Foster Fridays: 5 Ways You Can Help Kids in Foster Care
We've been getting questions from people moved to help kids in crisis and it blesses our hearts! There is such a need Friends, and we appreciate your interest. We welcome specific questions, (Facebook is the best way message us!) but here are some basic jumping off points.
1) Become a Foster/Respite Parent
There is a huge need. Everywhere. In some states even infants go to group residential because of the lack of homes. In others they're converting wings of jails into residential homes for kids as young as 6. There's a need everywhere. Contact your local Department of Social Services if your heart is tugged in this direction.
Check out our recent blog on Respite to see why being "respite only" is also an incredible way to serve.
2) Support a Foster Parent
When I lived in Jersey and first started getting involved in foster ministry, I assumed the best way to help the kids was to provide items and services to them directly. I've since learned that it's almost, if not as, important to support foster parents. Statistically, 60% of foster parents burn out within a year of their first placement. It's hard. It's lonely. We can't do it alone. If you know a foster family, invest in them. Tell them to pick a day because you’re sending pizza. Or picking up a load of laundry. When they get a placement, tell them you're bringing something and ask what it should be. Text them encouragement. Let them vent. Show an interest. Don't comment on their parenting, especially if you’ve never parented a child with trauma. I could go on, but you get it.
3) Support Case Workers
Another group of people that children in foster care need to succeed. These people work so hard. They have to maneuver a system that is broken and often have to make calls that they’re uncomfortable with. They go into strangers homes. They get yelled at. They see gut-wrenching things. They have to work hard not to take all this home. There's a high burnout/turn-over rate in this vocation. Can you send cards to your local DSS? Are you part of a group that can cater a meal for them sometime? Kids in the system need them as advocates if they’re going to be safe.
If you really want to provide tangibles directly to kids in crisis, one of these 2 might be for you! We've done individual blog posts addressing each of these ways you can help out. Also visit the Journey Bag tab of this site, for more info, including our video!
5) Become Trauma Informed
This is often overlooked, but soooo important. If you can't do anything else at this time to help your local foster care community, PLEASE, educate yourself on trauma. You don't have to read a textbook. There are so many resources. You can go on YouTube and search for videos explaining effects of trauma on the brain. Find a trauma-related training in your area. Follow people who advocate for better trauma resources on social media. I'll link some resources below. This extends beyond helping kids in foster care. One in 4 kids have experienced trauma. Sixty percent of adults have had at least one adverse childhood experience. If you work with humans, your life (and theirs) will benefit from gaining a general understanding of trauma. Recognizing signs in day-to-day life will help you navigate situations and interactions more effectively. In the meantime, you can start by *personal soapbox * not touching kids. Please don't tickle or pinch or hug random kids. One of my friends recently brought up a great point- you don't know what the child has been through and what physical contact can trigger, but additionally, you don't know what the parent has been through. Your intentions have nothing to do with your impact. Becoming trauma-informed will help you better understand the people around you in general.
We greatly appreciate everyone who reaches out asking how they can help. We truly believe that everyone can do something. The foster care crisis is huge. Find a place you can serve, and do so with the confidence that you’re truly making a difference! Trauma-Informed Resources:
Empowered to Connect- https://empoweredtoconnect.org They have an amazing annual conference, but also follow them on social media for helpful insight on trauma. Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development YouTube- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBW9RKLvTR5C46ey7gy3NuA/videos Check out the animated short films for brief but thorough explanations! 15 Minute TED Talk on Trauma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95ovIJ3dsNk&t=20s Books: The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk