May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recommit ourselves to ensuring a better future for the more than 400,000 children in foster care throughout our nation. This year's theme, "Supporting Youth in Transition," helps remind us of the important role offering support plays in helping all vulnerable, at-risk children.
This is also a good time to express our gratitude to the thousands of people including relatives, foster parents, social workers, and others who make a positive difference in these children's lives. Thanks to their efforts and those of other countless individuals and groups, the number of children in foster care nationally has dropped significantly over the last six years. We recognize more needs to be done to help strengthen families and to ensure the resources and community support they so desperately need is available. These important tools help provide for the well-being of their children, prevent child abuse and neglect, and provide safe and loving foster and adoptive families.
Children and youth who enter foster care have often experienced multiple traumas; from abuse or neglect to removal from their families. These experiences can have a serious, sometimes lifelong impact on the health and well-being of these young people, and damage their chances for success in school, the workforce, and relationships. Children and youth in foster care need support to heal and recover from trauma. Their caregivers, whether a relative, foster, or adoptive parent, need support in order to provide safe, nurturing environments for their children.
That is why it is so important for our health and human service systems to work together to ensure that children and youth in foster care receive high-quality physical and behavioral health care. Collaboration across child welfare and Medicaid, for instance, can increase access to services that respond to children's needs and put them back on track to achieve their greatest potential.
Through the Administration for Children and Families, the Department of Health and Human Services is supporting important initiatives aimed at promoting the social and emotional well-being of children in foster care. Examples we support include:
The Permanency Innovations Initiative, where programs are working to find permanent families for youth in long-term foster care, many of whom are among the more than 100,000 children awaiting adoption.
A network of grantees to increase access to trauma screening, comprehensive assessment, and evidence-based trauma-informed treatments for children and youth who have experienced maltreatment.
Waivers from HHS to nine states so far to use federal foster care funds flexibly to improve child welfare outcomes. Six of these states have demonstration projects that bring in Medicaid as a key partner.
The National Foster Care Month initiative, which through various resources promotes awareness of children in foster care.
During National Foster Care Month, we encourage all Americans to consider what they can do to provide a helping hand to struggling families and children and youth in foster care. From supporting neighbors in need to mentoring or becoming foster or adoptive parents, many opportunities exist to allow you to make a difference and have a positive impact on our nation's most vulnerable children and families. Helping the next generation is the best way to ensure a brighter future for us all.