The following post is part two of a three part series by Foster Village Founder, Chrystal Smith, in which she explores the relationship between foster care and the community.
Historically, the media has promoted strong misconceptions about the foster care system, often portraying it in a negative light. However, in a recent survey we conducted, which we first mentioned here, we found the overall attitudes and perceptions of the foster care system are more positive than ever. In fact, nearly three-quarters of respondents (71 percent) stated their overall views of the foster care system have changed from previous notions, with 82 percent reporting their views had improved.
What’s more is 75 percent of respondents view the current foster care system favorably, and 71 percent agree the system has improved in the last 10 years.
The survey also revealed a strong correlation between changes in attitude and greater understanding through increased exposure. Increased awareness of foster caregivers and families within communities has helped to further shape public perceptions. Fifty-six percent of respondents said hearing and seeing impact statements from caregivers and children in the media and on social media affected their views.
But one of the strongest influences across communities has been personal connections. Half of respondents said exposure to children in foster care affected their views, and 49 percent reported that personal exposure to caregivers influenced their views of the foster care system.
With increased exposure has come greater understanding, as 82 percent of survey takers attribute changes in their attitude to greater awareness of and exposure to children in foster care, children who have been adopted and caregivers in their community. Further, 87 percent of respondents agreed they have a better understanding of the foster care system today than they did 10 years ago.
It’s hard to know what goes on with the foster care system until you are in the trenches as a foster parent, and especially if you go through the adoption process. It wasn’t until I became a licensed foster parent that I truly understood the challenges foster caregivers and families face.
Since becoming a licensed foster home in 2014, along with my husband, and adopting our now daughter, I have learned how important it is to have a village of support behind you, which is why organizations like Foster Village are so valuable to families in the system. We see families and children with consistent and therapeutic networks of support are the ones who ultimately have the most success. It is our goal to encourage communities to rally for and support families and children in care, which we hope promotes continued connection, understanding and compassion.