The month of May is National Foster Care Month. In the state of Michigan, at any given time, there are 13,000 children recognized to be experiencing foster care; at any given time, there are around 250 children that do not have an identified family and are waiting to be matched with a forever family.
There are so many ways that you can support the foster care system outside of being a foster parent. This is a guideline of some things you can do to help a child out of the foster care system.
You Can Adopt
The first thing I want to start this off with is to bust the myth that it costs thousands of dollars to adopt a child. Adoption through foster care is FREE. Right now, in Michigan, there are approximately 250 children that do not have an identified family.
You can visit the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange website, and you can read in-depth profiles of each of the children that are currently eligible to be adopted in the state of Michigan. If you want information on children beyond Michigan, the AdoptUSKids website photo lists the children across the county that are searching for their forever families.
To take the first step to becoming an adoptive parent, you can reach out to an Adoption Navigator that will walk you through a step-by-step process to get matched with an agency and go to an orientation to get more information.
You Can Foster
If adoption is not the route for you, you can look into becoming a licensed foster parent. Also, FREE! There are approximately 13,000 children currently in the foster care system that are looking for individuals that will temporarily take placement while the children’s parents are working to be reunified. The number one goal is to reunify children with their families.
Being a foster parent means that you have the heart to love someone else’s children for a shorter period of time while knowing that this child’s primary goal is to be reunited with their family. You’ll be supporting that goal and creating space to be a mentor for that parent.
The process to become licensed takes about six to eight months, and to get started you can reach out to the Foster Care Navigator program and get information from a navigator who will walk you through the entire process from beginning to end. There are some licensing rules that one will have to follow while being a licensed foster home. The rules are put in place to ensure the safety of the child.
You Can Sponsor
It is understandable that not everyone is in a position to foster or adopt a child. There are other ways that you can be involved in supporting the children experiencing foster care. You can also sponsor a child. This is where we can think outside of the box to support foster children.
You can sponsor an event, such as a golf outing, toy drive, or clothing drive. For the holidays, you can sponsor a child. You can sponsor a child for a college scholarship, or a school field trip. The children would even love it if you could sponsor a birthday party. There are children that I have worked with in the past who have NEVER had a birthday party. How amazing would it be to help a child to have a birthday party?
There is a link to the agencies statewide that you can reach out to, to see how to get in contact with a worker about sponsoring a child today.
You Can Volunteer
It may not be feasible for you to sponsor a child. Another option to support children with foster care experience would be to volunteer. There are so many volunteer opportunities that you could partake in. A lot of the volunteer opportunities working directly with children require a background check for the safety of the children. A way to volunteer can be to volunteer hours at your local Michigan Foster Closet.
The Michigan Foster Closet is a group of local closets spread around Michigan that provide things such as clothing, shoes, toys, baby items, school supplies, etc. to the local families and children experiencing the foster care system FREE of charge! This is a tremendous asset and so important to the community. You can volunteer your time to organize and support the closet in your area.
You Can Donate
Not only can you volunteer your time at the Michigan Foster Closet, but you can donate items to the Michigan Foster Closet to support foster children. The foster closet is ALWAYS looking for donations of the things mentioned above for the children in the community.
You may utilize the list of agencies to reach out to ones near you. See if they are looking for specific donations. Some are looking for gas cards for parents. This helps them get to their parenting times to have continuous visits with their children. Some would benefit from grocery gift cards to have the transition of reunification be successful. The children who are transitioning home will be able to go home to a fridge full of food. This will also take some of the stress off of the parents.
You Can Educate
Last but not least, you can support children experiencing the foster care system by educating! Educate your family and friends about the data of the children waiting to be reunified with their families, or waiting to be matched with their forever families. Explain to them where to donate or volunteer. Educate yourself about the process and what it would take to become a licensed foster home or an adoptive parent. Educate yourself on the impact you can make on a child’s life just by doing ONE of the things mentioned above.
There are so many myths out there like that the process takes too long, or that the cost to adopt is too much. I assure you that the state of Michigan is intentional about the work that they do, and the analysis of families that are studied. I have worked in this sector for many, many years. It is my passion to educate individuals interested in the process, and to educate new workers.
Just doing one of the things mentioned above will make a ripple effect on the lives of these children. You may go to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website to start to research more information about the foster care system in Michigan.