The need for foster care doesn’t stop during a pandemic. Even during this time of global crisis, there are children facing their own personal crises who need foster homes and support from caring families and individuals. It takes a village to raise a child, and that saying especially rings true right now.
Fostering a child is an important commitment, and it might not be the right choice for every family. We are grateful to the Cincinnati-area families who foster children and welcome them into their homes. But even if you aren’t in a position to foster a child yourself at the moment, there are still many ways to support these children and their foster families.
Children in foster care need the same resources as other children. “We always accept gift cards to restaurants and grocery stores that we use to provide food for families or take kids out to eat,” says Sara Faison, foster care and visitation supervisor at Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. Though the agency doesn’t have the facility to store items, “donations are accepted at Christmas when we are providing gifts to children,” Faison says. “We recommend organizations we work with, such as Give Like a Mother (GiveLikeaMother.com) and Warm Welcomes (WarmWelcomes.org).”
Brian Gregg, assistant director of communications at Hamilton County Job and Family Services, adds, “Our FAMILY Fund accepts financial donations to fund things such as extracurricular activities, adaptive technology, college visits, driver’s education and other needs that foster children might have.” More information about the FAMILY Fund is available at hcjfs.org/initiatives/family-fund.
In addition, Hamilton County Job and Family Services accepts donations of new clothing and personal care items. Contact them directly to find out their donation procedures, as they have probably changed due to the pandemic.
When in doubt, money is always a good thing to donate. “Monetary donations are the best because we can use those to help meet ongoing or special needs as they arise,” says Emily Ballard, marketing and outreach coordinator for Focus on Youth.
Share Your Time
Donations of your time are always in need, and there are many opportunities for those wishing to volunteer. “We love and need volunteers to provide childcare at our monthly foster parent meetings,” Ballard says. “Volunteering at our agency events is also a big help. We use volunteers to help organize our Clothing Closet, assist at our annual training conference and foster family Christmas party, and provide childcare for any of our annual events.”
Simply being willing to work alongside a foster family and assist wherever there is a need can be the best kind of support. That may be helping with yard work, providing a meal here and there, or helping drive kids to various appointments. For more information on volunteering with Focus on Youth, visit the web site at FocusOnYouth.com/get-involved.
Provide Respite Care
“Respite care provides temporary relief for our full-time foster parents who need a few days to themselves, or who may be dealing with a personal emergency of their own,” says Keri Carter-Moore, a team leader of foster parent recruiting at NECCO. “Respite care can be urgent or planned, lasting no longer than 14 days.”
Ballard adds: “Foster parents need breaks. But unlike most parents, they can’t ask just anyone to watch their foster children for a couple of days. So, respite care providers are a huge need. These are families who are willing to take foster children into their home for a few days at a time, giving foster parents that much needed break. It’s a tremendous help and allows you to build supportive relationships with foster children without committing to foster parenting.”
Become an Ambassador
NECCO ambassadors play a crucial role in building families by speaking up on behalf of those they serve, “from organized legislative outreach to collaborating with educators and community leaders, or even sharing our mission with friends and family via social media,” Carter-Moore says.
A CASA, or Court-Appointed Special Advocate, is a volunteer who acts in the best interest of a child. “CASA is a national association that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children in order to provide children with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes,” Carter-Moore says.
Though the training program is a commitment of time, the rewards are great. Ultimately, the greatest joy for a CASA volunteer is to guide a child into a permanent home. “Those interested in volunteering as a CASA worker can, within less than 6 months, advocate for an abused or neglected child, supported by a ProKids Advocacy Team,” Carter-Moore says. Learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer at ProKids.org/volunteer.
These are just some of the ways you can help a child in the foster system and the families who care for them. During this unprecedented time, these children in need can benefit greatly from a little more support and love from everyone.