Foster Care Awareness Month Part 3: How can I help without fostering?

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This is a continuation of a three-part series answering common questions about foster care. Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

I don’t feel called to be a foster parent, but I want to help. What can I do?

Not everyone can foster, but we can all do something to help children in foster care or prevent them from entering foster care in the first place.

Education and Awareness

Commit to learn more about the issues surrounding foster care and find ways to raise awareness. The Archibald Project, America Kids Belong, and CAFO are a few great places to start. You never know how your voice might help the people in your life to find their calling as foster parents.

A few of my absolute favorite social media accounts to follow when it comes to learning more about foster care and trauma awareness are:

Foster the Family
When We Were at Home
Tori Hope Peterson
Cork Board Online
Trauma Informed Parent
Empowered to Connect

Help Support Foster Families

In Part 1 of this series, I talked a little bit about needing a strong support system before committing to fostering. A simple thing to do is to reach out to local foster families to offer help. Here are a few ideas to support them.

woman bringing a meal

I mentioned in Part 2 that our family is taking a break from fostering, but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to help. I have been involved in starting a non-profit in the area to do just that. Foster the Family DC is a new branch of Foster the Family US that exists to bring practical necessities and comforting support to children in foster care and their families in the DC Metropolitan Area. There are plenty of ways to support this organization from volunteering once a month, to delivering care packages and meals, to donating supplies or organizing a meal drive. So many foster families would appreciate your support (myself included)!

Contact your county’s Family Services Department or a local agency to find out how to become a Respite Family. Respite families provide short-term childcare for foster families. You can give foster families a break for one weekend a month, for emergencies, etc. This can be a huge help to families who are in the trenches.

If you are part of a church, you can offer to start a Family Advocacy Ministry through Project Belong. They provide training and support so that you can help lead your church to meet real needs in your community.

Help Local Organizations

  • Volunteer with or give to Foster the Family DC
  • Volunteer with DC 127
  • Become a CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers who work in the best interests of children who have been victimized by abuse or neglect.
  • Volunteer with or give to Mobile Hope

Help Children in Foster Care and their Families

Contact your county’s Family Services Department or a local agency to find out ways to help. Many will have programs you can help with, like mentoring or tutoring children in foster care. Having a consistent adult often makes all the difference for a child in the system. Some counties even have mentoring programs for the parents.

You can also volunteer to help with various classes, like parenting classes or body safety classes.

Get to know the factors that lead to foster care and stop it before it starts

I have so much to say about this. There are so many factors leading up to a child going into foster care. This means there are countless ways to step in and prevent children from ever needing to be removed from their families in the first place.

Our church is currently helping vulnerable families by providing the support system families need so that the issues leading to foster care never have the chance to begin. We started this ministry through the support of Project Belong, which I cannot recommend enough.

You could volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center. Volunteer or donate to a homeless and domestic violence shelter. Get involved in prison outreach. Find a community center offering job skills training or resume help and volunteer your time.

Mentor middle and high school students! That’s a HUGE one. You might not be able to make a difference for hundreds of people, but you can make a difference for one – and that could potentially save their life. Our church works with the Fairfax County Public School’s Mentorship Program. Most counties have similar programs for students of all ages.

Project Belong has a list of volunteer opportunities that are county-specific.

Pick one thing and get started!

There are many ways we can step up and make a difference in the lives of hurting families and children in our communities. This is just a short list of possibilities, but all it takes is a little bit of intentionality and you will find that even small things can have a big impact. What are some ways you plan to get started?

Resources:
5 Ways to Support Foster Parents
Everyone Can Do Something

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