Foster Children--how You Can Help
For the past 10 years I have worked providing consultation to therapists working with children in foster care--we all volunteer our time to help these vulnerable kids. The therapists see the kids weekly and in exchange, they receive one hour a week of consultation and supervision from me. Let me tell you why you should care about foster kids.
- •Nationwide, there are more than 500,000 kids in foster care who were placed because of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or caretaker inability. California is the state with the most kids in foster care, and that number has tripled in the last 20 years
- •There are many wonderful wonderful people providing foster care to kids, and there are an equal number of people providing foster care simply for the money, and the kids suffer from further neglect and sometimes abuse.
- •Some parents stay in connection with their kids when they are in foster care and the system is very interested in maintaining the relationship or reunifying the kids. Even when the parents were the source of harm.Absolutely no one can replace a parent
- •One of my specialties is working with kids who age out of the system, that is they emancipate--This is where we truly truly abandon our kids. 65% of these kids emancipate without a place to live, and more than half of those remain unemployed. The female kids are very very likely to become pregnant and to receive public assistance￼.
- •40% of people living in homeless shelters are former foster kids. A similar percentage of the nation's prison population are foster kids.
- •There are a number of organizations that allow private citizens to work with foster kids. Big Brothers and Big Sisters is one way. One can be appointed by the court. Court appointed special advocates or CASA volunteers are trained to advocate for abused and neglected kids
- •And of course, one can always make a financial donation. Find out what organizations in your area serve foster kids, and donate generously.
- •Time--many agencies need folks to drive foster kids to various appointments, medical or dental visits or even a visit with the birth family.
- •Provide a job! Lots of kids in foster care have a tremendous amount of difficulty finding work. There is a tremendous amount of stigma around being a child in the system--
- •A room in a home for an emancipated kid! Again these kids can be very flaky, but providing a room to a kid who has aged out of the system is something desperately needed. Organizations that provide housing for kids aging out of foster care are always looking for stable homes
- •Donate stuff to a children's home or foster care agency. School supplies, clothes, toys, shoes, all of these are neededWeirdly enough, old suitcases can really be helpful. One family I evaluated stored the kids stuff in black trash bags. Think about the unconscious meaning this conveys--these kids felt like trash and were treated like trash
- •Working with foster kids, volunteering, can't be idealized or prettied up. It is terribly difficult work and often it seems as if the kids are working against their own best interests.
- •Volunteers get very discouraged at what looks like self sabotage. Often the kids seem to be working against their own best interests. I say this just to convey how difficult the commitment is.
- •And that is my final point, if one works with these kids you have to be the one maintaining the commitment. That is the thing that passes the test. Maintaining the commitment when all forces are working against connection. That is what their parents could never do.