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May is the month to start changing a child’s life

May 14, 2010

When families fail a child, new families are needed to step in. May is National Foster Care Awareness Month, a chance for adults of all ages, married or single, to step up and change a child’s life by becoming a foster parent.

Every year, about 500,000 children enter foster care in the United States due to abuse, neglect or abandonment, or because their families can no longer care for them. Every day, organizations like Youth Villages who work in partnership with state governments to find loving foster homes for children, need foster families who are ready to make a commitment to a child – a commitment of love, family, hope and healing.

Youth Villages, a private nonprofit organization that provides foster care services throughout Tennessee, Mississippi and parts of Alabama, encourages anyone who feels called to be a foster parent to learn more about it during the month of May. The organization is offering free information sessions and training for adults interested in becoming foster parents throughout the month.

“Foster families are regular people with a very special gift – to love a child, no matter what the child has been through, and with patience to accept a child for whoever he or she is.” — Kia Granberry, foster care recruiting supervisor for Youth Villages.

“It’s an amazing thing, but it’s really the unconditional love of a family that is the No. 1 thing a child needs to overcome a traumatic past and succeed in life,” said Kia Granberry, foster care recruiting supervisor for Youth Villages.

Youth Villages has been providing foster care services since 1992. That includes reaching out to potential foster parents, training foster parents in successful parenting techniques, helping families understand what children in foster care have been through and supporting families as they begin to open their hearts and homes to children in state custody.

“Foster families are regular people with a very special gift – to love a child, no matter what the child has been through, and with patience to accept a child for whoever he or she is,” Granberry said. “They also have the foresight to know who a child can be once they know they are safe, secure and loved.”

Youth Villages’ foster parents go through several weeks of free training scheduled in the evenings or on Saturdays – meals and refreshments are provided. Youth Villages’ foster parents also receive 24-hour support through trained counselors who are available any time the foster family or child needs them. Monthly support groups provide foster parents with an additional outlet for questions and support. In addition, Youth Villages’ foster parents receive monthly reimbursements to help them offset the cost of adding a child to their household.

“Being a foster parent is a calling,” Granberry said. “We make sure foster children have their health care needs paid for, and we reimburse families to make sure all the needs of the child – food, clothing, medication, etc. – are met.”

In recent years, a movement throughout the United States to reduce the number of children in foster care through prevention and reunification services has shown success, and the number of children in foster care has dropped significantly in many states. In Tennessee, the number of children entering foster care every year has dropped by about 40 percent in the past 10 years. Innovative prevention services like Youth Villages’ intensive in-home services have helped keep thousands of children with their families, and reunification services have helped other children return to their birth families or another member of their family faster than ever before. Still, thousands of children need foster homes every year in the United States.

“If people only knew how much of a difference they can make as a foster parent and how rewarding it is, we would have the number of families we need to help all the children who need homes,” Granberry said. “I think that, unfortunately, too few people know this.”

To become a foster parent for Youth Villages, adults must be at least 25 years old, be single or legally married for at least a year, have adequate space in their home for a child, pass a background check, have a valid driver license and reliable transportation, show proof of stable income and complete foster parent training.

To register for an information session or training, or to learn more about becoming a foster parent, call 1-888-myYVkid or go to

People who are not ready to make a commitment to being a foster parent can still help. As a respite parent, people can provide a home for the short-term – a weekend or a few hours or days – for a child. People also can help by making donations to foster care organizations. Needed items include clothing, pajamas, baby items, school supplies and such overnight hygiene items as toothbrushes and shampoo. Mentoring a child in foster care allows adults to spend regular time with a child and to make a difference in the child’s life by being a positive role model. For more information, go to

Youth Villages is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to helping emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully. Headquartered in Memphis, Youth Villages this year will help more than 15,000 children and families in 11 states and Washington, D.C., through a wide array of programs, including intensive in-home services, residential treatment, foster care and adoption, transitional living services, mentoring and crisis services. Youth Villages’ focus on strengthening families consistently produces an 80 percent success rate of children living successfully at home or in a home-like setting two years after completing a Youth Villages program. Named one of the Top 50 Nonprofits to Work For by Nonprofit Times and Best Companies Group in 2010, Youth Villages has been recognized by Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report, and recently was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. For more information about Youth Villages, visit or call (901) 251-5000.

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