Stepping up for NYC teens in foster care
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BRONX TIMES R 12 EPORTER, AUG. 28-SEPT. 3, 2020 BTR
BY SARAH DEME
My husband and I have been blessed
with over 30 kids. And we are looking forward
to more. That’s because it’s a blessing
to be a foster parent, especially to a
teenager. Older children in foster care
need more New Yorkers to step up to fi ll
the role. As a foster parent 22 times over,
I highly recommend it.
We became foster parents when our
biological daughter left for college over
15 years ago. Being empty nesters did
not suit us; we loved the energy of having
kids in the house and being able to
offer guidance to someone who’s on the
precipice of adulthood.
New York City has made big strides
in reducing the number of kids entering
foster care by instituting interventions
to keep families together. In 2006 over
7,000 kids entered care; in 2016 it was a
little over 3,000. But that still means that
thousands of children need a safe, stable,
and loving home. And because teenagers
tend to get a bad rap, foster care agencies
often struggle to fi nd parents willing to
take them in.
It’s true that fostering kids of any age
isn’t always easy, especially at fi rst. Children
have different experiences, struggles,
and personalities. You have to work
to get to know each other, fi gure out how
to communicate, and give children the
time and space they need to build trust
with a new adult while dealing with
the anxieties of separation.
But we didn’t need to go it alone.
Organizations like the foster care
agency we work with, The Children’s
Village, provide extensive support,
including foster parent support
groups (now all virtual) and 24/7 oncall
service to help with everything
from crisis de-escalation to settling
And the rewards of fostering a teen
far outweigh the work. As a foster parent,
you provide a child with the thing
a child needs the most: a stable, loving
adult in their lives. In my experience,
there is no greater reward than being
The other day my son, Justin, who
joined our home fi ve years ago, told
me, “Ma (yes, he calls me that), someday
I’m going to get a tattoo with the
date that I moved here because that’s
the fi rst time I truly had a home.”
Thousands of kids in New York City
deserve that same experience. I’m calling
on my fellow New Yorkers who can,
to step up and be a foster parent.
Sarah Deme is a foster parent. She
lives in Harlem. Getty Images