7 Ways To Help Foster Kids
Looking for a way to help kids in foster care but not interested in being a foster parent? Being a foster parent isn’t for everyone. Here are 7 ways you can help kids in foster care.
1. Provide respite. Don’t want to be a full time foster parent? You don’t have to. You can provide respite care to help out. Respite care can be providing a break for foster families or doing emergency care. At my group home we had respite parents come by our home to help throughout the week. They would also stay one night a week during what we called “date night”. This gave our house parents a night off to go spend some time away from the kids and have a break. If you choose to do emergency placement you may have a child or children from 24 hours to 30 days. This is important because your home may be the child’s first experience in foster care. Every foster kid that is old enough remembers their first night after being taken into foster care. You can have a positive impact on kids that really need it, that they will remember for a lifetime.
2. Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). This is a great program if you’re looking to volunteer and really make an impact on a foster child’s life. A CASA is assigned to a case to look out for the best interest of the child. They are not paid and have no ulterior motives for helping which I think is important to the foster kid. As a foster kid I realized that almost everyone that was “working for me” was getting paid to do what they do and it was their job to do it. How can I know that what your telling me to do is in my best interest if your getting paid to tell me it? CASA’s can really impact the lives of foster kids and help them through the foster care system. It’s a piece of mind knowing someone cares and is looking out for you. Find out more about CASA.
3. Be a mentor to a foster kid. As foster kids we’ve seen more than we should have. Sometimes we’ve seen more then most adults. Abuse, neglect, drug use, poverty just to name a few. It’s sometime had to stay on the right path. A foster kid having a mentor can make a huge impact. Maybe even more than foster parents. I really looked up to my mentor. He was great to talk to and would help me with some of life’s decisions or teenage problems. I stayed out of trouble because I didn’t want to disappoint him. One bad decision can lead to horrible consequences. A foster kid that has someone to guide them and look up to is more likely to succeed now which will lead to success later in life.
4. Give a foster kid some work. Just like every other teenager when I hit 16 I wanted to drive. Couple problems though; I didn’t have a car, money or a job. I had to buy a car, license and pay for insurance by myself and in my name. The solution? Get a job. Not that easy. Many people have wrong stereotypes of foster kids. They think of them as juvenile delinquents. They really just need a chance. I applied for my first job at really the only place to work in town, the local cafe. I put in my application and didn’t hear anything back. I checked back and nothing. One morning I went in when the boss was there and asked about my application again. This time the customer at the register was the superintendent of the school and someone I had met through church. He told the owner “You need to hire this boy, he’s a great kid”. Her response, “I was going to have him come in after school today”. She later told me that she didn’t know about foster kids and wouldn’t have hired me without him speaking up. All foster kids need is a chance. How is a foster kid supposed to better themselves and not do bad things for money if they aren’t given a chance to work and get on their feet? If you have some work, reach out and give a foster kid some work.
5. Donate. Don’t have time to volunteer? There is a need for everything in the foster care system. I used to love it when people would drop off donated items such as clothes. Clothing vouchers don’t go a long way so it’s great to get “new” clothes. All out Christmas items out my group home were from donations. Some group homes NEED donations to operate. If you don’t have anything gently used lying around but have a little left over after the paycheck then why not make a small donation every now and then. Think of the kid that’s smiling on the other end because he got shoes to play basketball at school (I was happy I was able to get the team shoes to fit it with the rest of my high school team) or will have presents to open at Christmas. A common thing among foster kids is having to carry their clothes in trash bags from home to home. Visit www.suitcaseforkid.org to find how you can help make a foster child’s next move a little easier.
6. Provide a service. Do you have a service that you could provide free of cost to help out? There are several skills that could be used to help the foster care system. Maybe you can cut or style hair. Everyone needs a hair cut. There is also many African American foster kids that are living with white families that may not know how style their hair. Maybe you could help them out? Are you good with math, science, ect.? Offer to help tutor some foster kids and help them keep up their grades. As a foster kid their was so much going on outside school that made school seem like not a big deal or made things hard to concentrate. It was great having people to push me in school and help me understand things I may have not gotten in class. Are you pretty handy with a hammer? I’m sure that there are many foster parents that would love some help fixing up the house to make it more suitable for the life style of foster care.
7. Be a driver. In my group home there were up to 8 kids at a time. That is 8 kids that were in school and sometimes in sports. Also there can be a good amount of doctor, dentist and therapist visits for 1 child let alone 8. Many agencies could use some help driving foster kids to their appointments or events. You can call your local agencies and group homes to find out if this is a need where you live.