May is National Foster Care Awareness Month so throughout this month here at Create To Donate, I want to do my part to advocate for foster care youth while also engaging my crafty community to create items to donate to people and organizations who strive to improve foster care outcomes.
But first, I am going to share a little story of my own.
When I was in elementary school, I had a babysitter named Ellen who lived just down the block.
As babysitters go, I can’t say there wasn’t anything super special about her methods. She was a nice person who took good care of me and played fun games while my parents were out. As humans go, however, it was a different story, because Ellen was the one who introduced me to the concept of foster care and adoption.
See, Ellen was a diabetic. And while I don’t want to age myself by specifying the exact year, at that time diabetes time was not as controllable as it is today.
People made plans for all of the things that would likely happen to their bodies as a result of diabetes – things like blindness, and possible infertility or high risks associated with a pregnancy.
Even though Ellen was only a teenager, she was adamant about having a family of her own someday. So one day she explained her plan to me: she would foster or adopt a children who needed a home. And then she explained what that would mean to her and to the child.
As you can imagine, I don’t remember her exact words. The sentiments associated with her plan, however, have stayed with me all this time. It was one of my first exposures to someone outside of my family actively talking about the importance of compassion, love, and fostering community.
So when I was thinking about how to promote National Foster Care Awareness Month, of course Ellen came to mind.
5 Key Facts & Statistics About Foster Care In The US
Now, some facts.
While I may have had a general idea of what foster care entails in the United States, I still had a lot to learn so I started doing some research.
I therefore want to share some of what I learned so we all have a clearer picture of how we should work to create the best outcomes for children AND families.
Here are 5 key facts everyone should know about foster care:
- There are over 423,000 children and youth in foster care. Over half have a case plan goal of reunification with their parents or primary caregiver.
- Juvenile and family court systems can influence whether children are reunified with their families or reenter care.
- Meaningful and appropriate involvement of youth in their court hearings and case planning greatly benefits all participants and leads to more favorable outcomes for families.
- Competent legal representation for parents is associated with the achievement of timely reunification.
- A strong support system of professionals and family can help young people address the challenges they face during their transition to adulthood. Virtual engagement tools can be used to establish and maintain that support system by enhancing connectedness for all involved.
(Source: Childwelfare.gov – National Foster Care Month 2021, Outreach Toolkit)
Nonprofits & National Foster Care Awareness Month
The child welfare system is complex web of services that are supposed to address the needs of both the children and their families (both the biological families and the foster parents).
As with all complex systems, however, there are gaps that need to be filled. This is where nonprofits dedicated to improving the foster care system come onto the scene.
So today I want to share three foster care-focused nonprofits I think you should know because of their heartfelt dedication to making a difference.
The mission of National Angels is “to walk alongside children, youth, and families in the foster care community by offering consistent support through intentional giving, relationship building, and mentorship.”
Their Dare to Dream program connects foster youth with community members to provide mentorship and support. while the Love Box program focuses on fostering families.
National Angels is the ‘parent’ organization to the 20+ location-focused chapters around the United States. There are angels in big cities like Chicago, Dallas, and Seattle as well as smaller cities like Bakersfield, CA, and New Braunfels, TX, and Boise, ID.
One of the things I like most about National Angels and all of its chapters is that they are constantly innovating based on relevant data and experience.
America’s Kids Belong
America’s Kids Belong, “tackles out country’s foster care and adoption crisis from the top down and the bottom up.”
Their ultimate goal is to have every American foster child in a loving, safe, and permanent home through unification or adoption. As of 2021, America’s Kids Belong has a presence in California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.
I am a big fan of their signature I Belong Project™ that, “uses high quality videography to give foster children a face and a voice. These videos serve as individual recruitment videos for foster children who are legally-free for adoption and are waiting for their forever family.”
In fact, this may be a perfect fit for someone could volunteer their creative, professional talents to support foster youth. So please consider getting in touch with the organization directly to see if they have a need and use for your talents.
Hope In A Suitcase
When I first featured Hope in a Suitcase it was to bring awareness to their need for toiletry bags for the youth they serve.
Today, that need is still a top priority because when you consider that approximately 35,000 youth are in foster care in Los Angeles County alone, that’s over 10% of the total foster care population making organizations like Hope In A Suitcase essential.
If you’re new to Hope in a Suitcase, the organization serves Los Angeles County and, provides, “children and teens in foster care with a suitcase, along with basic essentials and comfort items, to make their transition into the foster care system and their circumstances just a little bit easier and more dignified.”
Please stop by their website to learn more and help in any way you are able.
Everyone Can Be An Advocate For Foster Youth & Families
Advocating for foster youth and families should obviously be done year round, but sometimes we need a reminder of what there is to do.
So National Foster Care Awareness Month is a simple way to talk about all of the different things you can do to support how to do something right now.
Because small actions can make a big impact, your support can be as simple as sharing this post with someone or a social media about a foster care-focused nonprofit that you support. Or, you can reach out to a foster family you know and ask how you can help – yard work, babysitting, or a grocery run are always welcome!
If you have more time to give right now, consider becoming a mentor or volunteering for an event.
Anything you can do to support foster children and families will make a difference.