Currently, there are about 6,000 children in Alabama’s foster care system. Children enter foster care through no fault of their own. In most scenarios, it is due to abuse and neglect. Alabama needs more foster homes to care for children in foster care, whether for a season or a lifetime.
Alabama Foster Care Statistics
Approximately 6,000 children are in foster care in Alabama. On average, they spend over a year and a half in care. Around 300 children in Alabama in foster care are legally available for adoption. These children are waiting to experience permanency in a loving family.
Children in foster care in Alabama come from all backgrounds. These children represent many ages, ethnicities, and economic groups. Some children are part of a sibling set. All children in foster care have incurred trauma due to the harm and loss they have experienced.
Many children in Alabama’s foster care system reunite with their biological family or live with a kinship placement, such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. There is also a significant portion of children who are adopted from foster care. Unfortunately, some children age out of foster care without a permanent place to call “home.”
In the majority of cases, foster families provide a temporary, safe place for children and teens to live until they experience permanency through reunification or adoption.
Becoming a Foster Parent in Alabama
In the United States, foster care is managed at the state level. Each state may operate its system differently. Prospective foster parents in Alabama should conduct their own research based on the county in which they live.
While processes and procedures vary by state, one thing remains the same: there is an ever-present need for more foster families.
Prayer and Finding Support
The first step in beginning a foster care or adoption journey is to pray. God has called everyone to do something to care for vulnerable individuals. While some people are called to foster or adopt, others are called to support, give, pray, or get involved in other ways.
In preparing to become foster parents, it is important to talk with friends and family about the journey. This ensures that foster parents will have a support network in place when they need it.
Criteria for Foster Families
The Alabama Department of Human Resources licenses all foster homes. There is a list of criteria and requirements that all prospective foster parents must meet before becoming licensed.
In general, foster parents are required to be at least 19 years old. They must be able to provide a safe and comfortable home with appropriate space for the child. Anyone living in the home must be willing to share the home with a child in foster care, and they must all undergo a background check. Additionally, all foster homes must conform to the Alabama Minimum Standards for Foster Family Homes.
All prospective foster parents complete the requirements for licensure set by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. In many cases, foster parents will have the option to work with a private child placing agency if they decide that is a better fit for them.
Regardless of whether a prospective foster family works with the state or a private agency, they are required to complete 30 hours of training. During these trainings, prospective foster parents will learn about things such as the foster care system, the conditions that lead a child to enter foster care, the impacts of trauma, and much more.
Prospective foster parents complete paperwork and participate in a home study. Once a foster family is reviewed and approved by the Department of Human Resources, they will be licensed to provide care to children in need.
The role of a foster parent can be challenging. All foster care and adoption journeys are marked by beauty and brokenness. Support systems can help foster families face the difficulties of providing care to children who have experienced immense harm, loss, and trauma.
Foster parents interact with several individuals who are involved in the life of a child in foster care. In a single week, a foster parent may come in contact with social workers, teachers, therapists, doctors, biological parents, judges, and more. It is important for foster parents to prioritize their own mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being so that they can continue to provide quality care to the children in their home.
Foster parents should be open and honest about the support they need. Friends, extended family members, child placing agencies, and foster/adoptive family ministries are great places to seek support. There are many individuals and bridge organizations who want to meet the needs of foster parents through services, goods, and prayer. Be bold in asking for support.
Adoption From Foster Care
A child in foster care becomes legally available for adoption after termination of parental rights. The steps for becoming licensed to adopt from foster care are similar to those of fostering; however, prospective adoptive parents will complete additional steps.
All prospective adoptive parents must meet the criteria set forth by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. They must also submit an application to adopt and complete 30 hours of training.
Once approved and selected as an adoptive placement, adoptive parents will have the opportunity to review the information about a child or sibling group who may enter their home. To determine a good fit, adoptive parents will have pre-placement visits with the child(ren). Then, after three months of successful placement, adoptive parents can take legal action to finalize the adoption.
As with fostering, adoption comes with a unique set of challenges. Adoptive parents should be prepared to rely on their support system. Oftentimes, there are additional resources available for adoptive families through the state or a child placing agency.
Get Involved in Other Ways
Christians have a clear command to care for vulnerable individuals. This can look different for each person. For those who do not feel called to foster or adopt in their current season of life, consider getting involved with foster care in one of the following ways.
There are several ministries and bridge organizations throughout the state of Alabama. Volunteering time and energy is a great way to make an impact on children in foster care. For those willing to invest time into a child’s case directly, consider becoming a court appointed special advocate (CASA).
Another great way to engage with foster care is by partnering with organizations through financial gifts. In fact, many individuals make a difference for children in foster care by supporting organizations and ministries.
Focus on the Family provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved through its Wait No More program, which provides suitcase bundles to children in foster care throughout the country. No child should have to move from home to home with their belongings in a trash bag. A donation to Wait No More provides a child with a new suitcase, Bible, and teddy bear.
Navigating the foster care system can be overwhelming for children and teens. Prayer is a powerful way to impact the lives of these children. Pray not only for them but for their biological families, foster families, teachers, attorneys, therapists, and others.
Finally, pray that children in Alabama’s foster care system would feel the love of Christ wherever they go.