May Is National Foster Care Month. This month is designed to highlight to the community that we each play a part in effecting the lives of children & teens in foster care. If we, as a community don’t…who will? What are YOU doing to support or lift these vulnerable youth up? As many know, our office provides mental health support to foster families, foster children and biological families. We want these children to know that they are important, they are valued, they are loved.
Realistically, many families in our community are unable to foster…but that shouldn’t prevent them from getting involved. These youth are in tough places. These kids only know what they have been exposed to, lets expose them to something bigger and better. What can YOUR family do?
Here’s how you can support foster families and foster youth:
- Do homework with or tutor a foster child/teen – Did you know that many children who come into care are significantly behind their peers academically? Every hour you spend with a foster child will make an impact. This doesn’t have to be through an “official” program. You don’t need to be an educator, just someone who can spend time quizzing spelling or site words, helping with math problems, reading books or assisting with projects.
- Donate outgrown or new clothes to foster families – Did you know many foster children come into care with only the clothes on their backs, sometimes even that is taken away? Any clothes you donate will be used and appreciated by the foster youth and foster families. You can donate to local foster organizations, directly to childrens division or put in facebook marketplace groups free to local foster families.
- Become a CASA – Did you know that in court there are a lot of politics? There are alot of children who are caught in the middle. CASAs are neutral, and become a vital part in updating judges on how the children are and what’s in their best interest. CASA volunteers are always needed! Here’s where to find more information about CASAs in our area! Click here!
- Be a mentor or a special adult to a foster youth – Research says that children need someone who can be unconditional, many foster children do not have that. This can be picking up the youth and hanging out for the day. This can be teaching the youth a new hobby or going to their sporting events/extra curricular activities to cheer them on. Being present in a child’s life is a powerful tool to showing the child that they matter, that they are important.
- Be a mentor to the biological family – Our foster youth’s families need mentors too! Many biological families are *stuck* …they feel like they are alone. Consider taking the opportunity to assist them in their recovery and healing process by driving them to parenting classes, or drug screens. Maybe sitting with them at court or in meetings that can be scary for them. Cheer with them as they stay clean for 1 month or celebrate with them when they get their first over night visit with their kiddos. Maybe take them out for lunch so they can see YOU parent YOUR kids, as an example of what it should look like. By supporting the childrens’ biological family this allows them to build the skills and confidence to be a better parent to their children.
- Assist with extra curricular activity – Some foster families struggle with connecting foster youth to extra curricular activities because of the cost. Other foster families struggle with not having enough time to devote to bringing their foster youth to practices/games/tournaments. Individuals or families in the community can donate old sports equipment, pay for sports fees, or even offer to drive them to practices or games. Every little bit helps connect these kids to opportunities.
- Make a meal Did you know that most foster families have 2-4 weekly appointments per child in their home on top of other age appropriate extra curricular activities? Sometimes a meal is a powerful way to show that you support them and the work they are doing. This small gesture is always appreciated by foster families.
- Volunteer at FAST, Butterfly Haven or Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition…or really any foster & adoptive non-profit that connects foster families with resources – Did you know how awesome our community is here in Saint Louis? Here in our metro we have many wonderful organizations dedicated to supporting foster children and their foster families. These organizations are so important in supporting the families to take care of these vulnerable children. Here are some links to these organizations: Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition; Foster and Adoptive Support Team; Butterfly Haven
- Become a babysitter or respite for a foster family – Did you know that one of the biggest needs of foster families is to have a break or to have extra support in parenting? Sometimes it helps to have someone watch a kiddo while you go to court or maybe take a weekend off. If you know a foster family who has medically fragile, behavioral or special needs children, having additional support in the community is beneficial for self care.
- Work with your city, county, state and federal representatives to change laws and statutes to benefit children & foster families. – Did you know that some laws are outdated? When you see people running for positions, be asking – “What are you doing to support our most vulnerable populations?” When you have an opportunity to talk to local leaders ask, “What are you doing for the foster children in your jurisdictions?”
- Listen, be unconditional, avoid judgement – Did you know many foster families are approached in public about the way they parent or by their childrens’ behavior. Educate yourself on trauma, and be present with the foster family. It helps to have someone in their corner who can listen to their struggles and not judge them for something they do not have control over.
- Run Errands – We all know how busy raising children can be. Now add in court, caseworkers, various therapy appointments, parent child visits times 2 or 3 or 6. Sometimes it can be helpful to have someone offer to pick up a box of diapers or take one youth to buy a new pair of shoes. These little deeds can make a huge impact.
- Simply ask. – Ask the foster family or foster youth what they need or what you can do. Maybe they need help putting together a new bike they bought for a youth. Maybe they need someone to drive their middle school kiddo to a friend’s house. Maybe they need someone to play with the new baby while they take a shower. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
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