Many foster parents feel unprepared to address children’s needs
It is important to understand the causes of the persistent shortage of foster homes in Massachusetts (“Low on options, DCF using apartments,” Page A1, Aug. 30). A 2018 statewide survey by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found that many foster parents feel unprepared to address children’s behavioral issues related to trauma and want opportunities to engage with other foster and kinship parents. The survey further found that 50 percent of foster parents receive support from family, friends, and neighbors only during emergencies and 17 percent never receive regular support.
To address the lack of foster parent supports, the MSPCC convened key stakeholders, including Department of Children and Families Commissioner Linda Spears, legislators, providers, and foster parents, to develop the Encompass model. This effort is aimed at improving recruitment and retention of foster parents and improving outcomes for foster children.
Encompass launched in 2020 with funding from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. The program offers one-to-one coaching with trained peer trauma coaches and peer support groups. Foster families also are connected with existing community supports such as meal delivery and clothing donations. The Encompass public-private partnership continues to expand to support more families, and it is one of many strategies that should be part of a long-term solution to supporting children in the Commonwealth’s foster care system.
Nancy Allen Scannell
President and CEO
The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts
DCF looks for solutions but cannot do this work alone
I am deeply aware of the critical shortage of foster homes and the workforce challenges in the child welfare system, which were highlighted in Jason Laughlin’s article “Low on options, DCF using apartments.” These long-standing issues present a significant obstacle for children with complex emotional, behavioral, or medical needs. While temporary solutions, such as utilizing apartments as a stopgap measure, are necessary, it is crucial that we work together to find sustainable solutions for the children and families affected by the foster care system.
I commend the innovative efforts of fellow stakeholders at the Kennedy-Donovan Center, HopeWell Inc., and the state Department of Children and Families who are providing interim solutions for children in crisis. Foster children need a safe and comfortable place to stay while permanent arrangements are made. Although making use of these apartments is no systemic solution, it is an improvement over alternatives such as having children sleep in state offices.
While DCF is working to develop more permanent solutions, the agency cannot do this alone. It is imperative that we acknowledge the urgent need to address this crisis comprehensively. We must demonstrate our unwavering commitment to the well-being of these vulnerable children by actively supporting and collaborating with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, its adjunct departments, our legislators and government officials, private foster care agencies, community leaders, and the broader community.
By pooling our resources and working together, we have the power to develop long-term solutions that guarantee every child in foster care receives the nurturing and stable environment he or she deserves. While the challenges ahead may be complex, our collective effort can lead to lasting change.
Communities for People