An SCL patient recently wrote in her application essay, “It would be nice to have straight teeth and be normal for once.” This child, along with 400,000 others across the country, is currently in foster care. Many applicants for the SCL program have self confidence issues due to years of bullying over their crooked teeth, but foster children face additional hurdles. Traumatic changes in family dynamic and years of abuse and neglect can cause foster children to lack the feeling of “normalcy.” Crooked teeth can become yet another factor separating children in foster care from their peers.
May celebrates the foster parents, community members, volunteers, and child welfare professionals who go above and beyond to ensure foster children are able to overcome these hurdles to achieve a bright future. This includes helping foster kids get the orthodontic care that they need. Smiles Change Lives accepts applications from foster children across the country. Many of these applications are filled out by foster parents who also pay for the child’s $600 dollar financial investment so they can get treatment through our program. According to SCL president Tom Brown, “The foster parents who are willing to go above and beyond by spending time identifying resources for these children are to be admired.”
Foster parents are often very aware of the struggles that their foster children are facing. “Betty sees herself as ugly, unlovable, and worthless,” wrote the guardian of one of our foster child applicants. “She sees the world as an uncaring place full of people who want to hurt her. Unfortunately, her experiences have taught her that when adults ‘help,’ sometimes things get worse.”
By getting necessary orthodontic treatment through SCL, foster children are able to take control of one aspect of their lives that keeps them from feeling normal. Thirty-six percent of children enter foster care with oral health issues. “One of a person’s greatest assets is their smile, but when you feel as though your smile isn’t the best it’s hard to feel confident,” one foster child applicant wrote. “One day I would love to be able to smile widely and flash my teeth without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.” Another child wrote, “I really hope I can get braces because I would feel a lot better about myself.”
SCL providers across the country have been making a difference in foster children’s lives. The foster parent of a child treated at Dr. Oltjen’s in Olathe, KS told us that she could see her child’s transformation with braces. “Her teeth are now straight! She was previously self-conscious about her smile and it affected her self-esteem. Her smile is now beautiful, and it’s all thanks to Dr. Oltjen and Smiles Change Lives. We can’t thank you enough for what you do in this program!”
As this month wraps up, celebrate the community efforts that go into taking care of foster children. Happy National Foster Care Month!