Today, a parent navigating the child welfare system in Spokane, Washington, might cross paths with Heather Cantamessa. Heather is the coordinator for the Spokane County Parents for Parents Program, a county-wide effort to bring together government, community and philanthropic resources to help families heal.
Heather knows how important healing is. She fought a long battle with addiction, and, in the process, her children went through six years in foster care. When she hit her lowest point, Heather resolved to chart a new course. She set her sights on becoming a better mom for her children.
With resources from the court, and a support network of friends and professionals, as Heather says, â€œI transformed before everyoneâ€™s eyes.â€
Twenty-eight months after losing her daughters, Heather was reunited with them. Over the next few years, her sons would come back into her life as well. Today, sheâ€™s turned her past into tools to help other parents navigate the system and piece their lives back together for their own children.
Every child deserves the opportunity to thrive in a family. And this May, during National Foster Care Month, we need to remember the many children, youth and families in our communities without a safe and stable home.
Today, there are more than 400,000 children and young people in foster care in the United States. While these children face daunting and unique challenges, each one has a chance at a promising future with support from extended family members, foster parents, volunteers, and dedicated professionals.
Evidence increasingly shows that the best strategy to help children in foster care is to engage and strengthen families early. Thatâ€™s why the theme of this yearâ€™s National Foster Care Month is â€œHonoring, Uniting, and Celebrating Families.â€