While the weather on the first Saturday of June did not cooperate, more than 100 people turned out in the pouring rain to celebrate Foster Family Day at the Fort, Bette Hoxie told me of the sixth annual celebration in support of those who foster and adopt as well as provide kinship care for relatives’ children.
The event at Fort Knox in Prospect, hosted by Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine and the Kinship Program, normally would attract more than 400 people Hoxie said, and when the weather did begin to clear an hour or so after the 11 a.m. start, others trickled in to join the fun.
The irony here, of course, is this event usually was held in May, which is Foster Care Month, but was moved up to June, partially in hopes of improved weather.
But no matter when they arrived, or how long they stayed, it is what these adults are doing for Maine children that this event celebrates.
The program supports people who take in children who are placed in care because they have been abused, neglected or abandoned.
“We’re a private, nonprofit [501c3] organization,” Hoxie explained of the program supported by donations and grants, as well as a contract with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and a subcontract with Families and Children Together.
“Our mailing list is 4,400,” and includes “about 1,500 foster families, about 1,600 adoptive families and 500 to 600 kinship families who are relatives raising relatives’ children, such as aunts and uncles or even older siblings raising younger ones.”
To me, one of the most interesting comments Hoxie made is that while Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine is seeing “an increase in the number of kids coming into care, the rate [of time] for kids being in care is decreasing.
“More kids are moving back with their families, or staying in place where they are.
“They are not staying in [temporary] care long-term,” Hoxie continued, “because there is much more emphasis, today, to see that kids are connected to one relative or someone” who will maintain a long-term interest in the child.”
She emphasized the importance of those who may be leaving the foster care system, but are not going home to their birth families, being able to stay in contact with or “stay connected” to a strong, supportive adult.
And while I believed that children in care could stay only through age 18, Hoxie said young people who sign what is called a V-9 waiver can remain in care through age 20.
“Some of the ‘kids’ who are 30 still call ‘home,’ because sometimes just talking with someone helps them out,” Hoxie said.
Meanwhile, back at Fort Knox on that special day, Hoxie said everyone had a great time, despite the weather.
Children were busy with activities, and adults enjoyed socializing and networking, an important part of this day.
“It’s always good to talk with, and to know that someone else is in your shoes,” Hoxie said.
For the youngsters, besides just enjoying the fun of being at Fort Knox, Hoxie said “someone was doing tattoos, and the kids loved that.”
“And Home Depot donated hundreds of these little wooden work kits so kids could make everything from a butterfly house to toolboxes and lots of other crafts.”
Families from Kittery to Lewiston “and everywhere beyond and in between,” were there, many of whom “have been coming for years and, since we’ve only hit one day that it didn’t rain, they’re used to it. It was a happy day,” Hoxie said.
For families who are part of the foster care system, Hoxie said, “we’re here to listen and to support.”
For more information about Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine, call 800-833-9786, write AFFM, Suite 1, 294 Center St., Old Town 04468, or visit www.affm.net. The organization also has a Facebook page.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; firstname.lastname@example.org; 990-8288.