May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. Officials say there are nearly 14,000 kids waiting to be placed into foster care homes in Michigan.
Lynda Dandridge is the director of child welfare services at The Children’s Center in Detroit. She says the agency provides services for about 225 children every day, as a “one-stop-shop” that works with families to make a difference. Dandridge has been working in foster care for 30-plus years, starting as a foster care worker and working her way up to director.
Dandridge says the center works to place kids into foster homes. “We try to find a family that’s going to be there for that kid through the tough times … that’s going to be able to give them and help them with the concerns that they have their emotional needs, their trauma …”
The agency tries to place kids with foster parents that are similar to them.
“I think a kid that’s loved, and they know that they exist, that’s important too. When I see a foster parent, adoptive parent now that have this kid, that’s Mom. It doesn’t matter if they look the same. If the parent happens to look like them great, but the parent that don’t look like them, continuing to expose them to their culture.”
She says case managers work with families to remove barriers to eventually reunite biological parents with their children — whether it’s housing, substance abuse or domestic violence.
Dandridge says foster care parents play a crucial role in the care of kids. She says in Michigan people can become licensed to become foster parents if they are 18 years old or older with a legal source of income and are a legal U.S. resident with good moral character.
“Foster parents are the core of everything that we do. If we didn’t have them, we couldn’t do it,” she says.
Dandridge says The Children’s Center provides training for foster parents and other resources such as peer group support. During the pandemic, people were able to pick up food, clothing and dishes.
“Through the pandemic and everything that we could not get into the homes and licensed and do everything we want. There’s a lot of kids, that there’s no homes available for them to put for foster homes. And what we try to do in that case, we’re trying to get more relatives to be licensed.”
The Children’s Center opened in 1929. It will host a graduation program and summer programs for kids.
Listen: Foster care parents play a crucial role in kids’ lives, says Lynda Dandridge of The Children’s Center.