My foster care story is not a typical one, although I can't say I have ever heard a 'typical' story about being in foster care. Unlike many children who suffer the loss of family members at a young age, fear rejection by their foster parents, and experience an overwhelming sense of abandonment, I was fortunate. My grandmother gave me support and encouragement in every way she could, so that I would become successful.
As a child, I worked hard to hide the fact that my family was barely functioning. Much of my childhood was spent moving between my grandmother's home and my parents' house, while my parents attempted to get their life back on track.
Having my grandmother and siblings was the only thing that kept me going. With my grandmother's support, I graduated from high school and college, and I am now working towards a Masters Degree in Social Work. I was lucky to have a permanent, loving family to rely on.
Studies have shown that children in relative foster care tend to be just as safe as, or safer than, children placed with non-relative foster families. Children placed with relatives are more likely to remain in their neighborhood and school, live with their siblings and maintain family and cultural ties.
When reunification with their parents or adoption is not an option, many children in foster care find permanent, loving homes by living with relatives, as I did. Yet, most federal foster care funds cannot be used to support relatives who become legal guardians.
Now, Congress is beginning to turn attention to this issue. The House of Representatives recently passed the Fostering Connections to Success Act, which would provide assistance to relative caregivers like my grandmother who become legal guardians of children in foster care. Now it is up to the Senate to enact a comparable measure.
Without my grandmother, I would undoubtedly be another foster child with no one to rely upon, no one to call my family. When I ask myself, "Who can I count on?" I know I have someone who will always take care of me.
Foster children all over the country need safe, permanent families. If Congress takes action now to support relative guardianships, an estimated 20,000 children nationwide could leave foster care quickly for permanent families. They shouldn't have to wait any longer.
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