, contact Igdalia Woodland at (267) 296-7285.