On any given day, there are nearly 443,000 children in foster care throughout the U.S. The need for not only foster parents, but mentors and advocates in the community is at an all-time high. Each of these roles play a vital part in helping children in foster care grow to live fulfilling and happy lives.
“With the help of individuals, couples and families, we can change the trajectory of a child’s life by helping them heal and prepare for the future,” said Shelia Rancatore, associate executive director of Missouri programs at Cornerstones of Care.
In honor of National Foster Care Day, we’ve teamed up with our partner Cornerstones of Care to highlight some ways you can help children and young adults in foster care form connections, build relationships and plan for their future.
Become a Foster Parent
Being a foster parent is one of the most hands on and impactful ways to assist a child in need. Foster parents play a critical role in helping kids and young adults heal, grow and learn while, most importantly, giving them a safe space to live.
There are a variety of steps and eligibility requirements to become a foster parent, which can vary by state. Some requirements include being over 21 years old, passing background clearances and being in good physical health. While the logistical steps to becoming a foster parent are often comprehensive and extensive, including a good amount of paperwork, it’s widely agreed upon that the reward outweighs the lengthy process. Giving a child a safe place to live while being a consistent and trustworthy support system is not only rewarding, but life-changing for both the child and the foster parent.
Being a foster parent is no small challenge, however, the impact these individuals make on the community and the children themselves is immeasurable. If you’re interested in learning about becoming a foster parent, read more here.
Mentor a Child
A lot of times children in foster care grow up without having healthy and steady relationships with adults they trust. Becoming a mentor is a great way to make a meaningful difference in a child or young adult’s life. According to the National Mentoring Partnership, those with mentors are 55% more likely to apply for college and 130% are more likely to hold leadership positions later on in life.
Similar to foster parent eligibility, mentors must be at least 21 years old and pass a background check. However, unlike foster parenting, the process to becoming a mentor can be completed in as quickly as four to six weeks. A mentor typically spends time with the child once a week, depending on the organization.
Mentoring allows for the opportunity to develop a consistent and healthy relationship with a child in need. Whether you share a meal, play a sport, see a movie or simply just talk with your mentee, spending quality time with a child in foster care helps build a foundation they can depend on and look up to. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a mentor, check out the Cornerstones of Care mentoring guide to read more.
Advocate in Your Community
Being the voice for children and families involved in the foster care system is an impactful and actionable way to help those in need. It’s important for advocates to support resources and policies that protect and improve access to healthcare for children, prevent harm of children and prioritize the foster care system. Educate yourself on local and national issues impacting family and children, so you can be the voice to make a change.
In addition to supporting policies that benefit the foster care system, there are additional programs that advocates can be a part of in every community. For example, the Safety Starts Here, a new public awareness campaign is sponsored by Cornerstones of Care. At its core, it is a call to make the community safer for all children – in the classroom, in the home and when they’re alone. This initiative supports physical, social and psychological safety of kids by encouraging community members to protect children in any way they can, which first starts with educating ourselves on the present issues.
Sign up to receive Cornerstones of Care’s monthly advocacy email with one minute, five minute and ten minute actions items to advocate for children and foster care families.
As you can see, there is more than one way to support children in foster care. Becoming a foster parent is a fulfilling and life-changing role that will serve an impact greater than you can imagine. However, becoming a foster parent isn’t feasible for everyone, there are other options available if you’re passionate about making a difference in a child’s life.
We’d also like to acknowledge all of those who are already working tirelessly to ensure a better and brighter future for children and young adults in foster care. Your work is appreciated, and together we can make a real impact on the lives of children who need it most. Visit Cornerstones of Care to read how foster parenting, mentoring, adoption and advocacy have already changed the lives of many in our community.
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