There’s a saying that it “takes a village” to raise children, and anyone who has had the privilege of raising a child in any capacity knows that is indeed true. Just like we all need our villages and our communities to rally around us, the same is true for families and children in the foster care system.
Maybe you’ve considered fostering, but aren’t sure what steps to take. Did you know there are a plethora of ways to support children in the foster system that go beyond becoming a foster parent?
Guenevere Kalal, licensing and compliance manager for Damar Foster Care and Community Based Service in Indianapolis, provided some tangible tips to help those who might be considering fostering, or are looking for ways to support children and families who are currently in the system.
What are some ways families can help children in foster care and their foster families?
Families and community members can help children and youth in foster care in a variety of ways.
- Volunteer your time, and donate tangible items and money to the local, state and national non-profit organizations and faith-based communities near you.
- Provide opportunities for youth in foster care to have experiences that normalize them. We want to recognize each individual child’s unique feelings and views of their past, current and future life situations. But it is imperative we provide children and youth in foster care with normative social, recreational, educational and developmental experiences.
- Become an approved alternative care provider for children and youth placed in care. An alternative care provider is vetted by the foster family’s licensing agency and approved upon completion of annual background checks and receipt of identification. Alternative care providers are an integral support to foster families by providing several hours of care for children while foster parents take time for themselves. Alternative care providers are not licensed respite providers and are not approved to supervise children and youth overnight. But by being an individual or family who is approved to provide alternative care — a person whom a foster family can contact when they need a short break, to run errands or to drive a child to/from school or an activity — foster parents receive a significant support system.
What is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), and how do you become one?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a volunteer role. A CASA is a trained advocate on behalf of children and youth who have experienced abuse and/or neglect and have involvement with Indiana’s child welfare system. A CASA serves as a member of the Child and Family Team. A CASA serves as an objective party to the child’s case, appointed by the court.
To learn more about the role and requirements of a CASA, visit in.gov/courts/iocs/galcasa/about.
What are some tips for those who are considering fostering?
- Do your research. This includes talking with others you know who are serving as foster parents in your local community.
- Discuss your eagerness to foster with your children. Let your children be a part of the family’s decision.
- Interview several licensing agencies to determine which will best fit and provide the level of support and guidance you are seeking.
- Find a support system as you embark on your fostering journey. Also, seek out foster resources and support in your community. Do an internet search for local foster home licensing agencies and community resources focused on foster care to gain initial guidance and information.
Whether you are interested in fostering, or just have a heart to help, the reality is: These families and children need their villages. And the good news is that there are many ways to get involved with the foster care system and to support the children and families in need. In addition to those things mentioned here, you can also donate or volunteer with organizations who help children in a variety of ways, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, School on Wheels, Foster Care to Success, Foster Care Co-op, Foster Grandparent Program, ProKids and others.