May is National Foster Care Month, and according to the official site, this year’s theme is “Strengthening Minds. Uplifting Families.” This month is a time to “raise awareness on issues related to foster care and to celebrate those who are dedicated to serving our children, youth, and families.”
The latest statistics report that there are over 391,000 children in foster care, with a median age of seven. There are just over 214,000 foster-care families in the US.
The top five reasons a child is placed into the foster-care system are neglect, parental drug abuse, a caretaker’s inability to cope, physical abuse, and lack of stable housing. The list of additional reasons is extensive and includes situations such as the incarceration of a parent, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, and other such atrocities.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Up to 80 percent of children in foster care have significant mental health issues, compared to approximately 18-22 percent of the general population.”
The family is in trouble in America.
Kathleen Paydo is a mother who understands the trouble today’s children face. She and her husband have been foster parents for over 20 years and have fostered more than 150 children.
Theirs is truly a mission to strengthen minds and uplift families.
In 2022, Paydo penned a book entitled Fostering Love: A Glimpse into Foster Care to not only show the world foster care through the eyes of a foster parent but to give the reader a glimpse into the life of a foster child. It is a fascinating book that tells stories that will both warm and break your heart.
Through Paydo’s eyes we see broken families, abused and mistreated children, children who long for someone to love them, and the beauty of faith, as Paydo and her husband teach their foster children about God’s infinite compassion and mercy. But that is not all. We see the resiliency of children who begin to thrive when they are treated with love, with care, and with the proper attention.
Fostering Love is a story of hope, for we see that some parents can change and rebuild their families. It’s a story of compassion, for we see the Paydos giving of themselves to hundreds of children. And it’s a story of courage, as we see not only the Paydos but others within their community working diligently to build a better life for these children.
We also see the beauty of foster care and are gifted with examples of what people can do to help foster families, even if they cannot become foster parents. For instance, did you know that you can sign up to be a respite family and care for foster children once in a while to give foster parents a break? Did you know that you can donate gently used toys, books, and clothes to foster families so they have enough of those items for each new child? These gifts are very much appreciated by families who have children regularly coming and going in their household.
The foster-care system often gets a “bad rap,” so to speak. Movies and TV portray mean or abusive people who only want the monthly paycheck (which, in truth, is not that much) or who harm the child. And when a foster family does harm a child, it makes the news and gives the public the wrong impression. People succumb to the fallacy of hasty generalization and begin to think that all foster families are cruel.
In reality, there are many more awesome families (like the Paydos) than there are bad families.
These are people who give their time, talents, and treasures to children who have no one else to care for them. They truly live the Corporal Work of Mercy to shelter the homeless. Through their generous efforts, we can see that they are making a difference and uplifting families—one child at a time.
This article first appeared in Catholic 365 at catholic365.com/article/28754/the-beauty-of-foster-families.html.