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May is National Foster Parent Appreciation Month

Imagine being a child and being taken from your parents.

Imagine you're taken from them because they abused or neglected you.

Imagine living most of your life with strangers, uncertain if you'll ever see your family again.

Sadly, that's a way of life for some 513,000 children in the United States, 26,961 in New York state. These children live in foster care, most because of parental abuse or neglect. Nearly half are over the age of 10 -- old enough to remember the trauma. In the United States, there are 12 million foster care alumni; 20,000 age out of the system every year, many without the necessary skills and resources they will need to live independently. Research has shown that young people in foster care are far more likely than the general population to experience homelessness, poverty, compromised health, unemployment, incarceration and other adversity after they leave their foster homes.

But that doesn't have to be the case. Fortunately, the number of caring foster homes is growing, allowing America's most needy children to experience love and caring and to go into the world with everything they'll need to succeed.

For that reason, the nation celebrates National Foster Parent Appreciation Month every May. The month honors people who serve as foster parents, relative caregivers, mentors, advocates, social workers and volunteers.

Opening a home

Patty and John Hudgins of Central Square are one such couple. The husband and wife currently have a total of 10 kids -- three biological, three adopted (all of whom started out as fosters) and four fosters. They range in age from 21 down to six months. Their first foster daughter, who has since been adopted, came to them 12 years ago this week.

"We were on active duty in the military in other states and we decided it was something we wanted to do," Patty Hudgins said. "Originally, we brought newborns home from the hospital to give the birth mom some time to think about her decision without sending the baby home with adoptive parents in case it didn't work out."

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