As a whole, we in the adoption community are helpers and leaders. We are proactive: we take charge in order to find our families, wherever they may come from, and we take charge to make sure those families thrive and succeed, no matter the odds. So when I read statistics like “For the first time in a decade, there was a notable increase last year in the number of U.S. children in foster care,” and it sinks in that there are currently more than 415,000 kids living in foster care (see the new federal figures) , I want to help. And I’m sure you do, too.
Part of the mission statement from the Children’s Bureau (a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services) hit me right in my militant little heart: The CB is dedicated to “ensuring that every child and youth has a permanent family or family connection.” YES. Helpers unite! Here are some ways to work towards this goal:
1. Consider being a foster parent. First step: Stop watching Lifetime Movies and watch Removed. (HAVE TISSUES READY.)
Maybe there is a kid for whom you can provide permanency? Check your state foster agency to find out specific requirements. You may be surprised to find out how easily it fits your family.
2. Support programs in your community that encourage family reunification. While my mother heart wants to take every little chick under my wing, it is best for most of these babies to have their biological parents become happy, healthy, and altogether taking care of business. Consider donating food, services, money, or clothing to shelters or other organizations that help strengthen families. Ask at your local library if there is a program to help teach job skills, literacy, or family welfare—and see if you can fill a need. Depending on your area, there may be opportunities to volunteer as a supervised-visit facilitator, or even as a screener in family agencies.
3. Call your local leaders and ask them to introduce and support bills that increase family services. Take a look at California’s AB 717, currently being introduced to make infant and toddler diapers tax-exempt items. Write letters, emails, make phone calls, and sign petitions: Little things can make a huge difference, especially to the most vulnerable families in our society.
4. Teach your kids to be sensitive to their classmates. 415,000 children in the system: chances are good there are some at your local school, maybe in your child’s homeroom or kinder class. Teach kindness and love at home, and on the playground. Helpers can exist in even the smallest and youngest bodies.
5. Volunteer in your community. We can’t rescue every single child ourselves, but we can make a connection with one or two. Sign up to read stories at your local elementary school, volunteer to tutor, consider being a Big Brother or Sister. Volunteermatch.org has many opportunities, maybe you can find one that fits your family.