On any given day, North Dakota’s foster care system supports about 1,450 children, providing temporary care to keep children safe while local supports and services are put in place to help stabilize families and work toward reuniting them.
This May during National Foster Care Month, North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) is recognizing family caregivers, foster care providers, and others involved in child welfare services, and reminds North Dakotans about ways they can support children and families.
“Foster care is only possible because of relatives and foster care providers who open their homes to children,” said Cory Pedersen, director of the HHS Children and Family Services Section. “We are also extremely grateful for the child welfare professionals who respond to reports of suspected abuse or neglect, connect children and families to services and provide case management and other support from the human service zones. Our other key partners include the Tribal nations and Division of Juvenile Services.”
Pedersen said North Dakota has over 900 licensed foster care providers. Some support children in their homes on a full-time basis; some meet emergency short-term placement needs, and others provide care periodically so primary caregivers can take a short break.
Roughly 40% of these caregivers are relatives who are not required to be licensed. However, the HHS Children and Family Services Licensing Unit can discuss the benefits of licensing and explore options to best meet a child’s needs.
Pedersen said individuals can support children and families by becoming licensed foster care providers.
Today, North Dakota has a large need for providers to serve teenagers; 24% of North Dakota children in foster care are between the ages of 13 and 18 – an age when providers can be a positive influence and help children feel connected, set goals and become successful adults.
Individuals who want to learn more about becoming a licensed foster care provider can visit hhs.nd.gov/cfs/fostercare or can contact (833) FST-HOME or (833) 378-4663, 711 (TTY) to talk to a recruitment and retention specialist at the Children and Family Services Training Center (CFSTC) at the University of North Dakota, a contracted vendor of HHS.
To learn more, individuals can check out CFSTC’s online panel discussion, “Explore Foster Care,” on Thursday, May 18, from 7 to 8 p.m. CDT. Join the panel discussion via Zoom at https://und.zoom.us/j/92905722696?pwd=dGtuUzIyZklHZjI2TS9hRXlERmdrZz09.
Licensed foster care providers receive support and training through local licensing specialists, custodial agency representatives and recruitment and retention coalitions. The coalitions also plan special events and recognize providers for their role offering emergency placements, temporary placements, respite and long-term support for children.
Individuals can also support relative caregivers and foster care providers by checking in and listening, helping with errands or day-to-day chores so they can focus on children’s needs, inviting them over for a meal or a play date, gifting them with a pass to the zoo, movie theater, or other venue or tickets to community activities. Individuals can be creative in how they offer support to children and families.