INDIANAPOLIS — Around the holiday season, it’s not unusual to see an increase in the amount of kids needing foster homes.
“From this holiday weekend (Thanksgiving), we got, let’s say, 40 calls,” said Chance Osborne, licensing coordinator at National Youth Advocate Program, “So 40 calls could mean 40 children, or that could mean 40 sibling groups, so that could be 80 kids.”
Out of those calls, Osborne says she could only fulfill one placement.
With Christmas around the corner, it’s a need that’s only expected to grow. With the amount of kids needing services, Osborne says there’s simply not enough licensed foster homes available to take them in.
“I don’t know if I’ve had to say no that many times in a very long time, unfortunately,” she said.
Many factors, like the holidays, school referrals and COVID hardships, are contributing to the increase in kids.
Among the age groups, Osborne says her office is specifically working on placing teenagers, a need she says is higher than ever before.
Along with many homes opting to foster younger children, Osborne says there’s often stigmas and misconceptions around teenagers in general, and that carries over to the foster system.
“Honestly, I think it’s fear. I think it’s fear of not knowing. The fear that they’re stuck in their ways, what if they don’t mesh well with our family, and quite honestly, a lot of it is what if they hurt our other kids, our younger biological children? What if they run away, what if they get in trouble? What if they go to jail? What if they do drugs?” Osborne said.
“They just have so much to offer, so much life that they’ve already lived,” she added, “and sure, they’re going to have things that parents don’t agree with. They have things that I don’t agree with, but we have to remind ourselves over, and over, and over again, up until this point… What have they seen? What have they witnessed? What have they been a part of?”
Osborne says that fear often causes people to miss out on great kids and the opportunity to give them the love they deserve. In some cases, it can even break up siblings, another group NYAP is working hard to place. That’s as separation can add even more trauma to already devastating circumstances.
“Nothing breaks my heart more than having to split up sibling groups,” she said.
“Now they’re in a strange environment that they’ve never been in before, and then not only that, we have to tell them, ‘Hey, little Jimmy, someone’s willing to take your 6-year-old brother, but you know what, there’s no luck for you,'” Osborne added.
These are part of the many reasons Osborne hopes other Hoosiers will consider opening their homes, as well as their hearts, this holiday season. She recommends people reach out and have a conversation to see if fostering is right for you. You can contact your local NYAP office, or fill out an inquiry form, and someone will get back to you within 24 hours.
“This is not you signing up to be a foster parent,” Osborne added. “All this is is you signing up and saying ‘Hey, that pulled at my heartstrings a little bit, I want to know more.’ Even if you just want to call and ask us questions about what demographic of kids do you guys have right now, what is your need, how can we help?”
The licensing process takes about 30-60 days and includes background checks, home visits and extensive paperwork. There’s also financial verifications and certain income requirements.
“When I say income requirements, I say that you are willing and able to be a foster parent without relying on the financial reimbursement that is given,” she said.
It’s possible kids could be placed in a home as soon as the same day a license is approved, but NYAP’s involvement doesn’t stop at the placement. The agency provides wraparound services throughout the journey.
Osborne says 30 hours of training is required for licensed foster homes, along with 24 hour ongoing training every year. Training sessions include how to address childhood trauma, crisis management and even de-escalation.
“We don’t want to just license you, put these kids in your home, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is happening, this is happening. What do we do?’,” said Osborne. “Everything that you’re going to need to support that child, we’re going to ensure that you have and that you also have the support of us, which is one of the really good benefits of getting licensed through an agency is having those wraparound services to ensure that the child is getting supported, but we also really pride ourselves on the unity and the family aspect.”