Together We Can Make a Difference in the Lives of Those Involved in Foster Care
What comes to mind when you think about “making a difference” in foster care?
Fostering personally? Donating to foster closets and/or at Christmas? Helping recruit foster families? These are all noble pursuits with great purpose; and, if providing for the physical/tangible needs of children in care alone could actually make a difference, that would be a relatively easy objective to meet and goal to accomplish. But if we really want to make a difference in foster care, we need to first look at the real needs that exist within foster care and, to do that, we must go both broader and deeper at the same time.
First, let’s go broader. Foster care involves much more than the children who are in the legal custody of a state’s child welfare agency. Foster care overall also includes the parents, grandparents and other relatives of the children. It includes neighbors, teachers, law enforcement, peers, caseworkers and other DSS staff, foster parents, neighbors of foster families, churches, medical professionals, daycares, group home staff, child placing agencies, local government, family court lawyers and judges, personnel at after school programs such as gymnastics, dance, art and music instructors and other staff…the list is literally endless as it truly encompasses every person within every community that is provided the privilege of knowing another within their respective community involved in foster care.
What does it mean to “be involved in foster care?” It means that you know of, or interact on some level with, a child in foster care, the relatives of the child(ren), the foster family or someone at DSS serving the children and families.
You may be someone who lives in the same neighborhood as a foster family. You may have a child in a class at school with a child in foster care. You may work with a foster parent or perhaps, a mom who is trying to regain custody of her children. You may attend church with a foster family or you may be a teacher with a child in your class who is in care. You may work in a medical office that serves children in care from time to time. You may be a coach with a child in care on your team.
If any of these scenarios are true for you, Congratulations! You are involved in foster care.
In reality, we can all make a difference in the lives of those affected by foster care because in one way or another, we are all involved in foster care.
You may ask, “How? How can I make a difference?” That’s a valid question. You may consider your “involvement” to be minimal and, perhaps, not even by choice. So, how can you impact foster care in a positive way?
The answer is actually quite simple. Whenever you encounter someone affected by foster care – a child, a foster family, a relative, DSS staff – be kind; be considerate; be inclusive. Really. It’s that simple.
You may have noticed we refer to the children as “children in foster care” and not as “foster children.” There is good reason for that…don’t miss this…foster care is a child’s situation; not their identity.
It is vital for all children to feel respected in order to maintain healthy self-esteem. Children in care are in a particularly vulnerable position when it comes to self-esteem, self-worth, and overall self-image. Without exception, a child feels some sense of responsibility when they must be removed from their home/family. They may be too young to realize what is going on at first; but once they are aware, they will assume some level of responsibility for having been removed from their family and placed into care. Combine that with situations in which they are treated differently by peers, teachers, and sometimes, even foster parents. Their self-esteem plummets with each encounter. This doesn’t have to happen.
In the coming weeks we will share ways we can all positively impact foster care on every level. We will hear from individuals who were adopted, some who aged out, and some who would like to have been adopted from foster care as they share their perspective. We will discuss how each of us can work to cultivate Foster Care Friendly Communities within our respective areas of influence, and by doing so, how a child or youth’s experience in foster care can be a positive one in which they thrive and are able to grow into successful and productive members of their own communities.
Thanks for following and sharing this information with everyone you encounter as everyone is involved in foster care on some level. Together, we CAN make a difference in the lives of those affected by foster care as we educate and enlighten those around us about the realities of all aspects of foster care.