With more children in foster care now than in years past, the foster care system in the United States is in need of attention, and in some ways, in need of change. While not everyone can be a foster parent, everyone can help a child in foster care in some way, and in some fashion. Here are 11 ways, or 11 New Year Resolutions, for the foster care system for this New Year.
1. Awareness and Advocacy
There are a great many misconceptions and false beliefs about the foster care system. There are also not enough advocates for children in foster care. Perhaps the biggest impact one can make with those children placed in foster care is to become an advocate of change. Do your research, and find out as much about foster care and foster children as you can. Contact lawmakers, politicians, through means of emails, letters, phone calls, and other means of communication, and bring attention to the needs of children in care.
2. Become a Foster Parent
With roughly half a million children in the foster care system in the United States alone, the need is strong for good foster homes and foster parents. By becoming a foster family, you can provide stability, safety, and hope for a child in foster care. You can give love to a child who may never have been given it before. Not only will you change the life of a child, your life will change, as well.
Far too many social workers and foster parents spend a great deal of time on paperwork. It often interrupts services many walks of life for the children in foster care, as well. There needs to be less paperwork, less “red tape” and more action on behalf of the child.
4. Bringing Resources to School-Aged Foster Children
Children in foster care face a great many challenges in the school system. Most are far being in reading and math skills. Teachers and school administrators are not fully equipped to meet the needs of these children. Disturbingly, 55% of children in foster care will drop out of school each year. More reform needs to be placed upon children in foster care while in school.
5. Helping Those Who Age Out
Each year, around 20,000 foster children age out of the system and attempt to begin life on their own. Of the 450,000 children in care in the United States each year, this is a large number and disturbing percentage. For many foster children, foster care is a temporary service before returning home to a parent, moving in with a biological family member, or even beginning a new life in an adopted home. Yet, for thousands who do not find reunification with family in their lives, leaving the foster care system when they age out can be not on a time of anxiety, but a time of tragedy.
6) Helping Birth Parents and Biological Family Members
The cycle of abuse and neglect is often a generational one. For many children in foster care, they come from a long cycle of family members placed in foster care before them. By showing compassion, by reaching out, and by helping birth parents of children in foster care, we not only help them we also help their children, as well.
7) Child sex trafficking
Commercial acts of sex being forced upon children as young as 10 years of age. Child sex trafficking is not only all around us, it is a business that is growing substantially, mainly due to the world of online technology. 300,000 children in the United States, alone, are victims of child sex trafficking. What society does not recognize, though, is that many of these children come from the foster care world. More advocates are needed to bring an end to form of modern day slavery for children.
8. Help for the Foster Parent
Foster parents often do not have all the resources or time they need to best help the children they are caring for from foster care. Whether it is by providing a cooked meal, helping out at Christmas time and birthdays, donating to a foster parent fund, raising money for summer camps and field trips for foster children, there are a number of ways people can help children in foster care where they live. As noted earlier, everyone can help a child in foster care in some way.
9. Faith Based Help
Today’s faith based organizations have an opportunity to truly impact the foster care system in a positive way. Hosting a local foster parent association and support group is one such way a faith based organization can serve foster parents. Another way is serving as a location for family visitations. Faith based groups can provide a safe, consistent, warm, and inviting atmosphere for children and birth family members to meet during visitation sessions. Not only will children in foster care benefit, but foster parents and birth parents of the children will also benefit.
10. CASA Program
CASAs, or Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers who work with children in foster care as they advocate for their best interests in courtrooms and communities. These volunteer advocates offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care. Along with this, these volunteers often interact with children until they are placed in loving permanent homes. By becoming a CASA, one can directly help a child in foster care.
11. Join Foster10K
Quite simply, there are not enough foster parents, not enough foster homes, and not enough people who will help a child in need. It’s time we change that. It’s time we work together to bring hope, to bring healing, and to bring love to children in need. Consider joining Foster10K, a mission to recruit 10,000 new foster parents by the year 2020. Sign the pledge that you will care for children in need. It will be the greatest gift you can give a child, and the greatest gift you can give yourself. Find out more about Foster10K and sign the pledge to help HERE.
With the New Year upon us, we have the opportunity to bring change the foster care system. We have the opportunity to bring healing to children who have very little. We have the opportunity to help children in need. Let us all make that a top resolution this year.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for over a decade, and he and his wife have had over 50 children come through their home. He is a consultant to legal firms and foster care agencies, as well as a international transformative speaker and trainer. He is the author of several foster care books, including The Foster Parenting Manual, and writes for several publications. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.