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Foster Care Awareness Month- A Snapshot of Santa Cruz County

May is Foster Care Awareness Month, a time when we pause to recognize and appreciate the immense resilience of children in the foster care system. In Santa Cruz County alone, there are currently 169 children navigating the complexities of the Dependency Court system, ages 0-21. CASA has provided services to 83% of those children and youth.  

The diversity within foster care is profound, with each child's story and living situation unique. Currently 22% of foster children are in family maintenance programs, healing and growing while they remain with their biological parents. Other children are embraced by resource families (foster parents), which may extend to include loving grandparents, aunts, and uncles, or may be compassionate community members who open their homes and hearts to those in need. 

A small number of teens find support in Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Programs (STRTPs), where supervised group living nurtures growth and healing. Older youth, aged 18 to 21, venture into independent living, showcasing their resilience and determination.  

Within this tapestry of care, there are remarkable stories of dedication and support. Take, for instance, two brothers thriving in a stable non-family placement, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of dedicated advocates. These brothers are not just surviving but excelling, with access to extracurricular activities, tutoring, and essential resources. Keeping siblings together isn't just about familial bonds; it's a lifeline of support and stability. Resource parents, like the ones caring for these brothers, play a pivotal role, especially when taking on the responsibility of nurturing two teenage boys. 

The significance of family unity echoes in the long-term commitment of resource families within our community. These unsung heroes have opened their doors to countless children, providing love, stability, and hope. One family is currently fostering four siblings who have endured unimaginable challenges. The family is currently on the path towards permanent guardianship, ensuring that these siblings grow and thrive together in a safe environment. 

Even the youngest members of our community find champions in foster care. Babies born with prenatal substance exposure are met with specially trained resource parents, offering not just medical care but a nurturing environment that supports their unique needs. These remarkable caregivers don't just care for these infants; they also rally for the healing and reunification of their biological families, embodying the spirit of compassion and second chances. 

During Foster Care Awareness Month, let us not only acknowledge the challenges but also celebrate the resilience, dedication, and compassion that define foster care. Each child's journey is a testament to the power of love and support, reminding us that together, we can create a brighter future for all children, regardless of their circumstances.