Before you promise to lose weight, save more money, or increase your Duolingo streak, think about a New Year’s Resolution to love more children. Over 400,000 kids are in the U.S. foster care system at any given time—and there are more ways than you might think to bring them hope and love.
Offer Respite Care to Foster Families
Respite care families offer short-term stays for children in foster care. You will have to go through many of the same application process as a foster/resource family, but kids will be with you for a defined period of time—perhaps a single night, maybe a week. Foster families often face restrictions on travelling with children, so an approved place for a kid to stay while the rest of the crew visits grandma in Canada is necessary. Additionally, for a family fostering a child with special needs, you could give up 1 or 2 nights of uninterrupted sleep so those parents can recover and be filled with renewed energy to care for a child they’re committed to.
Volunteer as a CASA
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are volunteers who’ve been trained to help kids find safe permanency. Kids in the system may change caseworkers, lawyers, foster homes, and schools—but a CASA can help provide stable oversight during the many years they are placed away from home. The insight and opinion of CASAs are often highly regarded by judges, who know these advocates have invested in the child’s life.
Become a Mentor
Contact an agency in your area and give your time. Play football, teach dominoes, correct math homework, share your dogwalking park trip, or just read aloud. Your time would be so valuable to kids seeking stability and healthy role models.
Speak the Truth About Foster Care
Misinformation about adoption and foster care abound. The truth is that 23,000 foster kids age out of the system every year, and 1 in 5 of those young people will be homeless afterwards. Adopting children from foster care can be of little or no cost, and the average time a child spends in care before being adopted is 34 months. The average child in foster care is 8 years old.
Fundraise for Foster Organizations
Whether you organize a bake sale, a 5k, an online auction, or an art show, your local foster care agency will appreciate being the beneficiary of your time and your community’s goodwill. Additionally, simply getting their name in front of new people in your church and community as a worthy cause to support can be a huge benefit to a foster care organization.
Offer Your Services to Foster or Adoption Agencies
Are you a photographer? Take free beautiful photos of kids waiting for homes. Are you able to clean or sort mail or run errands? Call a local agency and offer your time. Are you able to drive a car? Offer to help resource parents take children to appointments. Between family visits, medical appointments, and therapy—foster parents do a lot of driving. Your safe shuttling would be a blessing!
Become a Resource Family
I don’t know who I first heard say it, but my favorite answer to, “This isn’t a good time for me to become a foster parent,” is, “Well, this wasn’t a good time for this kid to become a foster child, either.” No one wants to leave home and everything they know, but you could be the person who makes it bearable. 1 in 184 kids in the U.S. are in foster care. You can’t change the world for all those children, but you can change one child’s whole world.Kelley Rose Waller and her husband Matt are foster parents and have two biological sons. She is the Vice President of Masterpiece Marketing in Lancaster, PA. Her second novel, Going Back Cold, was released in 2019. Read more at www.kelleyrosewaller.com.