Through the support of loving families, children grow into healthy adults. But each year thousands of children are separated from their families due to conflict, or face abuse by caregivers who were meant to protect them. These situations create upheaval in their lives forcing them to flee from their homes. They embark on dangerous journeys seeking a safe place they can call home.
Here at LIRS, we partner with agencies across the country to provide foster homes, which allow these children to find the safety and support of a loving family. Each refugee or immigrant child has a different story, but the love foster families provide change their lives and the children’s lives forever. During this Foster Care Appreciation Month, we would like to thank our foster families and all those partners who support our foster families every day.
But we know there are many children crossing borders each day in search of love and a life free from violence. We desperately need more foster homes to support these children. If you feel you can open your heart and your home and foster, please visit www.lirs.org/fostercare for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are unable to foster children in your own home, there is still so much you can do to help children fleeing violence and in need of a home. We reached out to an expert in the field to find out how we can best support foster families. Denise Goodman, senior consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, reminds us that everyone can support the recruitment of new foster families. Whether you are a friend of a foster family, an activist, a refugee, a church leader, a politician, or a friend of LIRS, you can help find a home for a refugee child in need. Goodman suggests:
- Know the numbers. It’s critical to know about the children and teens that are in need of foster parents. Their age, gender, ethnicity and special needs are important pieces of information that you can share with friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances.
- Know the process, especially the first steps. While you may not be the one who licenses or certifies foster homes, you may be asked questions about the process. Make yourself a little cheat sheet listing the steps in the process and contact information. Better yet, ask a foster parent recruiter at an LIRS partner for a stack of business cards that you can hand out when questions arise.
- Open doors for a foster parent recruiter! Each of us travels in our own circles, whether it be faith organizations, social groups, recreational activities, or community events. ‘Open doors’ for the recruiter by introducing him or her to your contacts and arranging a speaking event or recruitment activity. If each of us connects a recruiter to just one of our contacts, imagine how many people could hear about foster care.
- Spread the message! A foster parent recruiter needs your feet, hands, and mouths to spread the word about foster care. Simply ask the recruiter for 20 brochures and drop them along your way at places like your hair dresser, doctor’s offices, church, restaurants, and sporting events. Be the “Johnny Appleseed” of recruitment!
- Share your leads. Do you have friends, family, neighbors or acquaintances that have asked you about foster care? Take down their information and email it to a foster parent recruiter. Follow up to make sure a contact has been made.
- Share positive stories. If you come across extraordinary foster parents and youth or stories about them at work, through your community, or through this blog, let a recruiter know about these situations. They can be used as human interest stories in newsletters and newspapers. Perhaps the foster family would be willing to speak to new recruits or the youth would share his story at a recruitment event. Please drop an email or make a call to a recruiter to share the story.
- Support our current foster parents! I call this the “secret weapon” of recruitment. We tend to think of recruitment and support as separate activities. But when we support, respect, and appreciate foster parents, they will be happy! Happy foster parents will brings more foster parents. When we support them, we are actually recruiting new families!
Contact us today to find out how you can support foster families or to find out more information on volunteering your time at www.lirs.org/fostercare.