Friday, October 12, 2012

{31 Days} How Churches and Community Groups can Support Foster Families

Set aside some storage space and collect donations to open a “foster closet.”  Continuing my story from yesterday with my first set of kids… My friend gave me a car seat which enabled me to go out and do the shopping that I needed. But, I'll tell you, it wasn't really fun. Shopping for clothes should be an enjoyable experience, where you have time for the kids to pick out something that they like, not one of desperation with a barefoot toddler in tow. I vowed to never let such a stressful experience happen to me again. But it's impossible for a foster parent to prepare for every possible child that could come into their home, believe me, I tried and my home quickly became filled with "stuff!"  If it's a baby they'll need a car seat, stroller, crib, diaper bag and all the fillings, as well as age appropriate toys, - if it's a school age child they'll need a back pack, school supplies, school clothes, possibly sports equipment.. etc. How wonderful it would be if a foster parent, upon learning that they were getting a child of a certain age could go to a "Foster Closet" and "shop" for any or all of these things.  See Foster Closet for ideas.

Set up a Prom Dress Event: Prom is an important event in every teenager’s life. But when you consider the dress, shoes, hair, corsage, dinner and cost of tickets, this becomes so expensive that it all too often separates teens in foster care from “everyone else.” Foster families struggle with these extra expenses and teens in group homes will surely not be able to participate in this right of passage with out the assistance of someone. What if volunteers came together to donate their time and hair expertise to pamper these girls and make them feel like princesses? And others collected donations for dresses, shoes and monetary donations to help alleviate the cost of a tux rental, dinner and the prom tickets. Check out these groups that are making it happen in their area.   

Host a Foster Parent’s Night Out
It is crucial for foster parents to be able to have a night to themselves to reconnect and regenerate. To know that their children are having a blast in a safe and structured environment will surely ease their minds and enable them to relax!

Sponsor a Drive:
Backpacks and school supplies go on sale for great prices at the beginning of the school year, a great time for a drive. At this time, you will find many families that would appreciate the help with this financial burden. I’ll tell you though, when I needed these school supplies the most; it was January when I received a girl that had nothing. I found myself searching for a backpack when stores were setting up for summer (oi vey!), and school supplies were limited and (comparatively) astronomically priced. How nice it would have been to have an organization to call that would have a suitable backpack for her!
Picture from article: Artist Collects Paints Suitcases for Foster Children
Suitcases, duffle bags, and backpacks because no kid should have to carry their only belongings in a trash bag. In their frequent moves, foster children sadly end up losing cherished belongings, get their things backed for them and are left to use a trash bag to carry their few belongings to the next stop on their uncertain path. Many groups have stepped up to collect new and gently used suitcases, duffle bags, and backpacks to help with this travesty. You could do your own private drive, here are some suggestions on how Collect Suitcases for Foster Children or join forces and start your own program with an organization like Suitcases4kids.
Diaper Bags filled with some diapers, wipes, receiving blanket, burp cloth, ointment, and maybe a few bottles and a pacifier would be a tremendous blessing for family that receives a baby without much notice! This drive would naturally serve a smaller population than the above listed drives.

Start a Royal Family Kids’ Camp or help one that already exists in your area.  RFKC is the “nation's leading network of camps for abused, neglected and abandoned children,” with a goal of bringing hope and healing to the children one positive memory at a time while providing respite for the foster parents that tirelessly care for them. This camp offers a unique opportunity for 7-11 yr old foster children to receive individual attention through a 2:1 camper to counselor ratio and is fully staffed and funded by local churches. Here is a current list of Royal Family Kids’ Camps as of 2010, see if there is one in your area!

Create a community of support for foster families in accordance with the Help One Child model that I wrote about in yesterday's blog post, as Brian Sussman describes in their video, this model is strongest within a church community. Host a meeting and see who is willing to be a foster family and who is willing to support those families via respite, prayer and encouragement.

Host a Foster Parent Appreciation Dinner: This could be a small BBQ or a big fundraising event, it’s up to you. Imagine an opportunity to show appreciation to foster parents and social workers (both often burn out due to lack of appreciation and support) while raising awareness and funds toward the specific foster care needs in your community.

Host a Family Fun Day: This could be a lot of different things. A BBQ with picnic or carnival games and balloon animals, Renting an afternoon at a pool or gym. Organizing an event at a Water or Amusement Park... Endless possibilities, kids just want to have fun and foster parents just need a chance to meet each other and establish community.

Host a Christmas Party: I didn't think to include this at first because this is usually something that a lot of the agencies already try to do. But really, it is silly of me to assume that all areas have this opportunity for all foster children.  If agencies in your area are already doing this, I'm sure they would love some help in some way or another - just call and ask around. If they aren't, this is such a necessary, fun event that will help to brighten any child's holiday.

Tomorrow: Choosing to Foster

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