4 Ways to Get Involved during Foster Care Awareness Month
- Amanda Idleman Contributing Writer
- 2022 13 May
May is Foster Care Awareness Month! It’s the best time of year to be intentional about supporting those who are doing the work of supporting vulnerable children in your community. Everyone can do something to make a difference in the world of a child or caretaker. You can pray, mentor, give, foster, adopt, become a kinship placement, make a meal, offer to babysit, provide a note of encouragement, be a safe place for caretakers to vent to, and the list goes on!
Foster care is ground zero. It’s the place where we observe some of the most profound suffering and brokenness in our communities. Jesus' heart breaks for the children and families that find themselves involved with Child Protective Services or the Department of Social Services.
Here are some statistics to give you some perspective on what this crisis looks like in our country:
- 400,000 children are currently in foster care in the US. Countless more are being cared for by kinship placements or are navigating Child Protective Services.
- More than 23,000 children will age out of the US foster care system every year - 20% of the children who turn 18 and age out of foster care will become instantly homeless
- Only 3% of children who have aged out of foster care will earn a college degree at any point
- 7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21
- 25% of children who age out of the foster care system will suffer from the direct effects of PTSD. That's more than double the rate of U.S. veterans.
This is just scratching the surface of what this crisis looks like in our communities. There is no space for believers to continue to remain on the sidelines while this heartbreaking crisis is raging all around us. We can each take a step to love a child, family, caretaker, social worker, and others. Vulnerable families need us to open our eyes and see them. They need us to be the love of Jesus for them through our willingness to expand our vision to include some of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ brokenness that is in our communities. Here are a few ways you can get involved this month and beyond:
1. Inquire about Getting Licensed as a Foster Parent
Our first steps toward becoming foster parents came when we attended an information meeting at our local DSS to hear about what the process to become licensed really looked like. The Holy Spirit spoke to my husband and I’s inquiring hearts in that meeting and we left feeling confident this was the right next step for our family! God guided and helped us find peace as we took each step forward towards opening our home and meeting our soon-to-be son.
Our amazing trainer said some people come to learn more and say this is not for me, some say this is for later in my life, some say I can support them through respite or smaller commitments as a licensed foster parent, and others dive all the way in. Resource parent training helps you
learn more about foster care, how to help those involved in foster care in your community, and what struggles those involved in foster care are navigating.
The training informs you about trauma and how it affects people, giving you skills to better serve children and families in your community. This information makes you a more prepared support system for other foster/adoptive/kinship families that you know. Being certified gives you the freedom to say ‘yes’ if you hear of a need that tugs on your heart. You can’t say yes to helping a child and family in need without first going through the licensing process.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Light Field Studios
2. Reach Out to Your Local CPS/DSS or Groups That Support CPS/DSS to Ask How You Can Help
Not everyone is in a place where they are able to become a foster parent and I don’t think people should jump into this very involved role without feeling called to it and as prepared as they can be for it. Yet, there is SO much you can do to support those involved in this world that does not look like becoming a foster/adoptive/kinship caregiver or parent. The best advice I received when starting to think about what else I could do to support this work beyond fostering was to ask DSS directly what they need help with. I know if you are not a foster parent that may seem a little daunting but I promise they will be overjoyed to hear from you! Google their contact information and send them an email saying I am here! How can I support you and your work?
Another way to accomplish this is to find out if there are churches, nonprofits, or other groups in your area that are already partnering with DSS. Get involved with their work and I promise every need met or kindness shown to a social worker, child in care, foster parent, biological parent, and more will offer them so much encouragement! Simple things like providing gift cards for children and families involved in care to meet unmet needs, creating special gifts or events for social workers and foster parents, providing dinner for a foster family that just received a placement, and so much more can be great places to start when trying to do your part to support those involved in caring for vulnerable children and families. The need is great my friends! Everyone doing their part, no matter how small you feel your part may be, makes a huge difference in your community!
3. Start a Foster/Adoption/Kinship Care Ministry at Your Church
Realizing social justice should begin in our churches. I know many churches can tend to have a more internally focused mission but the Bible calls us out from the pews and into our communities. Matthew 25:36-40 really drives home this point! Jesus asks if when he was hungry did you feed him or naked did you clothe him. The righteous ask, “When did I do these things?” Jesus responds by saying that when they have done these things for the least of these in our communities, we are doing this for him!
When you start learning about the statistics around foster care you start to quickly realize that these children and families are the least of these in our communities. These families are
battling poverty, mental illness, neglect, abuse, health struggles, trauma, addiction, homelessness, crime, generational trauma, grief, loss, hopelessness, incarceration, lack of education, lack of support, racism, prejudices, teen pregnancy, and the list goes on! Targeting foster care is about supporting those in the trenches of some of the most broken situations that exist in our own backyards. This is where the church belongs. If we don’t care who will?
Start a support group for those doing the work in your community, take steps to inform your congregation about this issue, and pray about how you can begin to reach out to support those who are involved in this work. Some great resources can be found at The Forgotten Initiative. Apply to become an advocate and they offer many great resources to help build a ministry out of your church. America’s Kids Belong has organizations in many states that help mobilize churches as well as others in the community around the foster care crisis. Another great organization to help support your church is the Backyard Orphans. They offer support and resources to mobilize your church on this very important issue.
4. Begin to Get Informed about Foster Care
Here is the thing, most people don’t know much about Foster Care. There are so many things going on with kids that live in your community that would truly shock you. For example, this week I was collecting gift cards and more so a teen sleeping in the DSS office building in my city on a couch can get access to food. Prior to asking, I had no clue that teens are regularly unable to be quickly placed in homes in my community and often are forced to live at the DSS building with very uncomfortable social workers watching them around the clock. I also did not know that things like food, money for toiletries, an air mattress for them to sleep on, etc. were not automatically provided for these teens. Now I know.
If we want to live out what it means to be God’s hands and feet for those suffering around us, we cannot give ourselves the easy free pass of I just didn’t know. If we are honest, most of us just aren’t willing to ask the right questions. We are busy and content in our comfortable Christian lives. Opening our homes, checkbooks, schedules, hearts, and more to the brokenness others are battling isn’t even on our radar. God is heartbroken for these situations and he is calling you to do something, no matter how seemingly insignificant to love those involved in foster care.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Yurii Yarema
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.