Each journey in foster care is unique to the individual involved. Yet, the qualities of those involved are the same – determination, selfless love, bravery, and dedication to help others.
As the author of the Faces of Foster Care series, I must be transparent. Interviewing the individuals and writing their stories ripped my heart to the core. Day in and day out individuals are on the front lines of foster care. Children placed in foster care must learn a new normal while everything within them simply desires for love and acceptance. The truth is my words are not enough. I must take action. I encourage you to join me as the series comes to an end and I consider tangible ways to make a difference. The reality is many of us may not be at a place to open our homes as foster parents, but that does not discount us from making a difference in our community.
There still remains a face with a story untold in the Faces of Foster Care. An individual with the power to change the lives of children forever.
The last face is one we know very well. It is the face in the mirror.
The reflection found in the mirror is that of someone who has the potential to change the world. Someone who is one choice from making a life altering difference in foster care. The choice will impact the life of a child who, due to no fault of their own, finds themself in a new home. Perhaps it will change the life of a family who pours their heart into others on a daily basis as a foster home. Ultimately, the decision to become involved may very well change the heart of the face reflected in the mirror in ways unimaginable.
Support Nonprofit Organizations
Perhaps certifying as a foster home is not an option. Many nonprofits provide an opportunity to volunteer in a multitude of ways with foster care as the focus.
Two specific to the Western Kentucky area are The Moses Basket and Bags of Love. These nonprofits present an opportunity for individuals to bless foster families and foster children in a tangible way. If you want to get involved but just aren’t sure how, start with one of these nonprofits. Community involvement is key to their success.
The Moses Basket
The Moses Basket offers foster families clothing and necessities for a placed child of any age, birth to teenage years. They also provide a special basket of age appropriate items for the foster child to help ease the transition of the placement. In just a few short years, the concept of The Moses Basket grew from the hearts of two sisters, Kristen Beck and Lacey Baker, into a one hundred percent volunteer ran nonprofit spanning the Western Kentucky region.
Kristen Beck credits the community for their success, “We would not be where we are today if it were not for the community. They have stepped up when it comes to donations and volunteer hours.”
Common to foster care, an area of specific need for The Moses Basket is items for older children and teenagers. Kristen explains, “We are always in need of older children’s clothing, activities, and toys.”
Bags of Love
Many times children removed from their home can take nothing familiar with them. They leave with the clothes on their back and nothing more. For thirteen years, Bags of Love has partnered to provide children placed in foster homes with a few items to lessen the burden of leaving it all behind. Each handmade cloth bag given to a foster child contains a handmade quilt or blanket, a large stuffed animal, personal care items, and two toys or activities based on age. When funds allow, a Wal-Mart gift card is included for emergency items families may need at the time of placement.
Margret Henley, VUE Magazine’s June 2015 Difference Maker, dedicates herself to the Western Kentucky community and mission of helping those in need. She invites anyone who wants to help, “Volunteers are always welcome.”
Volunteers help pack bags, sort donated items, sew quilts and pillow cases, and much more. For those interested in making a quilt to donate, Margret has fabric available. Items needed at this time are hair brushes, coloring books or crafts, and baby items such as pacifiers, bottles, shampoo, and lotion.
Becoming a Certified Foster Home
Perhaps more questions than answers flood your mind about foster care and opening your home to children in need. Shawn Johnson with DCBS Recruitment and Certification encourages, “Take the first step and go to an informational meeting to hear about the population we serve. We want people to make an informed decision. We never want anyone to go into this lightly because it is a commitment to a child and that is huge.”
Fear of the unknown often keeps people from great things. Before the series, I used the common excuse of becoming too attached to justify not getting involved. However at the end of this journey, I realize the heart of foster care is to provide a new and better start to families and strengthen them in a way to allow them to reunify and thrive. What a beautiful story to be a part of knowing the face in the mirror played a vital role during a critical time in the child’s life.
As a foster parent, part of the process means loving a child selflessly, opening a heart and home to them no matter how long or short, and trusting they will always know they have a piece of your heart no matter where life takes them. The attachment many of us worry about is the very thing children in foster care need and crave. Shawn urges those who fear attachment are perfect for foster care, “I want you to get attached. It means you are invested, involved, and advocating for the children. That speaks volumes about you. Please, if attachment is what you are afraid of, we need you.”
There is a great need for foster homes. More so, there’s a desperate need for African American foster families. The child’s cultural and ethnic background is considered when placed. However, with only a few African American homes in the Western Kentucky region, it proves very difficult to place African American children within African American foster homes.
Another desperate need is homes willing to accept teenagers. Shawn encourages individuals to consider placement for teenagers and to see the value of the age, “There are so many benefits to fostering a teenager. They are more self-sufficient and can have more meaningful conversations.”
Whitney Ladd, who worked as a foster care case worker prior to working alongside Shawn in Recruitment and Certification adds, “Teenagers are able to value a family better.”
A local foster family began their journey accepting younger children, but opened their home to a teenager. The decision changed their life and hers. The teenager they foster speaks of the life she now lives because they took a chance with her despite her age, “Without those few individuals who said they wanted me by choice, I would have never been able to become part of the family who I love the most, depend on, call my parents, and come home to a stable home every day.“
She speaks with wisdom and maturity regarding the reality she lives. A maturity that rises from heartache, but is thriving because the family she now shares life with took a chance on a teenager. She shares, “Vulnerability is the key to fostering. I encourage people in my community to make a difference and stand tall because those little faces will be grown one day running this world and you get to sit and say, ‘I was a piece of that.’”
This teenager, who has yet to tell her story, sums up the Faces of Foster Care series perfectly, “Foster care is full of brokenness that turns to beauty.”
The Faces of Foster Care series featured individuals and various aspects of foster care, but one thing is certain. More faces are needed. There are many opportunities to participate from opening a home as a foster parent to donating to organizations established to help those in foster care. We must look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “How can I reflect the bravery, selfless love, dedication, and determination each of the other faces portrayed?”
May we all choose to turn the brokenness of foster care into the beauty the children deserve.
For more information on foster care, certifying as a foster home, or attending an informational meeting, contact Shawn Johnson at 270-247-2979 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Margret and Bags of Love, visit www.inthevue.com/diff-maker-margaret-henley/ or www.facebook.com/BAGS-OF-LOVE-271627749598/.
For more information on The Moses Basket, visit www.themosesbasket.com.
To read the full Faces of Foster Care series, visit www.inthevue.com/vue/series/the-faces-of-foster-care-series/.
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