May is Foster Care Awareness Month
I’ve been a foster parent for over eight years this time around. We foster teens. There is a desperate need for more homes willing to foster teens. There are many reasons why families are hesitant to take teens, but these children need people willing to take a chance on them. They may have never had anyone take a chance on them before. The teenagers often end up getting placed in group homes. Their desire for a family to love them is just as strong as a younger child — maybe even more because they are so close to aging out of the system. This is foster care.
Teen #74 left today and teen #75 is coming within the hour. If this sounds like a lot to you…well, unfortunately it is not. In our foster parent world, this is nothing; pretty sad, huh? We actually had a little break today between teens. Last week we had #73 and #74 together at the same time. In the past, we’ve averaged four teens at a time and have had as many as six around the holidays so they wouldn’t have to stay in a group home.There still is a chance that we will get another call at any time tonight maybe even at 3:00 in the morning.
This, unfortunately, is foster care and it is especially hardest on teens and sibling groups. May is Foster Care Awareness Month. As a foster parent, I want to mention the many ways that you can help during this never-ending crisis.
- Become a foster parent
- Offer respite or free babysitting so foster parents can have a break to recharge
- Become a Guardian Ad Litem or CASA
- Serve on your local Foster Care Review Board
- Bring a plate of cookies to the case workers at your local DSS office
- Provide a meal for a foster parent
- Offer to pick up some groceries while you’re at the store
- Be a mentor (formal or informal); show youth something you are passionate about whether it be fishing, crafting, boating, horseback riding
- Gift a foster family zoo passes, movie passes, a gift card to get ice cream, blankets, sheets, towels (we go through these like crazy), diapers
- Commit to praying for children and families
Most importantly, it is nice to say, “What can I do to help you?” But it is even nicer to say, “This is what I would like to do to help you” because often we don’t even know ourselves what we need because our lives feel like a tornado at times.
Foster parents cannot do this alone. It is mentally and physically exhausting. There are court dates, therapy, family visits, and the list goes on. We can, however, continue to do this with support from the community. Our love is never ending for these children, but burnout is real!
It also seems fitting to mention that if you see a family struggling in any way, try to help them BEFORE it gets to the point where their children are removed from the home. Let’s reach out to our neighbors and help them instead of having to help a foster parent.
So, for the month of May (and all year hopefully), please take the time to think of ways that you might be able to help. If foster care isn’t your thing…find some other causes that you can help with. Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
No matter what day or month it is, there are children who need foster homes. If you’ve considered becoming licensed for foster care, now might be the time. Build that bigger table. Make the call. Learn more. (And if you live in Richland, SC or Charleston, SC, register for an upcoming virtual event here.) Perhaps you can’t foster right now, but there are plenty of other ways to help your community’s most vulnerable families. These precious children need us.