The decision to foster is huge. And scary. And often slow. If you’re anything like me, the idea needs time to sink in. You could have knocked me over with a feather the first time my husband brought it up (yep, fostering was his idea!). Once the seed was planted, I needed time to nurture the idea, to feed it with all the information I could gather and to allow a few solid roots to establish. So during those first few weeks, I read numerous articles online about children’s brain development and about kids in foster care. I read testimonials from foster parents, and I scoured the SC DSS website. I didn’t have any friends who fostered (although that quickly changed as I was welcomed with open arms into this incredible world of fostering) so I didn’t know who to ask all the hundreds of questions running through my head.
Did you know that Care2Foster has staff that can connect with you in numerous ways? LiveChat, email, or over the phone. Email Care2Foster@fgi4kids.org to connect today! There is no guilt. No pressure. Ever! Our staff are intentional about answering your questions about foster care, connecting you to the people and resources that will help you to be successful, and helping you build a supportive community.
An important step I took early on was applying as a volunteer at a local group home. That connection immediately offered me real-live people to ask questions; it offered me the opportunity to participate in training sessions. Most importantly, I met kids in foster care. Scary, right?! You bet! But guess what? They are just kids. They are kids looking for connections and stability and safety. They are kids who need a friend, a listening ear, a birthday cake, help with homework, or perhaps just a friendly smile and a tight hug.
I continued volunteering at this small group home while my husband and I were deciding if and when we might begin the licensing process. During this time of research, those fostering roots began to take hold of my heart. I’m a pragmatist, a planner, and I approach anything new with hesitation. I want to get my facts straight so I can make decision based on thorough knowledge and solid information. But fostering is an emotional journey, and the more I learned about the foster care system, the more I understood it is complex and fluid and massive, and each case is unique.
Each of these early steps helped me gain the courage I needed to take that huge leap of faith. It only takes 30 seconds on Google to learn about the desperate need for more foster homes. No amount of fact-finding can prepare you for the emotional journey of fostering. No amount of training can prepare your heart for the precious children who so desperately need a loving home. Through all my searching for information and data, one single fact is all that really mattered: innocent children need loving homes. And nothing else really matters, does it?
Considering foster care? Unsure about how to start? That’s okay! Join our SHAREfostering community on Facebook. Groups currently exist in South Carolina and Colorado. As our work expands, search SHAREfostering on Facebook for groups in your area. You can explore the Care2Foster website for more information, read blog posts from real foster parents, and even live chat with experts. Email Care2Foster@fgi4kids.org and staff will provide you with individualized support, help you to process your decision, and connect you to the best places to start.
Considering fostering but not quite ready to commit? That’s okay too. Give yourself time. There are plenty of other ways you can help children in foster care while your heart and mind continue to nurture the idea of fostering in the future. Here are just a few:
Call a nearby group home to find out what they need from volunteers. You can serve as a tutor (check out Fostering Great Ideas’ Tutor Match program) and help kids with homework, take them out to dinner or a movie, or perhaps deliver a birthday cake to make a child feel remembered on their special day.
Show a child that there is one caring adult who can be a trusted friend and consistent influence even if they continue walking through the revolving doors of foster homes. Show a child that someone cares and believes in them. Show a child that their future can be brighter than their past, and teach them that their past doesn’t have to define who they are. Check out Fostering Great Ideas’ Life Support mentoring program.
Ensuring the child is represented in court, the sole job for these volunteers is to advocate for the child. Call 1.800.277.0113 or email email@example.com to get plugged in.
If you have new or gently used items that may be needed by a foster family, consider donating them to a local foster closet (check with local churches to find a closet in your community). Or contact your community’s Foster Parent Association or group home to find out what items they could use (hint: they could always use a monetary donation).
On the Road Again is a project of the South Carolina Foster Parent Association that provides donated cars to foster care youth ages 18-20, actively employed, pursuing a GED or engaged in a post-high school educational program. With adequate transportation, these young people are able pursue their goals of continuing education and employment, allowing for a more successful transition into adulthood.
Read more about the SC Foster Parent Association Pack a Sack program. Let’s make sure kids who have made it this far, despite circumstances working against them, have the resources they need to stay on the right path and earn a college degree. Check out Fostering Great Ideas’ College Fellows program which acts to encourage more youth to attend college, nurture their common bond, and provide accountability and support throughout their academic experience.
Offer to babysit, mow the lawn, take the kids out for ice cream, or bring the family a meal when you learn they’ve just accepted another placement. I know foster families, particularly single parents, would greatly appreciate the help.
Learn about current legislative efforts that impact our state’s most vulnerable children and adults, and join the fight to ensure these individuals’ voices are heard. Find out which legislators support our state’s child welfare system. Join the Speak Up movement through Fostering Great Ideas. Spread the word about needs within the foster care system. A small donation in support of Care2Foster earns you a fabulously comfortable t-shirt that is a great conversation starter. These are just a few of the ways you can advocate for South Carolina’s children.
I started my journey into fostering by doing lots of reading and research, as well as investing volunteer hours. Three months later, I made my first phone call to DSS to begin the licensing process. And now, less than two years later and having welcomed nine different children into our home, I am so glad my family started on this incredible journey.