Adoption And Fostering Part One: DHHS Makes Plea For More Quality Foster Care Homes

Updated 2 years ago

May is National Foster Care Awareness Month.Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services say it’s critical to find more homes for children in the foster care system. As generations begin to age out of the foster care system in Maine, it starts to become evident how their struggles from within may set up their future, for better or for worse.The department’s goal now is to improve lives for the children growing up outside of their biological homes.”Right now, in care, we have about 1,800 children and over a third of them are between the ages of zero to three. So, that’s very telling about what’s happening in society, in terms of our babies are struggling to be taken care of, generally speaking,” said Therese Cahill-Low.As the director of the Office of Child and Family Services, she sees firsthand how difficult placement can be.”If you can imagine being picked up, being in your home one day, and then, literally, being picked up, and moved to a place that you don’t know anyone. I often try to remember that when I’m working with these children, because I can’t imagine transitioning smoothly. They are in a place that is not home, and they were put there by someone else, and they had no choice in the matter,” said Cahill-Low.She says placing younger children can be a little more successful.”But, the older children, generally who have been burned by family, and by foster families, don’t want to do that again. And, so for us, we’re trying to figure out what can we provide for a safe place. And that’s really our challenge right now in determining, this isn’t good. I don’t want this many children not to have a safe place to be and trying to figure out how we can provide some kind of setting in which they can go to that’s not a homeless shelter, that’s not couch surfing, that’s not on the streets,” said Cahill-Low.The challenge is finding more quality homes for children entering the foster care system.”The foster parents, we ask if they’re interested, if they would like to take on a child. They can determine what age, how severe the needs. We have ranging obviously, some children, who come into care, have significant medical needs, or behavioral challenge. The foster parents would contact our office, or their local DHHS office, and indicate that they are interested in being a foster parent,” said Cahill-Low.They’re making a plea to anyone that may be interested.”The more variety, the better, because the more opportunity we have to place children in the best match. We have young couples, we have single people, we have older couples, or older individuals. It doesn’t matter if you’re married, or single, or partnering with someone else. We’ll take anyone that wants to give a loving home to a child,” said Cahill-Low.Michael Augustine grew up in the system. Because of attachment issues, he was in 31 homes throughout his youth.”In that time, I had some really awful foster homes. I had abusive homes, neglectful homes. But, I also had some really great homes that would have been terrific foster homes for other kids. But, because of that attachment issue, I could not attach to them, so I continued to act out, and I continued to push people away,” said Augustine.Augustine was adopted at age 23, now has a family of his own and has received his Master’s degree in social work.”For me, I have seen what it was like to live with my biological family as a young adult, and know if I stayed living with them, I would not be where I am today. So, for me, the foster care system saved my life, and it has allowed me to a successful young adult,” said Augustine.Knowing it’s a never-ending cycle that can use constant improvement is his motivation to help improve the system.”I wanted to work with foster children and show them that they can succeed. Yes, they have barriers. Some are going to be a lot harder to overcome than others. But, they can do it,” said Augustine.The department says that they want anyone interested to know that taking a child in will be a challenge, but with those challenges, come rewards.Finding life-long connections for those in their adult years is another need that they are finding with the older generation.If you would like to find out more information about fostering or mentoring, you are urged to call your local DHHS office.You can also visit maine.gov/dhhs.


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