Samaritas employees DeeDee McVety, the director of planned gifts and giving, and Bonnie Reyes, the secretary of the Samaritas foundation, accept a proclamation recognizing May 7 as Michigan Foster Care Awareness Day from Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey April 22.

Samaritas employees DeeDee McVety, the director of planned gifts and giving, and Bonnie Reyes, the secretary of the Samaritas foundation, accept a proclamation recognizing May 7 as Michigan Foster Care Awareness Day from Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey April 22.

Photo provided by Samaritas


Opioid crisis helps fuel increased need for foster care services

Farmington Hills City Council proclaims May 7 Foster Care Awareness Day

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published May 7, 2019

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Michigan’s opioid crisis has created new problems over the last few years for the state’s foster care agencies, which have seen an increase in the number of children who need foster care services rise since hitting a low in 2012.

A study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 6,380 Michigan children were placed in foster care in 2016. Parental addiction was a direct factor in 33% of those placements, and Laura Mitchell, the executive director of foster care at Samaritas, the largest foster care agency in Michigan, said that number continues to increase still today.

That’s why advocates across the state, and locally in Farmington Hills, joined to proclaim May 7 as Michigan Foster Care Awareness Day, and May as Michigan Foster Care Awareness Month. Their goal is to raise awareness of this issue and recognize the people who are working to help.

Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey signed the proclamation into action at the April 22 City Council meeting.

“We have a need across the state for more foster care families, because there are more children who still need a place to stay,” said Mitchell. “It’s something we just have to keep up with all the time. Unfortunately, there are still children who are not safe at home, and that is our primary concern.”

In 2018, Samaritas served 1,400 children in foster care, but Mitchell explained that there are still other children out there who are in need of these services and a safe place to call home. She hopes the awareness raised by the proclamation and the media will help people understand just how great the need for support is.

Mitchell also hopes that through raised awareness, assumptions about foster care and the parents who lose their children can be dispelled.

“People make a lot of assumptions about foster care or about the parents who’ve hurt their children or have not been able to provide for their families,” she said. “There are significant issues that cause parents to not be good parents, and it’s not because they’re bad people at all. They’ve often had difficult lives themselves.”

While placing a child with a foster family is often what people think is the first action to happen, Samaritas’ goal is far from that. Instead, they hope to keep families together while providing services to deal with the substance abuse issues these parents may be struggling with. With the “Families First Program,” Samaritas was able to keep 97% of the children they served in 2018 out of foster care while their families received those and other services.

“It’s good for the community to understand more about the foster care experience and to think about ways they can support kids and families as they go through this,” Mitchell said.

Massey, who went through the foster care system himself as an infant, said it was an easy decision for him to sign the proclamation because the issue holds such a special place in his heart. His respect and admiration for those who volunteer their time, energy and love to care for these children runs deep.

“It takes a special person, and a special set of principles and drive to be able to do that, and they need to be recognized for it and thanked,” Massey said. “I think the entire community owes them a debt of gratitude because they help our entire community.

“We wanted to let them know they’re respected and appreciated,” he added.

Mitchell said Samaritas is continuously looking for adults and families to join their agency and become licensed foster care families. Licensed families are able to receive financial reimbursements through the state of Michigan if they choose to take on the care of a child in need.

To find more information about foster care services or how to get involved and help, visit Samaritas’ website at https://www.samaritas.org/.

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