In the busyness of summer, it’s easier to turn inward to survive than to think about how to foster love with those around you. Summer tends to be a time where you’re thinking about your vacations and your favorite summer activities. What if we found ways to take an hour or two a week throughout the summer to foster love for our foster and adoptive families?
Any time you’re serving others, it is crucial to find out what they actually need. So many times we decide ways we want to bless someone without considering if it’s really helpful to them. Maybe there is a desperate need for a date night to talk outside the earshot of little ears, but you bring a delicious meal to their home. No doubt they will appreciate it, but ultimately their need still exists.
We hope that you have the kind of relationship with your family where you can ask them their greatest need and they will honestly share their answer with you! Don’t let them get by with, “We’re ok… I don’t think we need anything right now”. Foster and adoptive parents are infamous for pushing through challenges, so they may need some prompting. “If you don’t “need” anything, what’s something that would be really helpful for you?” You could list out a menu of things you could do for them and allow them to pick.
May is National Foster Care Month. Around the country, the faith community is working with child welfare to recruit more foster families and increase funding for services as the number of children entering the system is increasing at an overwhelming rate. Having 5,734 Colorado children in foster care on a given day in 2017 is a problem, especially with only 2,200 licensed foster homes.. To confront this, we welcome friends, families, churches, and support team members to join Project 1.27 as we foster love during the month of May and beyond
You’re close to being certified as a foster parent and ready to get a room ready for the kids who will come into your home. It can feel overwhelming to design a space for a kid you haven’t met yet. Does he like blue? Will she think purple is too much? There are a few basics to prepare ahead, but the rest is optional.
Here’s a short list of where to start when preparing a room for foster care:
A bed should come as no surprise. You will need one bed per child. Twin beds are a safe option as they work for the widest age range. Many agencies and counties will certify you for babies without a crib. So if you don’t have the space for a crib and a bed, you can keep a pack and play on hand in the event a baby is placed in your home.
If you want to invest in a crib, consider one that converts into a toddler bed.
Adopt a middle-schooler. For some, that’s a scary thought. But for empty nesters Mike and Ramona Evans, it’s the reason they just completed Project 1.27’s parent training. Why?
Mike and Ramona put it this way-
We think the middle school years are the most impressionable, challenging years children go through. Their competence, their self-image, especially with girls, is forming. Middle-schoolers are being challenged by social media, by friends, by everyone. We lived it with our own five kids; saw them face challenges we thought they were prepared for and some we didn’t see coming. Middle-schoolers need that extra layer of support, a guide to help them navigate adolescence. They need caring parents in their lives and our prayers to help them get through.
If you’re a parent you know just how hard it is to manage daily schedules, meals and more. Most parents have access to a supportive community of people who are willing and able to take their kids for a night or even the occasional weekend. This support gives parents a break and a chance to reset.
However, there’s a major issue in the world of foster care that’s rarely discussed. Foster parents need respite care. Foster parents deal with all the standard struggles of parents but with the added layer of trauma. Additionally, to provide overnight care, family members and friends who are willing to babysit also need to be background checked and CPR/First-Aid certified. Requirements may vary based on county and agency. So why is this so important?
Here are 3 ways respite care helps foster parents:
Scott, how did you first learn about Project 1.27 and what motivated you to get involved?
In 2015, my good friend and business partner, Leif Houkom, Project 1.27 Board Chair, invited me to lunch with Shelly Radic, the Executive Director. As a father of five, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for children. I recognize my children had the advantage of growing up with two parents in a comfortable environment where they were supported and nurtured. Learning about the number of children who don’t have that environment, and their need for a supportive, loving family really moved me. The other key for me was learning about the societal cost of kids who end up aging out of foster care and how Project 1.27 families are reducing those costs.
Since coming on the Project 1.27 Board, how have you been involved in caring for kids in foster care?
I became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in late 2015 and that opened my eyes to the incredible need of kids in CO foster care. I’m currently a CASA for a 14-year-old boy in Arapahoe County.
What’s surprised you most as you’ve learned more about kids in foster care?
How desperately they need love. How the smallest gestures of love can make such a profound impact on a child’s sense of security. Too many of these kids have no one who truly cares about them. I began serving as a Court Appointed Advocate (CASA) for a teenage boy who is in foster care. A few weeks after we met, I asked him what else I could do to support him. His response, “Could you just call me after school and see how my day went?” Now, we have almost nightly calls. I realize how much these calls mean to him.
You’ve become a voice for kids in foster care by involving family and friends. What are some ways you’ve done that?
I use my voice to educate friends and family about how big the issue is and how incredibly difficult it is for kids in foster care in our country. Most people don’t have any sense of how big the issue is; it’s almost like they put on blinders.
One of the best tools is to invite people to events, like Top Golf and the Fall Comedy Night so they are exposed to Project 1.27 foster and adoptive families and hear their stories. This is really a wonderful way to open their eyes to the needs of foster children and the impact of Project 1.27 and its families.
How does participating in an event like Top Golf make a difference in the life of a kid in foster care?
It raises awareness and inspires others to contribute to the cause. Most people, including myself before joining the Project 1.27 board, think our government has a handle on this issue. They don’t realize how enormous the challenge is. P1.27 is one example of a non-governmental success story that makes an impact. It takes so many resources to make an impact. The more resources, the more impact we can make.
Why do you think it’s important for Christians to find ways to care for kids in foster care?
We’re all put on this earth to accomplish different things, but my perspective is that our Lord expects us to take care of each other. There are few people more vulnerable and needing care than children who don’t have parents or caregivers. I think as Christians, we all have a responsibility to find a way to care for foster children.
What advice would you give to Christians who want to get more involved?
Jump in! There are so many ways to care. Financial support, caregiving as foster and adoptive parents, becoming a CASA or a Mentor. Pray for foster children. Everyone can help.
How can we pray for you?
Pray that Project 1.27 staff and board continue to have an enthusiastic determination to help foster children and the families that serve them.
It seems to be a common rhetoric that foster parents need to wear capes and have hearts made of steel. Many foster parents often have to dig up a response to the comment “I could never do what you do, I would get too attached.” It’s as if others see foster parents as superheroes, but that simply isn’t true. Being a foster parent is amazing, fills a huge need and is not an easy feat, but foster parents wear jeans just like you.
Here is proof that foster parents don’t have to be made of steel:
As winter begins to melt away and spring breaks through, families start organizing summer activities. When creating summer plans, one thing families consider are the unique and beneficial experiences available through youth and family camps. There are many options specifically for children who have been adopted or are in foster care, as well as a wide variety of camps unique to various ethnicities and cultures. Since foster and adoptive parents are often busy and operating a day at a time, as a Support Team Member, your involvement in researching camps and possibly offering financial help could provide the opportunity to attend!
An often little-known fact about the foster care world is that you have the ability to say no to a placement. Many families feel pressure to accept the first call they get, but it’s important to learn as much information as possible about the child and spend a short time in prayer before deciding. Our team of family care managers put together a list of questions for you to ask before you give an answer.
Ask these 10 questions first when you get a call for placement:
If this information isn’t given to you right away start off with a few easy questions. What is his name, age and does he have any siblings. This will make the rest of the conversation more natural. This also gives you a framework for how he will fit into your existing family birth order (if applicable).
Janet Rowland is the Director for Project 1.27 in the Western Slope. She is also currently the Executive Director for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Mesa County. Previously, Janet worked for Mesa County Department of Human Services in the Child Welfare Division.