There is a misconception that if you can’t become a foster family, you can’t help the crisis. But this is far from the truth. While yes, there is a desperate need for foster families, there is also a desperate need for people to support not only the kiddos whose lives have been uprooted involuntary, but also the families who are taking them in. I’ve compiled a few ways you can play a part even if you’re not in a place to become a certified foster family.
First, you can ALWAYS find a foster family near you to support and encourage. Maybe they live in your neighborhood, or attend your church. I promise you they are out there. Once you find them, it’s honestly the little things that go such a long way. You can buy them a Starbucks gift card to encourage them and bless them in the best way possible – coffee! You can provide meals for them, provide babysitting, and help transport their kiddos that are involved in extra curricular activities. You have to remember that foster families have many more scheduled appointments throughout their weeks. They most likely have parental visits, social worker meetings, extra doctors appointments – all on top of their “traditional” scheduled events like soccer practice and sleepovers. A meal or some babysitting may seem not like a huge help, but it can make or break a foster mama’s week.
Secondly, you can volunteer and spend some of your free time with foster kiddos. There are so many programs all throughout the country that provide opportunities to really impact a child who has been dealt a hard hand at life. Sometimes this is in the form of a mentorhsip, or possibly spending time in a group home. This structure of what your time with them looks like will vary based on their age and the programs you decide to participle in. But regardless, it’s a chance for them to experience a kind and loving interaction to remind them that they are not forgotten and are cherished. A lot of agencies also hold events for foster families and their kids, as well as provide parent trainings where childcare is also provided. Those events all need wonderful volunteers to make them happen. Another way you could volunteer is by monitoring parental visits. Foster parents are almost always required to monitor the visits their kiddos have with their birth parents. But if ten hours a week of visits are court ordered, you can imagine how hard that can get on a foster family, especially those who have additional kids with other obligations. This volunteer opportunity requires extra training and clearance, and looks different per county, but can be a huge way to help.
If working with foster kids is something that is near to your heart, and you want to do something with a little bigger commitment than some volunteer time, you can become a CASA. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. This is someone who becomes a specialized advocate for one specific foster child. A CASA stays with this child regardless of change of homes and social workers (which happens frequently) and meets with them regularly. It’s a constant person for this child to have a relationship with, and then reports directly to the court in the best interest of the child. If this is something that interests you you can find more information here – https://casaforchildren.org
Another way to help end the foster care crisis is to donate financially. There are a lot of people doing wonderful work to help these kiddos, but unfortunately they can’t do this work without financial support. Two organizations I know do amazing work based here in California are Together We Rise and Olive Crest.
Lastly, we can pray. Prayer is powerful. I know it can feel overwhelming praying for the foster care crisis because it’s such a huge issue with so many moving parts. So here are a few specifics you can lift up in prayer;
1. The Kids- Pray for safety and peace amidst so much fear and hardship. Pray someone enters into their lives that show them God’s love, confidence, & a secure future
2. The Social Workers – Social workers have one of the hardest jobs in my opinion. They are overworked, carry so much burden, and truthfully, are underpaid. They so desperately need to be lifted up in prayer for wisdom, strength and an endurance to continue to fight for these kids’ lives.
3. The Birth Parents- Pray for the birth parents who have kids in the system. I can’t even imagine the heartache, shame and frustration birth parents feel as they navigate trying to have their children returned. Birth parents are too often portrayed as the enemy, but we have to remember they almost always were never taught themselves how to be parents. They are usually fighting impossible odds and are doing the best they can. We can pray that they learn how to become the best parents and be in a position to have their kids returned to them.
It takes a village to raise up healthy children, and it also takes a village to help hurting children heal. If you have had it on your heart to be a help in the foster care crisis, I hope some of these ideas help you make the next step.