Dr. Betsy Bockman, principal of Samuel Martin Inman Middle School, joined 26 other foster, adoptive and kinship families in Washington, D.C., June 4-6, to urge federal legislators to ensure that children in foster care are able to grow up in families rather than in group care or institutions.
The visits were planned by Advocates for Families First, a national collaboration dedicated to ensuring that children and youth have a family — relative, foster or adoptive — when they cannot remain with their birth parents. Dr. Bockman advocated on behalf of families in conjunction with Families First, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC).
“Every child and youth has a right to have a lifelong family,” said Dr. Bockman, who is a member of the Adoptive and Foster Parent Association of Georgia. “Children want and deserve a mom, dad, grandparent, or other relative who will love them, tend to their hurts, celebrate their successes, and take care of them — now and in the future.”
Dr. Bockman should know. Since 1999, she has been a foster parent and adoptive mother to five children — ages 16, 14, 13, 9 and 8 — who know that the Bockman family is home. All five attend Atlanta Public Schools — Mary Lin Elementary, Inman Middle and Henry W. Grady High School. Dr. Bockman, an Atlanta native, also attended Atlanta Public Schools.
Currently, far too many children and youth in foster care don’t have a family to call their own. According to Advocates for Families First:
- One in five children in foster care will live for some time in an institution, even though for most of them, there is no therapeutic reason for this.
- It’s even worse for older children, with one in three teenagers being placed in foster care in a group placement.
Also, research shows that children who live in a family while in the child welfare system fare better than those who are raised in institutions.
“Having a family matters because parenting doesn’t stop when children turn 18,” Dr. Bockman said. “I look forward to celebrating all the graduations, weddings, grandchild births and other milestone events in my children’s lives.”
A key part of the discussion with policy makers entailed the importance of support that children and youth need in order to heal from the trauma, loss, and hurt that comes from their experiences.
Dr. Bockman explained, “Across the country today, children and youth with many challenges are being successfully parented in families. With the right support, parents can care for children who are medically fragile and have difficult behaviors and mental health challenges. There’s no reason for 50,000 children in this country to be in group care or institutions. By showing policy makers who foster, adoptive, and kinship families are, we knew we could help ensure that children have a loving family to care for them when they can’t remain with their birth parents.”