Alison Caliendo from Las Vegas joined 26 other foster, adoptive, and kinship families in Washington, D.C. on June 4 to 6 to urge federal legislators to do all they can to ensure that children in foster care are able to grow up and grow old in families rather than in group care or institutions.
The visits were planned by Advocates for Families First, a national collaboration dedicated to ensuring that children and youth have a family — relative, foster, or adoptive — when they cannot remain with their birth parents.
“Every child and youth has a right to have a lifelong family,” says Alison. “Children want and deserve a mom, dad, grandparent, or other relative who will love them, tend to their hurts, celebrate their successes, and take care of them — now and in the future.” And she should know. Since 2012, Alison and her husband Terry have fostered and adopted their son who knows that the Caliendo family is home. In addition, Alison Caliendo has worked with over 1,200 children in 800 kinship care families to ensure their caregivers have the support they need.
Alison says, “I passionately believe that when children can’t be with their parents, they should be with their family. When a kinship home is not possible, children should be in a loving family. That is what quality foster and adoptive parents can provide to vulnerable children.”
Currently, far too many children and youth in foster care don’t have a family to call their own:
- One in five children in foster care will live for some time in an institution, even though, for most of them, there is no therapeutic reason for this.
- It’s even worse for older children, with one in three teenagers in foster care in a group placement.
Research shows that children who live in a family while in the child welfare system fare better than those who are raised in institutions. Having a family matters because parenting doesn’t stop when children turn 18.
A key part of the discussion with policy makers was about the importance of support that children and youth need in order to heal from the trauma, loss, and hurt that come with their experiences. Alison says, “For our family, without the support of services we would not have been able to provide the care that our children needed and deserved. I wanted to be sure that our federal legislators understand that foster, adoptive, and kinship families need support to help children grow and thrive.”
The goal for the visits was to be sure that policy makers know that children and youth can have a family if we invest in recruiting, developing, and supporting foster, kinship, and adoptive families. Alison explains, “Across the country today, children and youth with many challenges are being successfully parented in families. With the right support, parents can care for children who are medically fragile, have difficult behaviors, and have mental health challenges. There’s no reason for 50,000 children in this country to be in group care or institutions. By showing policy makers who foster, adoptive, and kinship families are, we knew we could help ensure that children have a loving family to care for them when they can’t remain with their birth parents.”
Families teach children how to trust, share, and give and receive love. Families advocate for their children, care for them when they are sick, and guide them into adulthood. Moms, dads, grandparents, and other caring relatives cheer at basketball games and shed tears at graduations.
All children deserve parents or relatives who love and care for them.
For more information, contact Alison Caliendo at Ali@fosterkinship.org or (702) 546-9988.
ADVOCATES FOR FAMILIES FIRST
25 E Street NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, D.C. 20001
Tel: 508-254-2200 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Advocates for Families First informs, educates, and inspires the public and policymakers about the needs of children, youth, and families in foster care, kinship care, and adoption. We are committed to building a unified, cohesive, and sustainable national advocacy effort in support of kinship, foster, and adoptive families who care for children and youth, promote their healing, and help them thrive.
Advocates for Families First is an alliance of NACAC, Generations United, and the National Foster Parent Association.