The MISSION of the annual Tucson Blue Ribbon Event is to honor children in foster care and the families who love them, and to promote the need for more foster and adoptive homes. The event is always held on the first Saturday in May at Thoroughbred Nissan in Tucson, AZ. The event is sponsored by the Foster and Adoptive Council of Tucson – a collaboration of 14 different agencies in Pima County that provide foster care and adoption services. You can learn more about each of these agencies here.
Each year we release one balloon to represent each foster child in Pima County. In 2009, there were 2,630 children in foster care. In 2010, there were 2,781. In 2011, the number dropped to 2,479, but so did the number of foster homes. In 2013 there were 3329 children in care and only 777 foster homes. You can be a part of making that difference.
It is universally agreed that the best place for a child is at home with their parent(s) who love them and can provide for their physical, educational, and emotional needs. When a child’s biological family fails to meet these needs and/or violates a child’s right to safety, in the form of neglect or physical or sexual abuse, Child Protective Service removes the child. Family reunification or placement with a relative is always the primary goal; however, in the interim, or these aren’t a possibility, an attempt is made to put the child into a licensed foster home. If an appropriate home isn’t found quickly or if there are no open spots, the child may be placed into a short-term shelter or a group home. As the number of children in foster care increases, so does the need for families willing to open their homes and hearts to these children. Would you considered being that person? Maybe you have questions about what it means to be a foster parent. You can attend an orientation to learn more, or you can contact an agencydirectly for more information.
If you’re wondering whether it would be too hard to be a foster parent, remember this – it’s not easy to be a foster child; to be removed from your home and taken from your parent(s), often with the presence of law enforcement, and usually without the opportunity to take many, if any, of your belongings. Pretend for a moment, that you are this child: all of the sudden you have a caseworker (what does that mean, and why do they get to decide what happens to me?), you have a therapist (you mean you want me to talk about what happened, I don’t even want to think about it and you want me to talk about it?), you struggle with a sense of loyalty to your biological family (they are my mom and dad after all…) but at the same time you start to like your foster family (can I love both?). Then there are the questions you are asked at school (and even if I know how to talk about it or what to tell them, they don’t always understand, and sometimes they are just mean). You may suddenly have new ‘brothers and sisters’ (and I not only have to get used to them, but sometimes have to share a room with them.) There is the reality that everyone knows something about the stuff that happened to you (all the private, scary or confusing things that I don’t want to be reminded of). And then, to top it all off, you may be separated from your biological siblings – you may all go to different homes (and even though I get to talk on the phone or see each them now and then, it’s just not the same). A million thoughts run through your mind when you lie in bed at night: What did I do wrong? Was I bad? Is it my fault? Do my parents still love me? Why do I still love the person who did all the bad things to me? Will I ever go home? Do I want to go home? Why do they say mommy can’t take care of me anymore? What is court? I’m afraid of the judge. Cops scare me now. What do I tell people when they ask what happened? Do I have to go to a different school? What does ‘severance’ mean? Do I get to say what Iwant? Will anyone listen to me? I don’t understand why everyone keeps saying I am ‘better off’, I miss my family. What do you mean, adoption?!
These are only a few of the issues and questions that children in foster care struggle with, and they often struggle in silence – not quite knowing how to express what they feel or have the ability to tell you what they are thinking.
Releasing a balloon in their honor is just one thing we, as a community, can do to say: I know you exist, I know this isn’t easy for you, and I am honoring your courage. And to the families who care for these children – thank you for what you do, because what you do matters. It matters to these children, it matters to the community, and we want you to know you are appreciated.
Will you join us in showing these children that we care? Please come celebrate with us on Saturday, May 3th 2014, from 4-7pm, to honor these children with a balloon release into the Tucson sky. It is an experience you won’t soon forget.
* Balloons released at this event are bio-degradable products.