Being part of the foster care system is stressful for both the parents who take in children and the children who are part of the system. While you may not be able to take children into your own home, there are still things that you can do to help foster kids and their parents enjoy a smoother life.
1. Buy and decorate tote bags or backpacks. Many kids in the foster system don’t have their own bags. They may have to leave home abruptly, with what few possessions they’re able to collect thrown in trash bags. Choosing high-quality bags and donating them to the foster care system in your city can help these kids carry their possessions to a new home–not to mention providing a sense of comfort.
2. Provide respite care. Caring for children is tiring whether they are your biological children or foster children. For foster parents, respite care is an incredible gift that allows them to have some downtime, take care of other tasks, or spend time alone together. Providing respite care may only take a few hours of your time, but it can make a big difference for foster parents and the children in their homes.
3. Offer high-quality donations. Around the holidays, many people donate to children in foster care through Angel Tree programs, toy drives, and local churches. Unfortunately, those donations don’t continue throughout the rest of the year–and the stipend received by foster parents may not be enough to cover children’s expenses. Donate high-quality, needed items: shoes, clothes, toys, games, sheets, and school supplies are always in high demand.
4. Provide needed services. What talents do you have that could be beneficial for a foster child or foster family? By providing services at a free or reduced rate for these families, you can offer them substantial benefits. This might include reading to a young child, tutoring or helping an older child with homework, photography, and more. Teens in foster care may have more trouble finding a job or working with a mentor than children who are in better situations, due to the stigma attached–and you might find that the foster child you’ve just hired is your hardest worker. When you can provide services to children and teens in foster care, you make their lives easier–but you also make memories of your own that will last a lifetime.
Helping children in foster care doesn’t have to mean opening your home–though that is a much-needed provision in many children’s lives. With these four strategies, you can help those in the foster care system as they attempt to move on with their lives.