It's a sad fact of life that not all children get to live with their birth parents. In some instances, children are removed from their homes because of safety issues, abuse or neglect. Sometimes the move is temporary and in some cases it is a long term situation.
But where are the children taken and with whom do they stay? Into the arms of those special individuals who serve as foster parents, according to Lynn Biggs, the Yakima field director of the Casey Family Foundation, a private foster care service.
Biggs said foster parents are people who are willing to share their homes with children in need. She said while it is still a month away, plans are in the works to honor foster parents in May.
Currently, more than 500,000 children are in the foster care system across the United States. Many of those children are in foster care in the Yakima Valley, through both the state foster care program and the non-profit Casey Family Foundation, Biggs explained.
She said the Yakima office of the Casey Family Foundation, which is a Seattle-based organization, currently serves 50 youths in her office's service area.
"We take referrals from all over Eastern Washington, but our main service area extends from Cle Elum to Prosser," Biggs said.
"May has been set aside as National Foster Care Month, a time to celebrate foster families," she said.
Biggs said the month-long observance is designed to honor those families who are involved in foster care and to encourage others to get involved.
Biggs describes foster parents as individuals who enjoy parenting and who want to share their homes with children who have special problems.
"We can always use foster parents," she said.
"We are always looking for good foster parents and are particularly trying to recruit more families of color since a disproportionate number of youth of color are in foster care," Biggs said.
Biggs said the Casey Foundation, which was organized in 1966 by United Parcel Founder Jim Casey, is an agency dedicated to providing, improving and hopefully eliminating the need for foster care. "Our agency is dedicated to connect children with safe and happy environments," said Biggs.
Biggs said the Casey Family Foundation is also expanding its programs to include guardianship care, as well as kinship care, which will give qualified family members opportunities to be foster care families.
"We are also working to provide post-foster care for children who have spent most of their lives in foster care," Biggs said.
"We are creating support groups for those children, who once they left foster care have no one to fall back on," she explained. "We continue to be there for our kids," she said.
The Casey Family Foundation is a member of the National Foster Parent Association, an independent agency established to meet the needs of foster families. Based in Gig Harbor, the agency annually hold national conferences to address the concerns of foster families, Biggs said.
She said a number of Yakima Valley foster families will be attending the next foster family conference to be held in California in May.
Biggs said the association works to bring together foster parents with agency representatives and community people to improve the foster care system.
"We all have an important stake in these children's lives," she said. "It's important for them to grow up knowing adults cherish them. That's our most important duty," she added.