May is National Foster Care Month, and visitors to the National Mall Saturday could see a temporary sign display that illuminates the subject matter with numbers.
“7 is average age of children entering foster care,” reads one sign. “423,000 is the number of children in foster care nationally,” reads another. “18 children enter foster care each month in DC,” reads a third.
“The number one and two reasons why children enter care are neglect and abuse, sometimes other reasons. COVID has definitely had an impact on neglected and abused children and we’re seeing more kids enter care,” said Najiba Hlemi, executive director of the D.C.-based non-profit, Foster and Adoptive Parents Advocacy Center.
Hlemi and her supporters erected a pop-up canopy tent on the grounds of the Washington Monument, just across the street from the National Museum of African American History where they displayed pictures of kids in foster care and shared information with people passing by.
The red and blue temporary signs with white lettering were staked into the ground extending a distance out across the monument grounds.
Hlemi said there’s a definite need to educate people about foster care and the children involved.
“They’re lovely and they’re amazing and they’re resilient and they have an incredible amount of grit, and with the right structure and the right family they can excel to do many things,” said Hlemi, a former foster child who grew up in the Virginia foster care system.
Hlemi said people can help.
“They can support, they can become foster parents, they can adopt from the foster care system, they can learn more, they can donate, they can participate in some way,” Hlemi said.