Children enter foster care due to abuse or neglect and just like other children, those who are deaf or hard of hearing may also experience a foster care placement. The number of deaf children in foster care in Washington is not large (approximately 15-20 deaf or hard of hearing children across the state are currently in out-of- home care), but the need for trained caregivers for these children is great. In addition, sometimes children of deaf adults (CODA) enter foster care and request to be placed with a deaf family or a family fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).
Deaf or hard of hearing children and youth need the same things all kids in foster care need; a safe and nurturing foster family (individual or couple) committed to caring for them while their family is in crisis. However, deaf or hard of hearing children need skilled foster families with special abilities in two specific areas:
- Communication skills – understand and are able to communicate through American Sign Language (ASL).
- Advocacy – able to support their access to needed services.
This is the reason Children’s Administration and the Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing are recruiting prospective foster families who are deaf or skilled in ASL. Training and supports are also available to help families connect with the Deaf Community in their area and receive education on child developmental milestones for children with additional challenges. We want to help prospective foster parents of deaf children become knowledgeable of educational, medical, and social services available for children in their care.
Fostering Together is working with Children’s Administration to host an informational event in each region for families interested in providing care for deaf and hard of hearing children. For more information on the next event, please contact your local liaison.
Resources for Caregivers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center (HSDC) is a Western Washington service hub for clients who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have communication disorders. For over 75 years, HSDC has worked to remove obstacles for people with hearing loss, speech challenges, and other communication barriers, empowering them to achieve their full potential. They join direct services with systemic change to create an inclusive and accessible community. Their comprehensive services span the life cycle and include: Early Childhood Learning, Community ASL Classes, Audiology Services, Speech Therapy, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advocacy Services, American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreting, and an Assistive Technology Store.
The Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) is available to serve the needs of deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, speech disabled and hearing people throughout the State of Washington. The Regional Service Centers also provides information and referral to assist you in locating additional services you may need.
Washington School for the Deaf (WSD) is an educational community and statewide resource committed to ensuring all deaf and hard of hearing students in Washington reach their full potential. Through their Outreach program, they offer statewide services to deaf and hard of hearing students, teachers of the deaf, educators serving the deaf, educational interpreters and families of deaf infants, toddlers and students.
Washington Relay is a free service provided by the Washington State Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) ensuring equal communication access to the telephone service for people who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing and speech disabled. This service allows hearing callers to communicate with text-telephone (TTY) users and vice versa through specially trained relay operators.