HOW YOU CAN HELP FOSTER CARE CHILDREN TODAY
As a foster dad there is one comment I hear over and over again. To be honest, the comment is frustrating and at times out-right angers me. I cringe when I hear people say “I don’t know how you do it. I could never be a foster parent. I would get too attached.”
It’s almost as if they assume my wife and I don’t become attached to the beautiful children who God has placed in our lives or that we have some sort of super power where we can just detach from our heart and emotions. The truth is, we aren’t some sort of super heroes. We don’t have some special ability to flip our emotions off like a light switch. We love and we attach just like any other normal human being.
The difference is that we have decided that the potential for us attaching to a sweet and innocent child and losing them far outweighs the potential for a hurting child never knowing that there are people out in the world that loves them and would do anything in their power to protect them and supply them with a loving, stable, and safe home for them to grow and thrive in.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I believe everyone is called to be a foster parent and should alter their lives to take in one or more of the 480,000 children in foster care on any given day in the United States, although I think a whole lot more families could and should foster. But there are a ton of things that YOU can do to help with the foster care epidemic today!
“THERE ARE 480,000 CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE ON ANY GIVEN DAY IN THE UNITED STATES”
1) Become a licensed foster parent.
Now I know what you are thinking… Didn’t you just say you don’t have to become a foster parent? Yes, I did. But that doesn’t take away from the desperate need that is going on in your state. Depending on who you talk to, some experts estimate that Arizona alone has 21,000, yes TWENTY-ONE THOUSAND, kids in the state’s custody. Many of these children are without homes. Group homes are overcrowded, children are sleeping in DPS offices, and siblings are separated from each other.
2) Become a Respite Provider
Many times, foster parents need a break or have something come up where they have to be gone for a short time (such as a funeral in another state, a vacation out of the country, etc.). Foster Parents are not allowed to leave their children for more than 24 hours continuously and that can create a challenge at times. As a Respite Provider, with your foster license, you can take these children for very brief periods and return the children to the regular foster parents when they are back. In most scenarios, you even get paid to be a respite provider.
“AS A RESPITE PROVIDER, YOU CAN TAKE THESE CHILDREN FOR VERY BRIEF PERIODS AND RETURN THE CHILDREN TO THE REGULAR FOSTER PARENTS”
3) Volunteer at a group home.
Every state has them. They are VERY easy to find. A simple “Youth group home” Google search will pull up dozens in your area in a matter of seconds. These group homes often run at or over capacity and resources are thin. Many of these homes are designed for certain age groups but with systems being overcrowded and underfunded these homes have children well out of the age range intended.
You don’t even have to give your money if resources are tight. Volunteer your time! Go sign up to lead an art class. Play soccer with the kids. Clean a toilet if that is what they need. Just get involved! These kids need to know that there are people out there that love them and don’t just want to sweep them under a rug.
“GROUP HOMES OFTEN RUN AT OR OVER CAPACITY AND RESOURCES ARE THIN.”
4) Donate to organizations that provide special gifts or opportunities to children in foster care.
There are multiple different organizations you can find by simply searching for foster care support organizations inside of search engines like google.
For example, in Arizona there is an incredible organization called Arizona Friends of Foster Care. This organization helps pay for foster children to go to Disneyland, get tutors, participate in martial arts and sports, go to camp, get a bicycle, etc. It’s an amazing resource for foster parents.
There is also an organization called AZ Helping Hands who help foster parents by giving them everything they need to pass a home inspection free of charge, give school-aged foster children a backpack stuffed with all the school supplies they will need, give free cribs to foster families taking a new infant placement, clothing and toys to foster families, give personalized birthday gift bags that include toys, books, and sometimes even a bicycle for foster children on their birthdays, give toiletry bags to foster families including shampoo, soap, body wash, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and more. Everything they give is free of charge to the foster children and foster families but they run on the support of donors.
You can also donate directly to licensing agencies. The agencies are the first line of support for foster parents. They answer questions, provide resources, and are there to help in any way they can. Often times these licensing agencies and licensing workers get calls in the middle of the night because a foster family needs immediate support. Your donations go a long way in helping these agencies provide the best service possible to foster families.
“EVERYTHING THEY GIVE IS FREE OF CHARGE TO THE FOSTER CHILDREN AND FOSTER FAMILIES WITH MANY OF THESE ORGANIZATIONS BUT THEY RUN ON THE SUPPORT OF DONORS
5) Get in touch with a foster family and ask them how you can help.
Fostering is a long journey and often times goes unthanked. Most foster parents knew that before going into it. That’s not why they do it. Many are even too proud to ask for help. That shouldn’t stop you from asking anyways.
To make matters worse, they also have more strict guidelines than most when it comes to how they are allowed to raise their foster children. They can only do so much when it comes to discipline. They have to keep up with mandatory training and complete a certain amount of new training hours every year. There are even strict guidelines on who they are allowed to babysit their foster children.
For foster parents, going on a date night with your spouse isn’t is as simple as calling up a kid in your youth group to babysit for a couple of hours. By law, all foster children babysitters have to be at least 18 years old. Do you know how hard it is to find an adult who doesn’t have plans on the weekends? Let alone finding one that actually loves and has the patients for children with high level of needs.
Personally, I feel incredibly guilty asking for a babysitter so I can take my wife out to dinner once a month. Yes, I even feel guilty asking my own family. I know my girls and they have to be on a strict schedule or the world seems like it is coming to an end. I know I am not the only one out there that feels this way too.
Ask if you can babysit for a couple of hours so the foster parents can go on a date or even simply take a nap on a Saturday afternoon (and ask regularly so we know it’s not just a courtesy ask and you really mean it). Donate clothes, toys, or books to a family with a placement. Make the family a dinner. There are thousands of ways you can personally help someone who is in the ministry of foster care. Believe me, foster families are struggling. Even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside looking in. They are begging for help but often times are too afraid to actually verbalize it.
“MANY FOSTER PARENTS ARE TOO PROUD TO ASK FOR HELP. THAT SHOULDN’T STOP YOU FROM ASKING ANYWAYS.”
In short, don’t simply brush off James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction”. Truly reflect and help the orphans regularly. You will find it not only blesses the orphans, but the people helping take care of them, and the organizations striving to give them a chance!