With the holidays behind us, it can be easy to transition back into our own routines. No matter what that routine may be, it results in the days and months flying by until that next great trip we have planned, and before we know it, the holidays are upon us again. Many people consider fostering but allow their routines and schedules to get in the way and delay the assistance they so badly want to offer. While the choice to foster a child in need is one of the most important decisions you can make, Youth Unlimited will make the transition as seamless as possible.
“Youth Unlimited began as a storefront ministry in downtown High Point in 1968 in response to concern about the welfare of local teenagers,” said Training Director and Therapeutic Foster Care Program Director Judy Fradenburg. “Youth Unlimited has evolved into an agency with a continuum of services for children from birth to 18 years of age in both community and residential programs. Youth Unlimited began providing foster care services in 2001. We train, license and provide ongoing support for our foster families and children.”
Those who are not immersed in the world of the foster system can easily ignore how great the need is for loving foster parents around the world, and the need is especially great in our community. “We have between 15-25 children in our foster homes at a given time,” said Fradenburg. “However, we have had to turn down literally dozens of referrals for placement due to not having enough foster families available. Our agency is not alone in turning away referrals due to lack of available families. Many siblings are split up because foster families are only able to take one or two children. There is also a need for stay-at-home foster parents (including retired parents) for children that are unable to attend daycare due to being too young or because of medical needs. Foster parents that are fluent in other languages (including American Sign Language / ASL) are also incredibly rare and very much needed. The greater the pool of available foster families, the more likely it is that good matches will be made with children needing placement, the more likely that siblings will be able to stay together and the more likely that children will be able to stay in their communities or schools.”
While there are sacrifices made on both sides, there are also great benefits! “We recognize that becoming a foster parent is a huge commitment of time and emotional and physical energy,” said Fradenburg. “However, it is incredibly rewarding. Some foster parents become licensed with the objective of adoption, some foster with the intention of helping children until they return home or are adopted by another family, and still others provide respite for full-time foster parents without having full-time placements themselves.”
Youth Unlimited’s work doesn’t end with its foster program. “We have mental health residential services for children and adolescents, in-home and outpatient therapy services, psychiatric services and a residential program for siblings in the foster care system,” said Fradenburg. “As part of our foster care program, we assist with accessing medical and dental care, therapy and visits with family. Our case managers provide 24/7/365 support to our foster parents.”
Becoming a foster parent is an important decision, and it is important to educate yourself about the realities of fostering a child in need, both positive and negative. “Our children come from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Fradenburg. “They will have all experienced some form of abuse or neglect, and they will all be grieving. They have lost everything familiar to them — not just their parents, but often siblings, pets, teachers and friends. A common misconception is that foster children are grateful to be living in foster families and that they won’t want to return to difficult family situations. Most children love their parents no matter what and believe that they have been punished by being taken away from their families. Another misconception is that older children in foster care are ‘trouble’ and can’t be trusted with foster parents’ own children. By and large, this is so untrue. Many older children have been responsible for younger children and just want to be kids again. Initial and ongoing foster parent training is designed to assist foster parents in guiding children and learning new skills that may have been lost along the way. Foster parents are never out there alone. All kinds of people can become foster parents — married, single, men, women — regardless of economic status, religion, age (over 21) or sexual orientation. You don’t have to have had children before — you just need to have a heart for them. We can help you with everything else.”
Youth Unlimited is hosting an open house on Monday, February 6th for those interested to obtain information from Licensing Social Worker Tammie Johnson, as well as from currently licensed foster parents. For more information about Youth Unlimited, email TammieJohnson@youthunlimited.cc, call 336.883.1361 or visit the website at youthunlimited.cc.