The Foster Care Placement Crisis

February 6, 2023 Christine Coelho, Director of Children and Families
A Message from Ascentria’s Director of Children and Families: The Foster Care Placement Crisis

We are sounding the alarm bell! The need for more foster homes has never been more crucial than at this present time for the children and teens involved in the state of Massachusetts’ child welfare. As of 2021, there are between 9,000 and 10,000 children and young adults in foster care in Massachusetts. Many of these children have nowhere to go as a result of the current deficit of foster homes and new foster parents. Massachusetts has deemed this shortage a “placement crisis,” ultimately as a result of the pandemic’s lasting effects, economic pressures on families, and staffing shortages within child welfare.

I have personally been working with this population for over 20 years in different placement settings, including a group home, foster care and pre-adoptive homes. I must say that throughout my time working in this field, I have never seen such a severe lack of placements for youth. Presently, I serve as a Director of Children and Family Services at Ascentria Care Alliance, a placement provider contracted with state child welfare. There is a substantial amount of pressure on our agency to recruit and license new foster homes to meet this need.

Our agency is currently experiencing a 60% decline in the number of individuals inquiring about becoming foster parents. Whether this be due to financial struggles for so many families this year, or just a lack of awareness in our community, is hard to say. I want to believe that if everyone in our community knew about the lack of homes for children in care, more people would step forward to become foster parents.

Children and youth entering the foster care system may be coming directly from their biological homes after being removed due to severe abuse or neglect. Children already in care could also be in need of a new foster home that can better meet their needs. A youth can experience several different moves throughout their time in care, which can cause further harm and negatively influence their long-term success. Every child deserves a safe, stable and permanent placement where they can begin to heal from past trauma, and furthermore, grow and thrive in a healthy environment. The more foster homes available in our state, the more likely that children in foster care will find that permanency and be able to thrive.

Child welfare providers continue to work towards increasing overall recruitment efforts to license more foster families, while still dealing with the shortage and lack of staff following the pandemic. Here at Ascentria, we have a dedicated team of foster parent recruiters that are trying everything to get the word out – from in person and online events, to social media posts and seasonal ideas. Our licensed foster parents have graciously offered their assistance with this great task on top of the daily care they continue to provide to our youth. But for all of the efforts of both our staff and foster parents, at the end of the day we are powerless against public interest – or the lack thereof – towards foster care. We need caring adults in our community to step up and join us in our belief that there is no such thing as other people’s children – instead we believe that we all have a responsibility to care for the children in our community, even when that is hard.

For any families that are hesitant or questioning whether or not fostering is right for their family, we ask that you take the time to learn more, so we can provide you with the accurate information you need to make this decision and potentially correct any misconceptions you may have heard about doing this rewarding work. The decision you make could possibly change the course of a child’s life.

For those families or individuals who do not want to make the commitment of becoming a licensed foster family, but still want to help during these difficult times, you can become a “Friend of Foster Care” and help us all spread the word! Whether this be through relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, communities or through sharing information on social media.

Ascentria staff are here to answer any questions regarding foster care and can provide the opportunity for you and your family to learn more. Ultimately, we believe that talking about foster care, helps kids in foster care. That’s why we hope you will take action today in spreading the word or considering becoming a foster parent.