City Cast

How to Help Foster Kids in Illinois

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on May 22   |   Updated on July 7
Photos of kids in frames

Pictures of a Winnetka couple’s foster children. (Anthony Robert La Penna / Tribune / Getty)

Foster parents are needed to help give adolescents safe and stable homes. During National Foster Care Month, we’re diving into what that looks like locally.

COVID-19 exacerbated problems in the foster care system.

In 2021, more Illinois foster children remained locked up for weeks and months after their ordered release compared to the year before. In a lawsuit, foster kids detailed feeling hopeless, neglected, sad, and angry from being locked up in addition to their own behavioral and mental health challenges.

Fewer foster homes are available.

Over 8,000 Illinois youths are currently in foster care, according to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Advocates say there’s a dire need for more families to sign up to help take kids in temporarily.

How to become a foster parent.

Prospective foster parents have to be at least 21 years old. While marital status doesn’t matter, applicants do have to be financially stable and undergo a home inspection, social assessment, training, background check, and health screening.

For relatives taking in a child, DCFS recommends becoming licensed since monthly reimbursements are higher (and went up last year).

Other ways to help:

You can volunteer with nonprofits, such as Children’s Home & Aid, or the county’s court–appointed special advocate program.

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