Sadly, when it comes to the foster care system, many Americans have very little understanding of what it is and the needs around it. The reasons are myriad and make sense. Many of us live hectic lives at warp speed, and slowing down and learning about big social issues feels almost impossible. Some of us shy away from wanting to know about hard realities because the bliss of ignorance is a nice safety buffer to our involvement. There are messaging myths perpetuated around foster care that misinform us and leave us feeling like there’s nothing we can do anyway.
Foster care also has complexity and just the intimidation of that alone can make it feel too big and maybe too scary to press in. Author Cris Beam, says as much in her landmark book, To The End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care. She describes foster care as “the fascinating, if sad, culmination of three separate lines of social policy–toward poverty, racial difference, and child abuse–finally braiding together in the middle and end of the twentieth century.” Complex? Yes. Overwhelming? Yes, it can feel that way.. But . . .What if?
What if we press in closer to look into the window of foster care? What if we pause to learn more and listen? What if we step outside our comfort zones and turn our heads to the often-invisible plight of so many kids in foster care in our own backyards? What if we consider what it would look like to help an area foster family? What if we start living out the words of the great writer Simon Weil when she said, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
What if turning our attention toward foster care could help change the life of a kid in foster care or a foster family longing for nothing more than that very thing (our attention)? To be more known, loved, and supported.
Julia Cook and Stephanie Weeks are two frontline heroes in child welfare who are seasoned tour guides into the journey of foster care. They’ve given decades of service and sacrifice in the Tennessee Dept. Of Children’s Services recruiting and supporting foster and kinship families.
Hear them share from the heart in this short video below
According to Stephanie here are some simple ways to support foster families:
Offer tutoring services
Start a meal train for families becoming certified to foster
Help foster families find professionals like counselors and doctors
Identify whatever gives you stress as a parent and look to offer ways to help foster families alleviate stress in those similar situations.
For those considering becoming a foster family, Julia and Stephanie have two compelling and encouraging messages:
“I think there’s a myth that you need to be a perfect family in order to become a foster parent. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a perfect family. Families with flaws, families that are somewhat chaotic, they seem to do best. . .We’re not looking for perfect families.” –Julia
“If you ever thought about fostering, the need is now. Start having those uncomfortable conversations that there are children in foster care that need your help. It’s not the story that’s behind them. The bottom line is they are children and they need you now.” -Stephanie
The call to action starts with calling your local child welfare agency to find out how to get involved with supporting local foster families. Another great step is researching local church ministries or area non-profits already engaged with supporting foster families and contacting them for ways you can become involved. Here are some great resources from America’s Kids Belong to help you get started with supporting area foster families.