The month of May is dedicated to raising awareness of the amount of children in foster care, and recruiting more dedicated and loving foster homes to care for those children. With over 400,000 children in foster care, the need for quality, caring foster homes continues to grow.
Many people I talk to say that they admire what foster parents do, but they cannot commit to becoming a foster parent, at least not right now. While foster youth do need stable homes, there are ways to get involved even if you can’t open your home up to the children, or if you want to get a closer look at foster care before becoming a licensed foster home.
1) Volunteer Through Local Agencies
During May, and throughout the year, local agencies hold events that raise funds to support foster children and families. Find local agencies in your area and see how you can volunteer and get involved in a variety of ways.
One photographer volunteered her talents at a local agency in a unique way to help foster kids waiting for adoptive families. After reviewing the waiting child list of children in foster care in her area, photographer Jennifer Loomis felt compelled to help in her own way, reports CNN’s Kelly Wallace. Loomis volunteered her time to offer a photoshoot for the waiting foster children to help the kids shine in their adoption profiles. As a result, 16-year-old Deon found his forever family because his new photo displayed his sparkling personality and captivated his now-adoptive parents.
Unfortunately, most foster children don’t have many pictures at all, let alone professional-quality photos to add to their adoption profiles. It’s amazing to think that something as simple as a skillfully-shot photo could make the difference between growing up in the system or finding a forever family.
2) Support Foster Care Advocacy Groups
Aside from volunteering your time at local foster care agencies, there are many way to get involved through foster care advocacy groups, which serve to support kids in foster care and give them a voice. Two of my favorite advocacy organizations are Children’s Rights and Together We Rise.
Children’s Rights is an advocacy group, which seeks to reform child welfare systems. The organization takes legal action to improve child welfare systems, as well as giving foster youth a voice by sharing the personal stories of individuals who grew up in foster care. Check out their website to read the stories and find out how you can help.
Together We Rise was started by a college kid who, feeling unable to help, watched a family member enter the foster care system. The organization empowers young people to reach out and support foster youth by getting involved in several of TWR’s unique projects, which include providing duffle bags filled with necessities and comfort items to foster kids, giving foster youth a bicycle, or providing resources for kids aging out of the system. Visit TWR’s website to find out how you can support their efforts and assist in the movement of youth helping foster youth.
3) Become a CASA Volunteer
A CASA volunteer is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, assigned to a foster child or sibling group in foster care. This person gets to know the child and advocates on their behalf. He or she sees the child regularly throughout the course of a month and gathers information and submits reports to the court on the well-being and progress of the child. A CASA volunteer is assigned to one case and it is the goal that the same person stays with the child until permanency is achieved for the child. CASA volunteers are important, as they provide a third-party view of the situation each foster child is in and how they are doing. Our CASA volunteer is wonderful and cares very deeply for our children. They love her very much and are always excited to see her. Many times, a CASA volunteer is one of the only familiar and stable individuals in the life of a foster child as they navigate through placements. Visit the CASA website to learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer!
There are many ways to get involved in foster care and to help the kids who desperately need love and support, even if you can’t open your home to them right now. These are also great ways to familiarize yourself with foster care before becoming a foster parent. Foster Care Awareness Month is the perfect time to take the first step and get involved in what your community is already doing for foster kids!