Six hundred people out of a total of 333,000 doesn’t seem like a lot—actually, it seems like a puny amount, until you realize it is the number of foster kids in all of Marion County.

That relatively small number takes on major importance when we understand that those 600 or so foster children reside in less than 75 foster homes. Total. That means some homes have up to five foster children, a number that most experts agree is too high and does not serve the children well.

May is National Foster Care Month, which brings the foster system to mind. Foster care isn’t just one month, it is every month, sometimes for years.

It is unfortunate that the only information some get about foster care are the tragic stories of abusive foster parents or horrifically unsanitary living conditions. The reality is that for every terrible story there are dozens of untold positive, hopeful, good stories about caring and committed foster parents.  These are the people that become foster providers out of a sense of duty and need.

Another reality is that the system is in need of foster homes. Many more. It is a big ask, but foster homes are needed to serve the many children who enter the system each year. By most measures being a foster parent is not easy, especially if more than one child is placed at one home. Becoming a foster parent is certainly the epitome of unselfishness. In a world that constantly heralds the well-being of our children, it would seem that those who talk should also do some of the walk.

What are the reasons one wouldn’t become a foster parent? Choose one: too busy, too many children already, disrupts lifestyle and on and on.

There are some who should not be foster parents and there are those who see dollar signs when they think of foster kids. The foster care system should not be an entrepreneurial enterprise.

There are many reasons to become a foster parent. Primarily, the need. It is unfathomable that up to five kids are in a single foster home. The daily quality of life for kids who have been through too  much will be greatly enhanced when they share a home with a nuclear family and perhaps only one other foster child.

How does one become a foster parent? First, contact the state Department of Human Services, which oversees foster care in Oregon. The agency will fully inform any interested people on the hows and whys of becoming a foster.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is another avenue to help children in Marion County.  CASA of Marion County advocates for abused and neglected children who need safe and permanent homes. Volunteers are trained to give them the skills and knowledge necessary to advocate for an abused child.

Children are our greatest natural resource and they all need to be nurtured, kept safe and allowed to live a life free from want and pain.

  — LAZ