A 22-year-old Fenton Township woman is urging people to think about becoming foster parents for children who don’t have a home.
Olivia Swanson’s family was a temporary foster home for a few girls before they went back to their biological family. She said there needs to be more awareness and more training for foster parents.
“These are local kids who don’t have permanent families and it really just breaks my heart,” she said. “Someone has to take care of them and there are not enough people. It happens all the time every day, kids coming into care.”
Swanson recommended mare.org, which is the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE). All the children on the website are “legally free,” which means their biological parents have no legal rights to them. According to the site, approximately 340 children are looking for a home on the site, and more than 3,000 are currently waiting to be adopted in the state.
“Some have been waiting since 2012 or 2010,” she said. “These kids do not have anything.”
Clara’s Hope in Fenton is a great resource for interested parents, Swanson said. The organization allows people the opportunity to meet with foster families to see what the experience is like. Clara’s Hope also provides children who are waiting to be adopted with backpacks full of items they get to keep.
“You can’t blame people who are scared, these kids are coming with trauma and all kinds of stuff. The last thing in the world you want to lose is your siblings,” she said.
People who might be interested in fostering first need to choose an agency. Swanson named the Ennis Center for Children in Flint, Bethany Christian Services, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. These organizations will help parents through the process by providing training and informative classes, and performing background checks.
“It’s expensive. It can take up to a year to become licensed. It takes a while, that’s a little discouraging,” Swanson said. “Once it gets approved, you can start inquiring about specific kids.”
The agency and organization will help you find a child you will be comfortable with. Parents can become temporary foster families or long term foster families. It’s easier for younger kids who need to be adopted because they have fewer memories of having no one, Swanson said, and older kids have experienced that rejection.
“Belonging somewhere is always important. Separation from a biological mom, everyone feels that,” she said. “But once a family chooses permanency, like you’re going to be there forever, that’s a huge thing.”
Some people are worried they will become too attached if they become temporary foster parents.
“To be that person who says, ‘Yes, I love you no matter what happens, I don’t get to make this decision, the court does,’ to give that to a kid is huge. It’s painful but if you can take that so the child doesn’t have to, if you can keep them safe for a while, it’s worth it,” she said. It’s better to experience that love than not knowing it at all.”