Friday, January 17, 2014

7 Ways to Help Foster Children in Your Area

My husband and I have been foster parents (and adoptive and birth parents) since 2002. This past week we attended training to become teachers of future foster parents. We are so excited to pass on everything we have learned through the years and are looking forward to learning so much more. We all know that it is a Christian duty and privilege to help the neediest among us with our talents and abilities. With this post, I would like to present some ideas for you to consider helping the needy foster children in our communities.

What does a foster family look like?
Just like any other family,
It looks like love!

#1 Become a foster parent!

Of course the very best way you could help foster children would be to become a well trained, compassionate, and enthusiastic foster parent but not everyone has that option. There are numerous reasons why you might not be able to become a foster parent, but there is no reason why everyone in our communities can't help out foster children in some way.

There are other ways to help foster children 
even if you can't be a foster parent:

#2 Become a respite care giver

If your circumstances don't allow you to be a full time foster parent, is it possible that you could become a part-time foster parent? Is your life structured so that you could take in a child for a few days on occasion? There is a tremendous need for qualified people able to care for foster children temporarily while their regular foster families are unable to. They are suddenly faced with an unexpected business trip or a hospital stay, for example. You'd think it'd be easy for any family to find child care in such a situation, via a relative or a family friend, but it really isn't. Due to the licensing and background check requirements for anyone who cares for foster children, many foster families are unable to come up with temporary alternative care. 

That is why there is a pool of qualified, part time people who are pre-certified and willing to step in. They go through all the necessary training and background checks to become a foster parent, and then they simply wait for a phone call from foster families in their area who need them. Contact your local child protection agency and find out more about the requirements needed to become a respite care provider.

#3 Become involved in annual holiday gift drives.

The holidays are especially hard on foster children in care.

Each year, local child protection agencies take down information about their foster children and present it to Toys for Tots or other organizations to ensure that needy children in foster care are provided with necessities and gifts during the Holidays. People just like you get involved by donating money, going shopping, wrapping presents, or delivering them to the agency or child. Call your local department of child welfare and see when these activities begin in your area and what you can do as a volunteer. 

#4 Donate, Donate, Donate

When kids come into care, they often only come with the clothes on their backs (and sometimes not even that). Not only do they need clothing, all the little daily necessities of life need to be provided: toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, underclothes, jackets, shoes, combs and brushes, hair ties and clips, diapers and wipes. Each child protection agency usually has a resource room for social workers to provide a change of clothing for a child newly entering the foster care system, so call your local office about the types of items that are needed and the procedure for making a donation.

Our local agency in Amarillo takes gently used items. Yours may, too. If you don't have a favorite charity that you donate your old children's items to already, seriously consider donating to your local foster care agency.

#5 Scrapbooking!

Making a scrapbook helps foster children maintain continuity.

"Scrapbooking?" Yes, scrapbooking. Children in care need to have connections with their family of origin. They need that tangible reminder of who they are and where they came from. Even if circumstances were bad enough for them to be placed into care, kids love their mommies. They miss their home, their friends, their old class at school. Those of us involved in foster care try to keep up a scrap book with pictures, letters, and reminders of their history. Is scrapbooking your thing? Could you help a child with updating her Lifebook or could you organize a scrapbooking workshop for several children? Some children who come in and out of care need to have their books recreated and others need to get started on one. If you love to scrapbook, we in the foster care world would love to have your help! Call your local agency and offer your talents!

#6 Spread the word!

In our communities, there are people who would make great foster parents but they've never even considered the option. They've never knowingly met a foster child or a foster parent, so it has simply never crossed their mind to get involved. We need your help reaching them! Become a foster advocate. Post information on upcoming trainings on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Post this article! Talk about foster care at your church!

#7 Be a great parent!
Work on your marriage and keep those intergenerational ties strong!

Finally, the best way to help children is to be the best parent you can be to your own children. Be a loving parent and raise up a new generation of loving parents. Help ensure that the circumstances that generate children in need of foster care don't exist in your little corner of the world.

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