“We are the directors of Royal Family KIDS Camp, which is a summer camp and outreach program for foster children in Pope County, Arkansas. Our camp has served for 18 years and reached over 500 foster children along the way. These children have suffered many things, and we’re there to bring hope back into their lives. Because without hope, there is no future.
Any time a government is placed in the position to raise children, you immediately have an issue. The government is not designed to raise children.
Although we have some amazing Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) staff here in Pope County, they have a limited amount of resources to do their job. One of the greatest difficulties we see in the Arkansas foster care system is inadequate staffing to carry the load we have right now. There’s always a higher demand for placement than there are homes to put the children in.
The lack of awareness of foster care in our community places a significant role in the shortage of homes available for foster placement. As a camp, we raise awareness of the approximately 4,500 foster children in Arkansas. Statistically, 4-5% of our nation’s children will be in foster care at some point. There’s not enough awareness of the need to deal with the crisis.
We also need to ensure that foster families have enough resources to be sustainable for the long term. The high demand and burden on DCFS staff can hinder their ability to facilitate information and assets to the foster families. They sometimes aren’t available as quickly as needed, because they’re burdened with paperwork, court duties, and much more.
Another commonly cited problem in DCFS is the high turnover rate, which is actually a burnout rate. These workers are under incredibly high demand, and they can easily become overwhelmed. When this happens, the children can become case numbers rather than names. If funding and staffing aren’t adequate, the child will be negatively impacted for the rest of their life.
Often, the trauma of foster care is as catastrophic as the trauma they came out of. These kids have already lost everything they know, and it’s devastating to be left behind again when a caseworker must quit. It adds insult to injury.
The government isn’t designed to raise children. Though entering the foster care system is necessary for the well-being of the child, they are the one that suffers most.
Statistically, these children aren’t headed to a good place in life unless someone intervenes. Worse, they know the statistics and believe them themselves. We have to give them something to hope for. They need to see they’re not a piece of trash. They may be tossed around and they may be a number in everyone else’s eyes. But there is hope!
We need to make sure that the end result for these children is that they live the most normal lives they can. State resources have to filter down to the local level–the boots on the ground with the children–to impact their lives.
We must work on behalf of the child, not the system."
Mike and Hazel Ames
Arkansans, Royal Family Kids Camp Directors in Pope County, and foster child advocates