How to Support Foster Families in Your Community
Foster families open their hearts and homes to kids going through a turbulent time in their lives.
“No matter what reason a child is getting removed, it’s a traumatic experience,” said Megan Benton, a licensing supervisor at Wellspring Lutheran Services’ Kentwood location.
Kids are leaving behind all they’ve ever known and the transition to a foster family isn’t always without challenges.
“Sometimes kids can be resistant to bonding with foster parents,” Benton said.
In Michigan, there are about 13,000 children in foster care at any given time. Benton offered these suggestions for ways you can support foster families in your community.
Many kids enter foster care with the clothes on their back or a hastily-packed bag. Foster families need many items to help restore normalcy, such as:
- Sizes for kids of all ages can be a big help for foster parents. Benton said there’s a particular need for pre-teen and teen clothing. While agencies can only accept new items, checking with a local agency about where to donate gently used clothes could also help get items to those in need. Wellspring partners with The Closet of Hope, which is run through Kentwood Community Church in Wyoming.
- Hygiene products such as deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and feminine hygiene items.
- Diapers, formula and other infant care items.
Benton said freezer meals can be extremely helpful to foster parents trying to adjust to a newly arrived foster child. Getting dinner on the table as you’re trying to adjust to a new schedule and potentially addressing the emotional needs of a child or adolescent is one more worry to cross off a never-ending to-do list. Many agencies accept freezer meal donations and even send them along with families after a new placement, although you should check with your local agency about their policy.
Sharing your talents with a foster child through free music or art lessons is a great way to help foster families. Tutoring and mentoring are also ways to give back. Check your local agency’s website to find out if there are any unique needs in your area.
Depending on their age, adding a new child to your family can mean a roster of new appointments to provide transportation to. There could be court appointments, therapy sessions, sports practices or other extracurricular activities to juggle. Offering to handle transportation to and from appointments can dramatically lessen the burden for busy families. “Foster parents are desperately in need of transportation for the kids,” Benton said.
Want to lend support to local foster families? First, reach out directly to families you know who are fostering children and ask them how you can help. If you don’t know anyone personally, check local foster care agencies’ websites to see where you might fit and call to determine the process required for you to volunteer – many agencies require a background check and other security clearance precautions.
If you live in West Michigan and are interested in becoming a foster parent, Wellspring has resources to help by calling 844-467-3356 or visiting weneedfosterparents.com. If you’re located outside of West Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also has many resources on its website or you can contact an agency near you.
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Photo credit: Giles Douglas