May is National Foster Care Month!
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a charitable foundation focused on improving the well-being of American children, in 2018, 424,653 children were in foster care in the US. Childtrends.org defines this as, “a living arrangement for children who a child protective services worker and a court has decided cannot live safely at home.” This source also states that, in 2017, one in three children entered foster care because of parental drug abuse. “Without a caring, loving parent, the statistics about orphans indicate that they are at great risk to crime and homelessness. They don’t graduate from high school or have the ability to attend or succeed in college. Many become teen parents, are under-employed, and lack the skills to build strong relationships and have their own healthy families. These kids are at risk to those who hustle sex for hire, traffickers, extremists and others who prey on the kid’s vulnerabilities,” (kidsave.org). Foster care is a positive service, but it should be used in conjunction with families, not as a replacement. In 2017, the state of Ohio saw one of the largest increases in children entering foster care due to parental drug abuse. April Dirks, an associate professor of social work at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, says, “unfortunately the foster care system is overburdened—there's not enough families, not enough services. If they're going to remove the children, the best thing would be immediately treating the parent.” Dirk believes in specialized programs that provide supervised treatment instead of incarceration for people with substance use or mental health issues. These courts can provide parents with the support they need to recover from their addiction and regain custody of their children, (npr.org).
How Alvis Can Help
Alvis is one such program. Here we bring families together instead of splitting them apart. The Family and Children’s Program serves children and their mothers, with the end goal of bringing families together that have been affected by substance abuse and parental involvement in the criminal justice system. The Family and Children’s Program consists of two components. The first is educational, and the second is in-person contact. Mothers receive parenting education and training. They are taught effective communication and discipline strategies, they learn how to set appropriate boundaries, and they receive guidance to help them understand basic parental responsibilities. Additional community support services are offered for all clients to complement their treatment plans.
These services are also extended to foster guardians caring for children of mothers undergoing treatment.
Moms are then given the opportunity to demonstrate their new skills in part two of the program, during which they are given the opportunity to connect with their children. They write letters, poems and make crafts for their children, which Alvis mails to help maintain the mother-child connection during their stay at Alvis. The mothers also have the opportunity to visit with their children twice each month, every first and third Saturday. Clients come together for a healthy meal, while spending time with their families. Research shows that families who eat meals together are stronger, which is why meals are at the center of family visit days, as caregivers and children join their mothers for a bonding experience. Usually, this also can involve participating in fun activities like games and taking lots of pictures. It’s during these in-person visits that moms get to put into practice the tools and training the program provides. These visits are also where we see the magic of reconnecting families. After graduation, an aftercare phase also allows mothers the opportunity to continue receiving services for up to two years after finishing their treatment through the program.
Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience. We believe in the power of second chances and coming together as one community to affect change. With our reentry, behavioral health, developmental disabilities, workforce development, family and children services, and the community, we can make a lasting 180 impact. Learn more about Alvis and how you can get involved at alvis180.org.