Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Freebies for Foster Kids
A few months ago, I was asked to be on a panel and share my experiences as a foster parent at a Faith Coalition meeting. I enjoyed the experience of sharing and listening to the other foster parents share their stories. A question and answer session followed and the discussion soon centered on the financial challenges of foster families. My experience has been with younger children and I have found many resources to help me with clothing and toys. Second hand clothing stores are easy to find for young children. Garage sales are great places to look for cheap toys and strollers. People at my church have been very generous with hand-me-down items or helping me search for a specific need. When an audience member asked a question about obtaining things for a foster child, I quickly answered that help and resources are pretty easy to come by. The rest of the panel disagreed and sent me some downright dirty looks about the issue. For the rest of the meeting, I sat and wondered if I am just an optimistic person wearing rose colored glasses or just naive about finances. Fundraising and volunteering are a part of my job as a social worker and I am pretty comfortable in the role. Since my panel event, I have tried to figure out how I can fill this need for foster parents. My philosophy is that foster families are opening their home and their hearts to a stranger and deserve as much financial and emotional support as we can provide them. Hands Across the Water shares my philosophy. Our office has items just waiting to be used. A crib, infant car seats, and diapers are just a few of the items that are there for the asking. I also often hear about various types of events for foster kids that are free through emails that I receive. I have been surprised by the creativity of people offering programs for our kids. Some of the latest things I have discovered are free sport camps in Washtenaw county and free college tuition (that is a big one!), and various picnics. Christmas time is a huge time for foster children freebies too. Agencies and the Department of Human services want to help foster kids in anyway that they can. So do not be afraid to ask what services are available if you have a foster child in your home. I am a cup half full kind of girl and I am willing to ask for anything for my kids. I offer the same advice to you. If you would like to put your foster child in a recreational activity, inquire about scholarships. If you need clothing, let your pastor or minister know that you have a need. If you are just looking for fun things to do in the summer time, search the Internet and contact the place you want to go. I have found that businesses rarely turn down a child in need. Saying the words "foster child" is a big door opener. Do not worry about rejection. Most places have a policy in place for donating services and will be happy to explain it to you. If you are not comfortable asking (and I a know that many people aren't), ask your agency or social worker to do it for you. We are here to help and we often have connections or relationships with people willing to help out. If I were on that panel today my answer would still be the same. The services and funding are out there for foster kids if we keep our eyes open and spread the word about what we need. Please email me if any of the services I mentioned above are of interest to you. I would be glad to forward the information to you.