It’s fitting that May was both Military Appreciation Month and National Foster Care Month because a lot of the words I would use to describe members of the military are words that I would also use to describe children in foster care: heroic, brave, overcomers.
Just like our military service members, children in foster care have to have courage and perseverance in the midst of circumstances that many of us could not handle.
My husband and I are the directors of Second Chance Youth Ranch, and we see children in foster care facing difficult, seemingly insurmountable situations every day. For example, in the state of Arkansas, no child separated from his or her parents is supposed to be in a shelter for more than 45 days, but one 15-year-old boy that recently arrived here at the ranch had been living in a shelter for three months because there was no place for him to go.
Another example would be two sisters that are moving into our newest campus home. The sisters came from an unsafe home situation, and their parents’ rights were terminated. We matched them with an adoptive family, but then it didn’t work out, and the girls were returned to foster care. Then, this happened two more times, leaving the girls feeling rejected, lonely, uncertain about their futures.
It’s hard to not let hurt, anger and frustration show in your behavior when you have been rejected by three families. The trauma that children in foster care face affects every aspect of their lives, even things that many people would not recognize, like education. It’s hard to focus on a math lesson when you are wondering about whether you are ever going to get to return home to your parents.
So, sometimes they get lost and left behind in a big school, and they need other options, like the smaller setting at a private school or a virtual school. We have been grateful to be able to work with organizations like The Reform Alliance to help our children find learning environments that meet their needs.
Many people may not know this, but children living in group foster care are eligible to receive the Succeed Scholarship, funding that gives K-12 students a chance to attend a private school with smaller classes and/or specialized learning models for students with disabilities. One of our foster families shared this story about a child on the Succeed Scholarship:
“Before attending private school, our foster daughter was a C and D student, but now with all of the specialized help and attention she receives through Arkansas Christian Academy, she has caught up in her education and is consistently making all A’s and B’s. Another huge benefit for her is that she has continually struggled with personal boundaries, and the staff and teachers really take time and effort to help her see her potential and become better in every area of her life. They meet her right where she is and are helping her rise and grow into an amazing young lady.”
Children who have been in foster care have also done well in microschools, where education is custom fit to each student.
We need more help, though, both in providing these kids with a quality education, but also in giving them homes. The need is now. I am so glad that May was National Foster Care Month, because we can’t wait another moment to tell you how big the need is.
If you are interested in fostering, please contact the Second Chance Youth Ranch at (501) 594-5200. More information is also available on our website. If you are already fostering or would just like more information about the Succeed Scholarship, microschools or The Reform Alliance, you can also visit their website.
Editor’s note: Rachel Hubbard is the co-director of Second Chance Youth Ranch. The opinions expressed are those of the author.