May is National Foster Care Awareness month in the United States. In the US, there are close to 400,000 children in the system at any given time. Over 100,000 of these children are in need of adoptive families.
While there are thousands of foster families who provide care to children in the system, if you ask any child welfare professional, he or she would tell you that there is always a need for more families and awareness of the issues and needs of children and youth in care.
If you have thought about foster care and foster adoption, but are not yet sure if it is the right time for you or your family, there are still ways that you can help to spread awareness. Here are a few suggestions:
1) Consider posting to Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs, and other social media outlets about the needs of foster children in your community, state, and the nation. Change your profile picture to one that symbolizes foster care. Social media is a wonderful way to reach hundreds of people.
2) Contact your local child welfare agencies and ask how you can help. Often, agencies are looking for community members to get involved with providing for the needs of children in the system. Get plugged in!
3) If you are a member of a church, community group, or organization, consider collecting items for children, youth, and families involved in the child welfare system. Promote this throughout your church or organization.
4) Contact local churches about providing information in their bulletins or announcements regarding foster care and how they can get involved.
5) Business owners can also help to promote foster care awareness by hosting events that raise funds for local agencies that provide for the needs of foster children. Through efforts by local businesses, customers will become aware of foster care, and businesses will have an opportunity to positively impact the community they live in and serve.
6) Get the kids involved! Consider having your children volunteer at charities that provide for the needs of foster children. They can also do things like setting up a lemonade stand that promotes foster care awareness, or collecting toys for kids in the system.
7) If you work in education, dedicate a lesson to learning about foster care, child abuse, neglect, and other issues involved in the child welfare system. Consider having a guest speaker who is child welfare professional or a foster parent. Students can learn a lot from hearing from people involved in the system.
8) If you have the ability, offer space for foster parent support groups and other events that provide connection and training for foster families and child welfare professionals.
9) Contact members of your local media and ask how they can promote foster care awareness.
10) Know your facts. Take time to research the needs of the system, and the numbers of children, youth, and families impacted by it. The more you know, the more you can positively and factually educate others.
Foster care impacts communities. The kids in the system attend local schools and churches. Being a foster parent offers an opportunity for mission-work in your own backyard. Even if you are unable to be a foster parent, there are many ways that you can spread awareness. Although May is officially the dedicated month for promoting Foster Care Awareness, the need is always there. Through your efforts, you can make a difference in the life of a child.