The month of May is known for many things: the end of the school year, the season of spring and of course, the smell of fresh flowers. But did you know May is also home to National Foster Care Month? National Foster Care Month first began in 1988, when President Reagan issued a proclamation announcing May as the month of recognition. Since then, it has continued to be recognized and celebrated by agencies, families and individuals throughout the country.
According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, National Foster Care Month was created as “...a time to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections.” With more than 440,000 youth in foster care, there are plenty of ways to make a difference during this month. Here are ideas for how to support National Foster Care Month.
Share the news. One easy way to assist with National Foster Care Month is through social media. Share the news by posting updates, information and facts across social networking pages. Many people are uninformed about the foster care system and the youth within it, so this is a great opportunity to educate. Take to your social media pages and see how you can get people involved to make a difference.
Become a mentor. No matter who they are, children simply need one adult in their lives who is a constant, comforting presence—who they know believes in them and will be there for them. You could be that adult for a youth in the foster care system. Check to see what programs are available to mentor a foster youth in your area. Then, get together with a child and play games, teach life skills and show how much you care.
Support during aging out. Depending on the state, children age out of the foster care system between ages 18 and 21. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, only 50% of foster kids who age out of the system will have a form of gainful employment by the age of 24. There is less than a 3% chance for former foster youth to earn a college degree at any point in their life. You can help beat these odds by working with children who age out of the system through local programs that teach college and career counseling, or train on valuable life skills.
Encourage foster parents. Fostering a youth in your home can be incredibly challenging. Not only is it difficult on the child, but it’s also hard on the parents and potentially other children in the house. If you know someone who has opened their home to foster children, be a voice of encouragement and comfort for them. Let them know that they make a difference in these children’s lives. Who knows? You might even consider becoming a foster parent yourself someday.
Donate to an organization. Finally, search for organizations in your community or nationally who support children in foster care. While volunteering always helps, if you have the opportunity, consider donating financially, as well. Your contributions can provide valuable programs for these children that encourage their emotional, mental and physical wellbeing—helping throughout their childhood and enabling them to become healthy adults. Search to see how you can donate to make an impact.
May is National Foster Care Month, which means it’s the perfect time to get involved with foster care youth in your area. Keep these ideas in mind as ways to benefit the children, parents, families and workers within the foster care system, and live a more altruistic lifestyle.