National Foster Care Month – May 2021

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Started in 1988, The U.S. government has issued annual proclamations in recognition of National Foster Care Month, celebrated in May, to show appreciation and gratitude to foster parents across the nation. Foster care intends to provide a safe environment for children and youth who temporarily cannot live with their families. Foster care is a part of the constellation of services provided to children and families by the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

History of National Foster Care Month

Around 1830, a large population of homeless children emerged in big cities in the Northeast, including New York City. Some children were orphaned because of their parents dying of epidemics like typhoid and the flu, others were neglected due to poverty. At the time, three charitable institutions — The Children’s Aid Society, Children’s Village, and the New York Foundling Hospital, developed a program that allocated these homeless children into new homes.

The United States Children’s Bureau is a federal agency organized under the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. Today, the bureau’s operations involve improving child abuse prevention, foster care, and adoption. It was founded in 1912 when President William Howard Taft turned the bill into law that would fund the government organization. 

During the height of its influence, the Bureau was directed, managed, and staffed almost entirely by women — a rarity for any federal agency in the early 20th century. It was most influential in bringing the methods of reform-oriented social research and the ideas of maternalist reformers to bear on federal government policy. The signing of this law culminated in a grass-roots process that was started in 1903 by two early social reformers, Lillian Wald and Florence Kelly. The stated purpose of the new Bureau was to investigate and report “upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of children and child life among all classes of our people.” Along the way, their efforts picked up support from President Theodore Roosevelt, among other prominent supporters, before finally becoming a law nine years after they launched the initiative. The law also called for the Bureau to be headed by a chief, who would be a presidential appointee, subject to Senate confirmation. The first chief of the Children’s Bureau was Julia Lathrop — she was the first woman ever to head a government agency in the United States. 

National Foster Care Month timeline

1903
The Beginning

The Beginning
Lillian Ward and Florence Kelly start their fight to create social reform to establish the Children’s Bureau.

1905
Paving the Way

The National Children’s Labor Committee is established and paves the way for children’s labor reform.

1913
Department of Labor

Initially part of the Department of Commerce, the Children's Bureau is transferred to the Department of Labor.

1923
Juvenile Courts

A Children's Bureau-appointed committee establishes the first-ever standards for effective juvenile courts.

1935
Women in Power

Katherine Lenroot, Martha May Eliot, and Grace Abbott work together to create the child-focused sections of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Social Security bill.

National Foster Care Month FAQs

How much do foster carers get a month?

The basic rates for standard maintenance range from $450 to $700 per month depending on the age of the child. The annual clothing allowance is also age-dependent and afforded to foster parents in the amount of $300 to $500 per year.

Can you foster babies?

Though it is possible to adopt a baby from foster care, the children who are available for adoption generally range from toddlers to the age of 21.

Why do foster parents quit?

In the first year, almost half of foster parents quit fostering due to poor communication with their caseworker, lack of support, insufficient understanding of the child’s needs, and lack of say in the child’s well-being. 

How to Observe National Foster Care Month

  1. Spread the Word

    Spread the Word Help us educate people on the importance of the foster care system and how much good it does for our nation’s youth. Get people to donate or to consider foster care if they have the means. The more eyes it reaches, the bigger chance you have at making a difference. Use the hashtag #DareToCare

  2. Donate to a foster care fund

    There are a lot of places you can donate to, to get children and youth out of a potentially harmful situation. Search for your local foster care services and offer a donation today!

  3. Wear Your Support

    Order official National Foster Care Month pins and ribbons from FosterClub. Some people also wear light blue shirts.

5 FACTS ABOUT FOSTER CARE

  1. 400,000 children

    There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States on any given day.

  2. Average age

    Despite the common perception that the majority of children in foster care are very young, the average age of kids entering care is eight.

  3. 71,000 children

    In 2018, more than 71,000 children — whose mothers’ and fathers’ parental rights had been legally terminated — were waiting to be adopted.

  4. Adoption waiting

    Children available for adoption have spent an average of about one and a half years waiting to be adopted since their parental rights were terminated.

  5. Relatives can help

    Living with a relative can reduce trauma for a child in foster care, increase normalcy, and lead to establishing permanence. But relatives need our support when stepping up to take in a family member.

WHY WE OBSERVE NATIONAL FOSTER CARE MONTH

  1. Children are our future

    It may sound corny but it’s true. When we invest in our youth we invest in the future of civilization and we need to ensure we give them every opportunity possible.

  2. Foster care does a Lot

    Foster care plays a critical role in providing young people who have had to be removed from their homes a critical place of refuge. It is an invaluable resource for keeping children safe in temporary circumstances and providing stability, direction, and comfort to our nation’s most vulnerable sons and daughters.

  3. Foster care saves lives

    The main reason foster care exists is to remove children from harmful situations and help get them into safer environments. This program has saved countless lives over the years through prevention, education, and fostering to provide the best circumstances possible for our youth.

National Foster Care Month dates

YearDateDay
2021May 1Saturday
2022May 1Sunday
2023May 1Monday
2024May 1Wednesday
2025May 1Thursday