The best place for children is NOT a hotel room.
Can we all agree that children belong in families who are safe and able to meet their needs? This is why we have foster care. What happens, though, when the system intended to protect children has weaknesses of its own? What if the state removes a child from their parents, turns to find a fostering family, and finds none?
In these situations, Washington state houses children in hotels until a family can be found. It’s heartbreaking, and it is happening more often each year.
‘Marc’ and ‘Jenny’* are siblings, aged 4 and 6, who know what this is like. During their first two months in foster care, these youngsters experienced nine different placements and an additional ten nights in local hotels. When they finally met their Holt family, can you imagine what they must have thought?
When children move from place to place to place, it takes a toll. Fear and anxiety thrive in unpredictable environments. We see children who struggle to sleep, and why should they feel safe enough to sleep? Instead they are exhausted, resulting in a domino effect on other areas of functioning. We notice speech disruptions, and why should they speak up for themselves when no one listens? Some children begin to withdraw and must wonder if anyone really cares about them. When children move from place to place, feeling rejected by one adult after another, imagine the impact on their healthcare, education and emotional state.
And remember, all of this occurs after removal from an abusive or neglectful situation. Marc and Jenny needed someone to help them off of this rollercoaster. When others repeatedly said ‘no,’ one Holt family said ‘yes.’
Once children find safe shelter, they can begin to heal. They feel safe, sleep through the night, and find their voice again. Food insecurities are resolved within families, ensuring physical health and proving that adults are willing and able to meet their needs. Children can focus on learning, and make educational progress. They learn to trust and seek comfort from their fostering parents.
Fostering parents can also maintain connections between children and their relatives. What a gift! Marc and Jenny now have a home and a family where they belong, and where their whole life and identity is welcome.
This is the power of family.
This is why we need interested individuals and couples to reach out to us. You are welcome on our team, where we will prepare you and make sure you are ready. Our job is to walk beside you as you care for these children and support them on their path to permanency, which is most often reunification with biological family members but can also become adoption.
One family said ‘yes’ to Marc and Jenny, and it made all the difference.
Greg Eubanks is Holt’s senior vice president for U.S. foster care & adoption. He brings over 25 years of experience to his work with Holt, as well as his experience as an adoptive dad. Find out more information about Holt’s foster care program at holt4kids.org, call us at 206.922.1515, or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
*Telling foster care stories can be challenging. We tell real stories with true details, but we change names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality. Read more here.