Those who have ever considered being a foster parent are welcomed to attend an informational picnic this weekend to learn more about taking the next step and being a welcoming, loving family for kids in need. 

The Chicagoland Foster Care Recruitment Collective’s Foster Parent Recruitment picnic will be an opportunity for those who have felt the nudge towards being a foster parent to receive more information on the process in a low-pressure environment. 

“Becoming a foster parent is not a decision people just wake up and decide to do, it is usually a long game,” said Nancy Silver, foster parent recruitment and support specialist at Hephzibah Children’s Association. “It can be a slow burn when you are just getting information and learning about the first steps. I think each time we build a little thing and see certain people come back and build moments and build support there.” 

Taking place on Saturday, the free, family-friendly event will include presentations on the licensing process, the criteria needed to foster in Illinois, informational tables, and agency representatives who will provide additional information. There will also be a panel of former foster care youth who will speak on their experiences along with the importance of having a safe and supportive foster home in their lives. 

The event will be a collaborative effort amongst Chicagoland Foster Care Recruitment Collective, which is a group of social service agencies helping provide foster care and adoption services in the Chicago area, Oak Park-based Hephzibah Children’s Association, Kaleidoscope, Kids Above All, Lawrence Hall, Little City, Our Children’s Homestead, SOS Illinois, and UCAN. 

Emma Fojtik, foster care licensing supervisor with Hephzibah Children’s Association, said having all the agencies under one roof allows for people to gather information quicker rather than having to reach out to each individually. 

“If you have ever wanted to be a foster parent you can learn about the next step and where to go from there,” Fojtik said. 

A goal of this event is to raise awareness and encourage others to look into fostering and drawing back the curtains on a need that is often not spoken about. Silver said the world of fostering, and the needs of children in the foster care system, is oftentimes misunderstood, which gives space for events like these to bring some understanding. 

“You can see movies and shows and they talk about foster care but there aren’t many opportunities to engage in the foster care community,” Fojtik said, “Fostering is really a life changing experience and it shakes up your world and it is important go through that with an agency that you are connected with.” 

The need for foster parents is crucial, said Silver.  

According to the press release by Kaleidoscope with data from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, as of April 30 of this year, there were 20,448 children ages zero to 21 years old in the Illinois’ child welfare system. 

“There is a huge need for additional loving people to open their homes to kids in need,” Silver said. “You can talk to any agency in the country and they will tell you the same thing, which is that we need more foster parents. Frankly speaking there aren’t enough homes for the kids who need homes.” 

“There is no right moment, you are never going to feel fully prepared for it,” Fojtik said. “Just taking the chance to learn about it, just coming out and hearing people and their experience is a first step. Even if you’re not ready to be a foster parent, there is a lot to learn.”

The free event will be held on Saturday, May 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with presentations beginning at 11 a.m. at Thatcher Woods Pavilion, 8030 Chicago Avenue, River Forest. Registration is encouraged at Foster Parent Recruitment Picnic