Foster Families Are Needed: Myths Examined
“Twenty percent of the homeless are former foster-care children,” said HANAI Director Linda Cota-Kumagai at the Palisades Optimist Club breakfast meeting on April 2.
She said that about 20,000 children leave the foster system at age 18 without finding a family.
“It’s hard to find foster families,” Cota-Kumagai said. “Empty-nesters are very good because they have the time and the patience, and they’ve already raised children.”
One myth is that only married people can foster. False. Empty-nesters, seniors and single people can all become a Resource Parent: the new name given foster parents.
Another myth is that having a foster child is a great way to make money. Generally, resource parents make between $500 and $1,200 stipend per month, but that money is intended for the child’s various needs.
If a child is adopted, parents continue to receive a stipend until the child is 21. “Biological kids don’t come with stipends,” she joked.
Yet another myth: seniors cannot foster. “There is no maximum age to adopt a child or to become a resource parent,” said Cota- Kumagai, who has more than 19 years experience in birth, adoptive and foster parent outreach and recruitment. “But you have to be at least 21 years old.”
Anyone considering fostering must submit an application and go through an orientation. Initially the applicants (or applicant) is charged a small fee but receives that money back after getting approved.
“That money is just to ensure they are serious,” Cota-Kumagai said. The persons (or person) then go through an interview and a home study before they are approved. Additionally, prospective resource parents people need to take a 24-hour course (which can be done online) and must complete a CPR course.
Many believe the myth that the resource parents need to own their own home. In reality, they can either own or rent, but need to be financially stable (e.g., paying their bills), must have a criminal check and cannot house more than two children per bedroom. (If someone would like to foster an adult with disabilities, that person needs his or her own room.)
A social worker stops by weekly and a County worker stops by monthly. “Most children in foster care will return to their biological family,” Cota-Kumagai said, calling it “Love and release” for the resource family.
Cota-Kumagai, who has a master’s in social science administration from Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland) and a master’s in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, was asked if people could pick the child they are fostering or if they just had to take what was given them.
“You have control of who comes into your home,” she said, noting that people could pick the sex of the child and the age, but warned that “there are very few babies or children under four years of age available for adoption/foster care.”
There are roughly only about 18,000 infants available a year for adoption in the U.S. For those who want a baby, the wait could take as long as three years. However, “there has been an increase in infants because of the drug pandemic,” said Cota-Kumagai, who explained that for infants, the first in line is the biological family, then a foster family and finally people who want to adopt.
“Insurance is paid for [through Medi-Cal],” she said, noting that until recently the stipend and insurance was only until the child turned 18.
“What’s the average age a kid ‘finally leaves’ the home?” she asked the audience. The guesses from Optimists were wrong. “Twenty-eight,” was the correct response.
Cota-Kumagai explained that 28 is the general age when kids are successfully able to move out on their own and not need additional financial help from parents.
Stipends, and insurance, have been increased so that young adults can stay in a home until they are 21, “as long as they are working or going to school.
“This gives kids three more years to develop life skills,” she said, noting that there are about 35,000 children in foster care in California.
Contact: Cota-Kumagail at (818) 203-9299 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.