New portal goes live for National Foster Care Awareness Month with anonymous counseling to aid teens with unique issues
To kick off National Foster Care Awareness Month next month, KidsPeace today launched a new web portal to provide foster care teens with a dedicated online resource to discuss and cope with issues relevant to their unique experiences. The portal, www.teencentral.net/fostercare, provides information, advice, gaming interaction, peer support and access to counseling services for children ages 11-18 displaced from their familiar environments and social support.
“Foster care children often feel alienated at home and at school, and need a place where people will understand them and their issues,” said Julius Licata, Ph.D., director of TeenCentral.Net. “What makes our new foster care portal so unique is children can share their questions and concerns and they will get an answer in 24 hours from a master’s or doctorate level counselor. There are no other teen sites offering timely responses from professional counselors who also are familiar with the myriad of foster care issues.”
According to Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there are more than 400,000 foster care children in the U.S. Of those, more than 100,000 children wait to be adopted. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute reports nearly 30,000 youth “age out” of foster care without the emotional or financial support to succeed. Of those, nearly 40 percent had been homeless or “couch surfed,” nearly 60 percent of young men were convicted of a crime and only 48 percent were employed.
The portal offers a fun and intuitive environment that looks like that of a typical teen’s room, complete with a virtual computer desk. From here, using colorful and fun buttons, virtual plants, clickable light switches, a computer and bookshelves teens can flip through pages of information, message boards and helpful resources. They can share stories or ask questions, and receive helpful feedback and answers from KidsPeace counselors.
Users log in to the portal and are identified publicly only by fictitious user names. Other features include a game called Robot Reduction, stories from other teens, searchable topics related to foster care teens and tips for creating a “Life Book” about themselves.
A teen herself, Rachel Wyatt, who is also Miss America’s Outstanding Teen for 2013, signed on as a spokesperson for TeenCentral.net after reviewing the new foster care portal. One of the issues Wyatt is championing during her tenure as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen is community involvement.
“For foster teens, I imagine developing a sense of community or place offers unique challenges,” said Wyatt. “Given the many issues most teens face, having a safe place you can identify with and where you can ask questions is important. For foster children displaced from their home and school environments, I think this online community is a wonderful step in the right direction and I’m proud to support the efforts of KidsPeace.”
In 1998, KidsPeace helped pioneer online support services for teens by launching TeenCentral.Net to provide a safe and accessible place for kids. The site is free, anonymous and allows teens to log on, submit their stories and receive professional counseling within 24 hours, along with advice from their peers. The foster care portal is the first of several new channels designed to serve the needs of specific teen groups.
For 130 years, KidsPeace has been building on its expertise to give hope, help and healing to children, families and communities throughout the United States. Through its comprehensive range of residential treatment programs; accredited educational services; unique psychiatric hospital and foster care and community-‐based programs, KidsPeace is dedicated to helping people connect, transform and overcome their challenges to ensure a stable future, transition to adulthood and gain independence. Since its doors opened in 1882, more than 200,000 children have participated in one of the multitude of programs KidsPeace offers. For additional resources or more information on how to get involved, become a foster parent or make a donation, please visit http://www.kidspeace.org. Follow us at http://www.facebook.com/kidspeace.org or on Twitter @KidsPeace.