May is Foster Care Awareness Month: Here is How You Can Help
April 28, 2017
MAY IS FOSTER CARE AWARENESS MONTH
Here is How YOU can help
In 1988 with the help of Senator Strom Thurmond, President Ronald Regan issued the first Presidential proclamation that established May as National Foster Care Month. A yearly proclamation from the President recognizes the work of foster families, social workers, community organizations and others that are improving the lives of young people in foster care across the country and encourages all Americans to participate in efforts to serve these children throughout the year.
You already know that in the United States we have nearly 500,000 children in the foster care system. Nearly 24,000 will age out this year with no continued support. You also know that the long term impacts and outcomes of those from the foster care system are almost unfathomable. But you can help. Below is a list of ways to get involved. . . I am asking all my readers to find one way that they can get involved and take a positive action for you in care in the month of May.
I would also love to hear what you did. What was your experience like? Please share your stories with me on the link at the bottom.
WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
FOSTER or ADOPT - Yes, it's a big time commitment. It is an emotional commitment. It is challenging and can be frustrating. But there are thousands of youth who are looking for caring parents and mentors to help them and have someone believe in them regardless. To learn more about possible opportunities in your area check out: ADOPT US KIDS
SPONSOR - Not ready to make the commitment to foster or adopt a child. How about sponsoring a child and/or a foster family. As with all children, it takes a lot of time and money to provide everything a child needs. Sponsoring a family or a child can help. Contact your local foster or adoption agency for local opportunities.
VOLUNTEER - Whether you have an hour a month, or hours a day, foster children could use your volunteer hours. Whether it is you, or you can put together a group of family and friends. Thousands of organizations need volunteers. Here are a few suggestions, but always check with your local resources for others:
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)
Foster Care to Success-Academic Success Program
Big Brothers Big Sisters
The Purple Project
DONATE - If time is precious for you, and you don't have time in May to volunteer, maybe you would prefer to donate money or items. It is always great when you can donate in your local community. You may want to check out Charity Navigator or choose a specific family or organization who could use your dollars or gifts. If you just want my recommendations here are several organizations to consider:
The Crossnore School
CARE House of Oakland County
Kids in the Spotlight
Foster Care Films
The National Schoolhouse for Theatrical Arts
EDUCATE - Many people do not understand the foster care system. They do not see how the outcomes in foster care are impacting other social issues in our country. Take someone to coffee, dinner or other event with the specific intent of sharing information. You can find lots of statistics and information at: Child Trends, Child Welfare.Gov, Or pick up a book, might I recommend Garbage Bag Suitcase, The Body Keeps the Score, Three Little Words, To the End of June, Childhood Disrupted, or even The Language of Flowers or White Oleander.
ADVOCATE - Once you have some knowledge and information, set out to change some minds and some of the outcomes for kids in care. Write a letter to your representatives, which you can find here. Reach out to those on your local commissions. How much do they know about foster care in your community? What are they doing to help resolve the issues? They need to hear from voters to realize how big this issue is.
Remember, if we do not all come together to solve this problem, we will continue to have millions of children who have never known love, safety or stability!
Shenandoah Chefalo is a former foster youth, and advocate. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute an organization focused on translating evidence based research on trauma into skills that can be used immediately by individuals and organizations. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com