As we enter the month of May, many of us are thinking of dead week, finals or how every warm day is one step closer to summer. While May is about all of those things, it is also the month of awareness for the children a part of America’s Foster Care. With over 500,000 children in and out of the system, the breaking point has been reached. Help is needed and it is easy for us to sit in class, daydreaming on the change we will one day make in the world. Let that change be today, this month. Here are five ways that you can make a difference in a foster child’s life.
1) Become aware of the problem: Something that costs nothing but can make a world of a difference is being educated on the foster system. There are many misconceptions that arise in a society based on foster children. An argument that has become more common is that all children in the system are ready to be adopted. That is untrue, while some children are able to be adopted. Others wait for reunification with their biological parents or finding out where they will find permanency.
2) Give back: There are several non-profit organizations that give back directly to foster children. Another more creative way that can be done individually, as a friend group or organization is to create care packages. Care packages are great ways to bundle a variety of items and encouragement letters to give to foster families and children. Foster families do receive money by the state for the children, but it is not nearly enough. Donating clothes, toys, bags, non-perishable food or school supplies really can make all the difference.
3) Become a CASA: A position solely based on volunteering, but is desperately needed, is a case-appointed special advocate. This person would have to be serious about advocating for foster care because it takes a background check, 30-hour special-training and the ability to stay with a case until it closes (on average 1.5 years). Essentially, it entails working alongside the judge, case worker, foster parents and biological parents. Although, your responsibility is to do what is in the best interest of the child.
4) Mentor a child: Big Brother Big Sister is one of the most common known programs working with foster care. More known in high school than in college, it is still available for college students to participate in. Mentoring a child, being an encourager, tutor and friend is a task that makes a difference in an individual's life.
5) Offer your services: We sit in classes for hours each week learning information, taking exams, conducting research and experiments. We are knowledgeable and talented to the best of our abilities. Offer your services on what you know best to do. Foster agencies make profiles for each kid that is being adopted. Offer your photography, videography and writing skills to help build those kids adoption portfolios. Becoming a teacher does not have to happen when you get your degree, offer free tutoring to foster families that cannot afford a private one. There are a vast amount of teenagers in the system who have dreams and inspirations. Help them take their ACT/SAT or apply to colleges, even BGSU.
It can be easy to get lost in the college experience and forget that there is a whole world outside this campus, waiting for us. Most of us walk around stressed, tired and questioning our entire lives, but there is a community out there that needs our help. And in this moment in our lives, we have been given the ability to make the change. Let Foster Care Awareness month be your reason to give back and become the person who changes the world.