INDIANAPOLIS — Right now, more than 300 kids in Indiana are without a home. They are in the Indiana Department of Child Services system, which is in desperate need of foster parents.
Shenay Golden has been a foster parent for 6-1/2 years. She said her grandmother made it her life’s work and she and her kids are continuing the service.
“Foster parenting has been in my family pretty much all my life,” Golden said.
Golden told me foster care is a family affair.
"Six out of nine of my first cousins are adopted,” Golden said.
Now, a foster parent herself Golden says it’s one of the toughest yet most rewarding positions you can have.
"You are going to be in their lives for a very short amount of time, but you really have the opportunity to make huge impacts in that little bit of time," Golden said.
Golden said the pandemic was the toughest year yet.
“It was very different from my kiddo's side. It was isolation within isolation,” Golden said.
Suzy Roth, executive director of Hands of Hope, said the pandemic caused a ripple effect through the foster system, which had a big impact on kids.
“They’ve already had upheaval, and now it’s like another upheaval,” Roth said. "Therapists will tell you kids have trauma form trauma from hard places. Structure is very important to them, but with the pandemic, that was all out the window. School, you didn't have that consistency, so all the structure and all the support is gone for these kids."
Roth added fewer people became foster parents due to the pandemic.
"If you think about everyone was hunkered down in their homes, right, like they're just trying to take care of their own family, trying to figure out how to make it, how to make these adjustments, and so nobody is thinking how can I become a foster parent now," Roth said. "I'll say nobody. There were a few people, but in general, that's not what was on people's minds."
Goden said people thinking about foster care should just jump in.
"I always say you don't need to wear a cape," Golden said. "If you are thinking about it, just do it, you know? I think you can talk yourself in or out of anything, but if the thought enters your mind, just go ahead and do it."
There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to getting involved in foster care and different levels of involvement, which include traditional foster care, kinship care, respite care and many others. You can learn more about different ways to help by visiting handsofhopein.org.
There you can also learn about ways you can support foster families if becoming a foster parent isn’t for you. Services as easy as making one meal a month for a family, buying an extra package of diapers or just lending a listening ear.