Dr. John DeGarmo is an international expert in parenting and foster care and is a TEDX TALK presenter. Dr. John is the founder and director of THE FOSTER CARE INSTITUTE. He and his wife have had over 60 children come through their home as foster parents. He is an international consultant to schools, legal firms, and foster care agencies, as well as an empowerment and transformational speaker and trainer for schools, child welfare, businesses, and non profit organizations. He is the author of several foster care books, including KEEPING FOSTER CHILDREN SAFE ONLINE: POSITIVE STRATEGIES TO PREVENT CYBERBULLYING, INAPPROPRIATE CONTACT, AND OTHER DIGITAL DANGERS and writes for several publications. Dr. John has appeared on CNN HLN, Good Morning, America, and NBC, FOX, CBS, and PBS stations across the nation. He and his wife have received many awards, including the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at THE FOSTER CARE INSTITUTE.
The need is a strong one. The need to help children in our nation.
The statistics are grim. 5 Million children experiencing domestic violence in their homes. 300,000 thousand children victims of human trafficking. 450,000 children in foster care today. In addition, foster care is in crisis and there are children who are in need of a helping hand right now.
Yet, not everyone is equipped to be a foster parent. I understand that. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done, while at the same time, the most important and rewarding thing I have done, as well. Even if one cannot be a foster parent, each of us can help those foster parents who care for children in crisis in their home. Let’s examine the 8 things people can do to support foster parents.
When a child is placed into a foster care home, many times late at night, it is common for them to arrive to the home with only the clothes on their backs, and no other belongings. One way you can help a foster parent is by offering to go shopping for the child, purchasing clothing for the child. To be sure, this is not only helpful for the child, but also for the foster parents, as it allows them to focus their time on helping the children during a difficult transition into their home.
2. Welcome Bags
A great way to help is to fill duffel bags for each child that came into foster care in your community with something that might help a child during this time. You can fill these welcome bags not only with clothing, but some had small stuffed animals, footballs or basketballs. Others may have a truck, while some might have dolls. Finally, some other great suggestions include a nightlight, a journal, a children’s Bible and/or age-appropriate reading material, and a hand written note of support.
3. Donate school supplies to local foster care agencies
As we have seen, there are many challenges preventing children in foster care from succeeding in school. One way to reverse this disturbing and harmful trend is to help children in care with school supplies. By donating paper, pencils, pens, notebooks, rulers, calculators, and school bags to foster children, foster parents, your local foster parent associations, or to the area’s child welfare agency, you are not only able to help the child, you also help foster parents, as well. Along with that, you can also help by sponsoring a child in a school sport with helping to pay for entry fees and equipment, sponsor a child who might be on the school’s marching band with fees, uniform, and instrument, or help sponsor a child with other school related clubs and organizations. The more support a child has while in school, the better equipped they are to stay in school, and to succeed.
4. Be a transport/driver to youth who have aged out
It should come as no surprise that most youth in foster care who age out do not have a driver’s license, or have any method of transportation available to them. Without a driver’s license, or without transportation, a teen who has aged out of foster care faces the risk of not being able to succeed, on many levels. Whether it is with getting to a job interview, meeting with a military recruiter, going to the grocery store, meeting with a mentor, getting to work, or visiting a doctor or hospital when sick, transportation helps make all of that happen. Another way you can help foster parents is by can arrange some sort of transpiration for youth in care to those meetings, those appointments, and those errands. Perhaps some sort of modern day faith based uber or taxi system; free of charge, of course.
5. Become a CASA
Every day in this country, 1,900 children become victims of abuse or neglect, and four of them will die. Every day. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is a network of nearly 1,000 community-based programs that recruit, train and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities. Volunteer advocates — empowered directly by the courts — offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care. Volunteers stay with children until they are placed in loving permanent homes. For many abused children, a CASA volunteer is the only constant adult presence in their lives.
6. New Suitcases
For so many children placed in a foster care home, their belongings are quickly gathered in a plastic bag containing the few items in his possession. For older children in care, this black plastic bag can be an embarrassing symbol of all that is wrong in their life. Later, when a child in foster care moves, whether it is to a new foster home, an adoption family, or reunited with his birth family, the gift of a new suitcase can be a sign of pride, respect, and love. You can help foster parents by providing a new suit case for the child placed in their home.
7. Reaching out through Respite Care
Ever consider being a part time foster parent? Respite care offers you that chance. There are those times when foster parents will require a short term break from their foster child. This break may be the result of foster parents traveling on vacation, a temporary move into a new home, or that the birth children in the foster home require some much needed time with their own parents. This break is often known as respite care. Respite care may also be used simply because some foster parents are trying to prevent burn out, and need a break from their foster child. In some parts of the nation, there are those foster care and child welfare agencies that allow others besides foster parents to care for foster children during times of respite.
8. Help for the Foster Parent
A cooked meal; running errands; helping out at Christmas time and birthdays, donating to a foster parent fund; helping to pay for summer camps and field trips for foster children. These are just a few of the many ways that you can help a foster family in your own area as they care for the children in foster care in your home town. Without doubt, they will most likely appreciate and welcome your help and support, as you help to share the challenge of caring for children in need in their homes.