Fostering: It takes a village…

National Foster Care Month comes to a close

Lisa Fitch Editor in Chief | 5/28/2020, midnight

For much of the first half of this year, the coronavirus pandemic has been the subject of all the news, leaving Foster Care Month unnoticed. TEDxCrenshaw, in partnership with Faith Foster Families Network, recently acknowledged the month of May with a special Zoom conference.

“Foster care is a negative side effect of a much larger issue,” speaker and social justice advocate Charity Chandler-Cole noted at the start of the conference. “Children are taken from families as a result of some trauma.”

Eddie Murphy, one of Hollywood’s highest-grossing stars, was put in foster care with his brother after his father, a police officer, was murdered and his mother became seriously ill. Ice T, who has played on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” for years, acknowledges that both his parents died of heart attacks during his childhood. After that, he was fostered by two of his aunts in Los Angeles. Basketball star Alonzo Mourning, following his parents’ divorce, went to live with a family friend who had extensive experience fostering children.

The Children’s Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds the National Foster Care Month initiative each May on the Child Welfare Information Gateway: childwelfare.gov./fostercaremonth. According to the site, Foster Care is a support to families, not a substitute for parents.

“The goal, the vision is to support families and bridge a gap,” said Jessica Chandler, who was in the foster care system from ages 12-18. Today she is a children’s social worker with the Department of Child and Family Services in L.A. “Because parents cannot keep them safe, or keep them off the street, we take them. We support families and give them support tools. This year, with the pandemic, we’ve seen even more instances where the foster system can bridge the gap. That’s been really positive.”

Chandler continues to be an advocate on the national stage for children and families involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

“For me there is not exact recipe on how to create successful adults,” Chandler said. “I had internalized unworthiness. There was no one to sign off or show up on events. I was angry. Then I finally started to try and see if I could go to college and create something.”

Chandler said that the mentors she had helped through college and a master’s degree.

“The mentors that I had are still in my life now,” she said. “They’re part of my toolbox. Foster youth have to be very kind and patient in forgiving themselves. My biggest thing today is I forgave mom. I spent so much time thinking about her that I missed a lot.”

Chandler also pointed out the benefits she’s witnessed since Assembly Bill 12 (AB12) took effect in 2012. AB12 created California’s Extended Foster Care (EFC) program which allows eligible youth in the child welfare and probation systems to remain in foster care until age 21. To remain eligible for EFC, youth must meet certain participation criteria.

Most importantly, the legislation was supported by a grassroots movement which included former foster youth.