The many roles at the table of foster care

The many roles at the table of foster care

There is a role for everyone in foster care

May is National Foster Care Awareness month and this year we are collecting stories from our Foster Parents and team to share with you over the course of the month. FosterVA, which is led by Extra Special Parents hopes that these stories might inspire you to get involved in your community as a support or even become a foster parent in Virginia yourself! There is a contact link at the bottom of this blog if you’d like to learn more.

Although there is always a need for foster parents who will work with all ages of children, you do not have to be a foster parent to have a seat at the table. Are you looking for ideas on what your role in foster care can be or how to support, or where to start? Here are some ways you can find your seat at the table. 

If you are looking to impact a foster youth directly, you can talk with a local DSS ( LDSS) or Licensed Child Placing Agency (LCPA) in Virginia and learn more about training and expectations. If you are not ready to be a foster parent, you can look into becoming a C.A.S.A, mentoring or volunteering may be a role for you. A court-appointed special advocate (C.A.S.A) is a volunteer who advocates for the foster child's best interests. This person is specially trained; they spend time with the foster youth, getting to know them and their interests, hobbies, and goals. Frequently a CASA is a voice for these children in meetings or situations where the child may not be present.  Mentoring a foster youth or a child about to age out of the system is a great way to play a role in a foster child's life actively. Mentors can help these youth learn independent living skills, gain confidence and social skills that will serve them well in the future. 

In foster care, there is a service called respite that foster families use. Respite is similar to babysitting but is more formal and is often used more regularly. Foster families most often use respite overnight so they can rest, recharge, and reconnect with their core family. This service is something all foster families desperately need and sadly don't often because they don't have anyone who has offered to help, and they do not want to burden anyone else. Respite can be done by anyone the family has built a trusting relationship with and comfortably leave their biological family.  Respite can also be done as a certified foster family to help the foster parents within the agency. Offering to do respite one weekend a month or every other Saturday afternoon and with the same family would make a massive difference in their life. Most often, after a respite weekend or day, foster parents feel they can take on even more than before the respite and can connect with their foster children on a better level. Foster children report that respite is often like a vacation for them and adore those they have spent the time with.

"The most important thing to do is know that anyone can help foster care youth and have a seat at the table to support them and their families."

Often foster parents spend much of their day driving from appointment to appointment or inside the house providing support, love, and guidance. Offer to help with appointments or organize a playdate, allowing the children to play and the parents to talk and relax. If the family has many children, invite one kid over to play and give the parent the option to choose who will go. Even offering to have the biological child come play instead, as oftentimes, a lot of attention is now on the foster child and their needs. Allowing the biological children some special time can make a large impact on the family. Simply say, "I have one extra pass or ticket to (fill in the blank). Which child can I take for the afternoon?"

Most foster families want to feel connected. One of the best ways to support them is a simple text, call,  or email. Just communicate with them, ask how they are doing. Let them know you are thinking of them, praying for them, cheering for them. Talk about their needs and the needs of the foster children with other families in your community, find a way to connect people to each other so that these children and families feel loved and supported. 

Don't worry if you don't know any foster parents in your area personally, and there are ways to support foster care youth through making donations to not for profits with a mission to support foster care.  The most important thing to do is know that anyone can help foster care youth and have a seat at the table to support them and their families.

...Are You Ready To Learn More?

FosterVA is always ready to meet new families interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent.  If this has inspired you to take the next step towards supporting Virginia's foster youth, click the button below and fill out the form on our contact page.

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