10 Ways to Help Children in Foster Care

By Heidi Storey, Resource Family Coordinator

Call me an optimist, but I firmly believe this to be true: people care about youth in foster care and want to help, even if they don’t feel they can welcome a child into their home. While the need for additional resource homes for youth is always acute (there are about 15,000 children in foster care in Pennsylvania at any given time), becoming a foster parent is not for everyone, and that’s okay. If you want to know more about how to get involved in a way that makes sense to you, here are the top ten ways that you can help that may resonate with you:

  1. Become a CASA.
    A CASA is a “Court Appointed Special Advocate.” The child welfare system often sees high turnover of caseworkers, families, and team members for a child. A CASA is a volunteer that stays with a child for the duration of their involvement in foster care. By providing reports to the court and remaining committed to see the case through until permanency is achieved, a CASA is a unique support to a child and their team. To learn more about your county’s CASA program, visit your county’s webpage. There is a high need for this service. In my county, there are about 30 trained CASAs and over 100 children waiting for one.
  2. Connect Us with Your Network.
    Are you a member of a Synagogue? Rotary? Might your employer offer lunch and learns in the office? Do you work in healthcare where staff may need to make referrals for a medical foster home? Our staff is available to speak in person or virtually and share information about how the child welfare system works, the needs of waiting children, and how to get involved.
  3. Donate
    Our resource families, especially those providing care through kinship foster care, need support with transportation, meals, babysitting, and supplies. Helping out with gas, food, and grocery store gift cards is extremely supportive, especially in the chaos of initial placement. Let’s have a conversation about how your resources might be able to support a family’s needs!
  4. Adopt a Child or Family for the Holidays.
    Many youth in care have not had the opportunity to have many of the “firsts” that we ourselves enjoy. One of the youth I worked with had her first-ever birthday party in a foster home at the age of 12! At JFS, we would love to see every child being served by our program have a holiday gift of their choosing. Reach out to us to view our current amazon wish list created by our youth.
  5. Support a Family You Know.
    If you personally know a foster/adoptive family, check in with them and offer your support. As an adoptive parent myself, I can tell you that support from friends and family is one of the most meaningful things you can offer. Think small: offer a meal, prayer, babysitting, attend a court hearing, mow their lawn, or do the dishes. I promise the impact of these small actions will be felt in a huge way.
  6. Provide Respite
    For families parenting children with special needs, getting a break can mean all the difference. While families who want to provide respite for a in care need to go through a home study process, families who believe they can support other existing families in this capacity should reach out to JFS.
  7. Spread the Word
    There are a lot of misconceptions out there about foster care and adoption. Many people don’t know that adoption from the child welfare system is free in Pennsylvania, or that hundreds of children in our own community are waiting for an adoptive family. Visit adoptpakids.org to view waiting children. Share a link to a child whose profile speaks to you on social media and encourage your friends and highlight JFS as a high quality agency who works to certify and support resource families.
  8. Advocate and Educate
    There are many ways in which the current child welfare system does not serve youth and families to the highest extent possible. We need individuals who are willing to learn about the needs of children in care and apply creative solutions to improve these systems. This could look like supporting legislation to increase services to youth in care, making sure your local school district is providing trauma informed care to staff, or joining a citizens review panel. Let me ask you this: what are your personal strengths, and how can you leverage them for one of the most vulnerable populations in our community?
  9. Do a Mitzvah for your Local Children and Youth Agency.
    County Children and Youth employees work extremely hard for families in our community who are in crisis. Reach out and offer to provide breakfast, a catered lunch, or another gesture of appreciation. They don’t hear thank you enough and deserve to know their community is behind them.
  10. Become a Foster or Adoptive Parent.
    If you’ve demonstrated your care for youth in care by reading this far, I must end by asking this question: have you considered becoming a temporary or permanent parent to a child who needs a safe place to land? There is no such thing as too old, too young, too busy, or too inexperienced. If you have the love and commitment to help a child in need, we can work with you to equip your family for the journey ahead.

To continue the conversation about any of these opportunities, reach out to Rachel (rkuhr@jfsofhbg.org), Heidi (hstorey@jfsofhbg.org) or call 717-233-1681.

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