MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Arbor Circle, a mental health and family development organization, hosted a fall festival for foster care on Saturday afternoon in hopes of getting more families to foster children. 

The event was held at Smith-Ryerson Park and it brought out dozens of community members. The afternoon was funded by a grant from the John and Mary Schumann fund of the Community Foundation for Muskegon and featured music, refreshments, a bounce house and fall activities.

Family development representatives spoke with prospective families, breaking down myths and requirements surrounding what it takes to be a foster parent.

"They’re able to have misdemeanors on their record; that’s a common misconception. They’re allowed to be single, married, straight, gay, any race or religion. Arbor Circle is happy to have anybody and everybody who can provide a safe and stable home," Amy Bailey, child welfare program director with Arbor Circle, said.

Bailey added that the event was mostly focused on finding foster families of color. Arbor Circle's April 2019 study found that 56% of foster children in Muskegon County identified as children of color, while only 7% of foster homes had at least one parent of color.

"For children to have safe and loving adults who look like them is critical for identity formation. It is something that helps them maintain their culture, their heritage and truly just gives the a sense of worth," Bailey said.

For families and individuals who aren't ready to sign up as a foster parent, the fair served as a way to get involved at a different level, connecting community members with activities that help foster children.

"They can become CASAs, they can make meals for foster families when they take a new placement, they can create overnight bags for kids who get removed and have nothing but the clothes on their back," Bailey explained.

For more information on how to get involved or foster children, visit Arbor Circle.

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