Every child, from birth to eighteen years of age, deserves a safe place to call home with loving, caring people they can call family. The Salvation Army Children’s Services works to ensure that every child, in the more than eight counties they serve in the Lehigh Valley, can have just that through the adoption and foster care services.
One of only two Salvation Army Foster Care and Adoption programs in the United States, the Allentown-and-Harleysville-based organization works hard to find safe, loving homes for children who are not able to remain in their homes of origin due to abuse, neglect, and other unsafe conditions. With 135 children in Lehigh County entering foster care for the first time in 2013, the need for these foster and adoptive families is immense. Foster parent Megan revealed,”People ask me all the time, ‘aren’t you scared you’ll get too attached to the kids that you foster?’ I assure them that I sure hope I do.” This level of commitment, love, and dedication to helping a child in need is what makes for a great foster or adoptive parent.
The Salvation Army began providing for the special care of children in 1915 at Ivy House in Philadelphia. The Salvation Army Children’s Services not only offers screening, educational training, and licensure of prospective foster parents, but also matches potential adoptive parents with children already waiting for a permanent home within the state of Pennsylvania through a partnership with The Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN). Atiya, adoptive mom of twin boys expressed, “Being an adoptive parent is not without its challenges, however, I can honestly say that the few challenges cannot compare to the joy of nurturing my children in a safe, secure, and loving home.”
Foster care services include “respite” care (or weekend/short term care), regular foster care, and foster to adopt (which allows foster parents the option of adopting a child they are fostering if that child becomes available for adoption). Currently, over 2,000 children and youth in Pennsylvania are legally free for adoption and waiting to be matched with an adoptive family who will willingly open their heart and home to them. Foster and adoptive families working with the agency will receive individualized care and attention from our hard-working, caring, and compassionate staff. The small size of the agency enables staff to personally get to know and better serve each and every family.
In addition to foster and adoptive services, The Salvation Army Children’s Services offers an innovative “Visit Coaching” program to birth parents. The program, led by Robyn Hubbard, assists birth parents working toward reunification with their children to have successful, meaningful visits in their child friendly environment called the “family visit room.” To date, the program has served nine families and resulted in contracts with two local counties to provide services to their clients as well. Director of Placement Sue Shotwell states that “…visit coaching provides a nurturing, safe, supportive, home-like environment for families to have meaningful, child-focused visits with their children, as they work towards reunification.”
Support from the community is imperative to the continuation of the care for children in the Lehigh Valley. Residents are encouraged to learn more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent by visiting www.care4kids.net, advocating for their church or place of worship, involvement with the agency, or volunteering their time and talent at a fundraiser like the upcoming Rock N’ Run 4 Kids 5K and Kids Fun Run on May 16th. The annual event, in honor of National Foster Care Month, is a local family favorite and includes live music, great prizes and race packs, visits from local team mascots, and a post-race celebration voted “Best Post-Race Party” by Active.com in 2014. Information and registration available at www.rocknrun4kids.com.
Guided by faith in God, The Salvation Army has been looking out for the physical, social, and spiritual needs since 1865 and continues to serve in over 100 countries. The Salvation Army Children’s Services serves the Lehigh Valley at 425 Allentown Drive Allentown, PA 18109 and the Southeastern Pennsylvania region at 426 Main Street Harleysville, PA 19438. For more information about how to become a foster or adoptive parent, go to care4kids.net