I should start out by saying that the foster care community means somuch to me. In 2020, I am really praying for the ability to become an emergency home for children and then eventually a foster parent. There are a multitude of opportunities in helping this community. For this article, I'm going to give you a run down of how the foster care system works (because there are a lot of misconceptions) and then I'm going to hop in on how to help!
To start, foster care came from the states obligation (both morally and legally) to protect children who are under the age of 18. Each state's foster care system is different and varies on their laws. For example, some states allow freelance agencies or churches to operate homes for foster children while others are incredibly strict that it goes through the government only. This causes much conflict on the care that the children are able to receive (but that's for a later post).
Children who are placed in (what should be) temporary custody have suffered from abuse or the loss of their parents. To fix a common misconception, many states do not provide a sufficient amount of money for the children to be taken care of in anything but bare minimum living standards (food, shelter, K-12 education). For families who choose to foster (especially the ones fostering multiple children or siblings) often face the potential struggle of getting different things for the kids. These can vary like clothing, baby supplies, toys and things to help the child's adjustment.
So let's jump into see the different ways you can help foster children this winter season!
1. Winter Clothing: coats, boots, scarves, hats and gloves.
Similar to the homeless community, I would suggest finding different ways to donate clothing to children! Have old coats from high school or that you don't wear anymore? Donate them to local foster agencies! Do you have siblings or babysit for different families that are looking to donate? Ask them if you can donate to a local foster agency. You can go out and buy kids gloves, hats and scarves they tend to be more cost efficient than adult sizes!
2. School supplies: notebooks, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, etc...
This may sound a bit abnormal because usually we buy supplies in the fall right? But every winter growing up I know that I always had to restock on school supplies during Christmas break. Picking up extra school supplies and donating them to a local foster agency would be a thoughtful way to give back!
3. Suitcase/luggage/duffel bags
This one can be donated all year round but I would say that the winter months are some of the worst months to travel. Each time a child moves if they do not have their own luggage (most cases the answer is no) then they are handed a trash bag to put all their things into. Could you imagine moving and having to put all your stuff in a trash bag, especially in the winter months? A way that we can give back is by donating extra luggage that we have but never use. A great place to also check is your local Goodwill or thrift store!
4. Toys/activities/crafts/teenage stuff
Kids who are constantly moving and can't take everything with are probably losing many things. Or if they didn't get to spend Christmas with their parents or foster family they might not have gotten anything. So anytime I talk about foster children I always suggest donating toys, activities or crafts to a local agency. This Christmas while shopping I saw that Target expanded their $5 or less section. The cute toys they have would make perfect items to drop off at the foster agency. Or another option is going to a local craft store and picking up the crafts for young children.
For teenagers, start looking around your dorm, apartment, house or room! There are plenty of things that we forget we have because we never use them. If we donate them to people who may need it more I'm sure they will get tons of use. Another great way to give back to teenagers (more specifically girls) is if you see a BOGO FREE sale at Ulta or another beauty store pick up some cute teenage girls things.
5. Winter supplies: common household items, blankets, medicine
There are just common household items that we tend to immediately get when it starts to get cold outside. For me, when the temperature drops below 30 degrees I'm the first to get tissues, cold medicine, candles, hand sanitizer, chapstick and lotion. I'm the kind of girl that has to be prepared because when I get sick it happens quick, fast and is awfully dreadful. So making a winter care package with a bunch of different essentials can go far for a family.
Helping your local foster care agency is a simple, fun and friendly way to give back to the community! Remember to donate what you can get rid of, buy what you can and have a joyful time giving back. If you need help finding an agency near you visit your local state website.