Yes, our nation’s foster care system is in a crisis state. So, how do we fix it? What can be done? Those are questions I hear all the time, and you may, as well. To be sure, you probably also hear the same thing that I do from people who say they wish they could help these children, yet don’t know how. Your friends, family, co-workers; those you know who ask you how they can help kids in foster care, and how they can help make the system better.
Of late, I have been giving this considerable thought, and have been in discussion with lawmakers from across the United States on this very issue. If you read my book Faith and Foster Care: How We Impact God’s Kingdom, then you know that I firmly believe that everyone can help a child in foster care in some way. Indeed, not everyone is fit to be a foster parent. Yet, each of us has a talent or strength that we can use to help the children in foster care where we live.
So, the next time someone asks you, “Is there anything I can do to help?” here are some suggestions you can give them.
-Become an Advocate
Perhaps the biggest impact one can make with those children placed in foster care is to become an advocate of change. Do your research, and find out as much about foster care and foster children as you can. Contact lawmakers, politicians, and publicity agents through means of emails, letters, phone calls, and other means of communication, you can then bring attention to the needs of children in foster care.
-Become a CASA
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is a network of community-based programs that recruit, train and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities. Volunteer advocates—empowered directly by the courts—offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care.
-Helping School-Aged Foster Children
Supplies for school can be donated to local foster care agencies who work with children who will soon age out. These supplies can include paper, pencils, pens, calculators, backpacks, and other school needs. For those who are enrolled in college, bookstore gift cards and certificates can also be quite beneficial.
-Helping Those Who Age Out
When a child ages out of the foster care system, he is often alone without any resources or support system. You can help those who age out be being mentors, donating clothes, food, and supplies, providing shelter, driving the youth to job interviews and other appointments, and being a support system.
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-A New Set of Clothes
Far too often, a child is placed into foster care with just the clothes on their back. You can help the child, and the foster parent, by purchasing clothes for the children. For many children in foster care, it may be the first time they have ever received a brand new set of clothing to call their very own.
When a child comes into care, all too often he comes with a black plastic bag containing the few items in his possession, gathered together quickly by social workers and even law enforcement officers, in a hurry to collect both the child and his possessions in a quick manner. The gift of a new suitcase can be sign that he does indeed matter; and that he has value.
There are those times when foster parents will require a short term break from their foster child. This break is often known as respite care. You can be trained to become a respite care provider for the foster families in your area.
-Help for the Foster Parent
A cooked meal; running errands; helping out at Christmas time and birthdays, donating to a foster parent fund; helping to pay for summer camps and field trips for foster children. These are just a few of the many ways that you can help a foster family in your own area as they care for the children in foster care in your home town.
-Faith Based Organizations
Perhaps there is a church or faith based organization in your area that is looking for a way to minister to others. Maybe your own group is seeking ways to reach out to those in need. There are a number of ways that faith based organizations can create outreach ministries for children in foster care in your own area.