The ninth annual Forever Home Run Oct. 7 was presented by The KSG Group at Morgan Stanley at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Bloomfield Hills.

The ninth annual Forever Home Run Oct. 7 was presented by The KSG Group at Morgan Stanley at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Bloomfield Hills.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Need for more foster families grows

By: Mary Genson | Metro | Published December 1, 2023


METRO DETROIT — The holidays bring to mind memories of home and family, and for some local youth, that is what they need most.

Especially following the pandemic, there is a need for foster parents in Michigan. There are approximately 10,000 children in foster care in the state, and nearly 200 children who still need an adoptive family.

Sarah Bacheller is a foster parent who said that in some ways, foster care became harder during the pandemic, but it also had some hidden benefits.

“What COVID did in our situation is it opened up doors for alternate ways of receiving education that don’t normally open for foster kids because they have to be in a brick-and-mortar school,” she said.

Bacheller said some students did better with the online format, without the social pressures that come along with school.

However, she said it required her to fill in the gaps that were not being provided by face-to-face education at the time. She said that is not a realistic situation for most families. When both parents are working, it is more difficult to hold kids accountable for their schoolwork,

“It did allow for more opportunities to connect and build that trust and relationship, because I wasn’t competing with a school schedule and a sports schedule and a work schedule and everything, so we had no other choice but to find ways to connect and get them feeling connected,” Bacheller said.

Lara Bouse, the executive director of Fostering Forward Michigan, said that, “in a nutshell, COVID made foster care harder.”

Throughout this time, Bouse said, many children who were previously in foster care were adopted, but that also meant foster parents were no longer able to take in other children.

“COVID really created some new challenges and forced foster parents to look at their own capacity and what they could and couldn’t do, and so we lost quite a few foster homes during COVID and after, and at this point, we need to replace those homes,” Bouse said.

It was especially challenging for some parents during the time period when kids were not able to go to schools or daycare, and parents had to work from home.

“We have children in care that really need to have some individualized and specialized care, and so we need to find homes and families that we can train, who will care for these children and help get them on a path to reunification with their birth family,” Bouse said.

Melissa Jenovai, the president and CEO of Spaulding for Children, said that, after COVID, they experienced an increase in the need for foster homes because many of their caregivers suffered from health concerns and deaths as a result of the pandemic. Jenovai said this especially impacted the Black, Indigenous and people of color community.

“​​There’s certainly a need nationwide and locally in our area to have people who are interested in either supporting families and volunteering with agencies or coming to learn about foster care and adoption,” Jenovai said.

Jenovai said they have a high number of teens, as well as children who are part of a sibling set.

“Fostering teens has been a nationwide campaign and call to action, but we still have a need for that in our area,”  Jenovail said. “Families who are willing and interested in parenting teens is a big need.”

Bacheller said foster parents are trained to provide normalcy for their foster kids. However, it can get expensive for teenagers to live normal lives. For example, Bacheller said her car insurance goes up every time a kid finishes driver’s education.

“We want to provide normalcy, but then normalcy comes at the expense of dollars,” Bacheller said.

She added that she likes to provide kids with as many experiences as she can, but those can get expensive as well.

Recently, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an increase in financial support for foster parents. The increased allocation of funds is part of the bipartisan budget that was recently signed by Whitmer, part of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ effort to address Michigan’s shortage in foster parents.

Bouse said the calculations for the foster care daily rate reimbursement do automatically account for inflation.

“The increases we’ve seen recently, in the past couple of years, have just barely begun to get that daily rate up to where inflation should have taken it if it had increased at the same inflation rate that everything else had,” Bouse said. “While goods and services and groceries are becoming more and more expensive, there hasn’t been an increase to that reimbursement rate for what foster parents end up spending out of their own pocket.”

Bouse said that, even with these reimbursement increases, Michigan offers less than other states in the country.

“It still hasn’t gotten us to the point where foster parents are receiving a realistic daily reimbursement for the care and safety and wellbeing of a child,” Bouse said. “But the dollars allow for foster parents to have a little more flexibility in helping youth participate in extracurricular activities and to be able to replace clothing or weather-appropriate attire as the seasons change. So, every little bit helps.”


Becoming a foster parent
“As long as your home is safe and secure and you are willing to do the work to help a child, you don’t have to have any special skills. We’re going to help people learn what they need to learn in order to do it,” Bouse said.

The licensing process provides training and resources to help foster parents with what they need to know.

“Foster care is incredibly rewarding, especially when you get to watch the system work well and provide great outcomes for children and families,” Bouse said.

For more information on becoming a foster parent in Michigan, visit