In 1999, I met a young man named James. James was an 18 year old kid who had just finished his stint in foster care. At 18, they handed him a few hundred bucks ($200 if I remember correctly) and the clothing on his back and told him goodbye. Overnight, James had no home, the clothing he was wearing and $200.
James had nowhere to go so he came to our church looking for a place to stay. We helped James, but what James needed most was a job. We searched for a position for him, but at 18 he was unwilling to swallow his pride and take our charity for more than a few days. We got a call only a few days later from a bus stop. James was leaving and before we could get to him (and we tried to get there in time), he was gone.
I can’t help James. I know no more about him than I’ve stated above. He is a ghost, but one that reminds me constantly of the need for a real adjustment phase for foster kids.
Fosters don’t have much opportunity to get a job. They aren’t given a suit, aren’t given any more than a high school education and they have no one to push them to get fabulous grades so that they can get a scholarship. They begin their life knowing that no one really cares about them personally, though many (like me) may have the urge to help them.
What can we do?
1. Support Foster Initiatives
Volunteer to teach foster kids to sew, use a computer or whatever it is that you do. You can also donate.
2. Donate Backpacks
Foster kids get transferred often, and this happens during the oddest hours and under emotionally impactful circumstances. Many times these kids transport the very small amount of treasured belongings they have in a garbage bag. This just isn’t right! Keep your eyes open for flyers that ask for donations or get up off your couch (where I’m sitting right now) and call your local DeFACS office (listed in the white pages under ‘yourstatehere’ Department of Family and Children’s Services) to inquire about offering them bags.
3. Support Back To Work Initiatives
Suits for work for those who cannot afford them.
4. Pay attention
Pew Foster Care – Studies adoption and foster care and makes recommendations. Pay attention to what they say.
5. Donate to CapitalOne‘s college scholarships for Fosters.
6. Hear about life from foster kids
Check out this magazine for foster teens by foster teens.
7. Become a CASA
Court Appointed Special Advocate – I’m going to do this!
Here, Here or Here.
9. Donate for change.
Dave Thomas was a foster kid and his legacy gift was to create an organization that helped fosters.
10. Stop Foster Care
Long range plan that’s worth taking a look at. Jim Casey was the founder of UPS.
11. Help them get a job
Jim Casey’s Foster’s to work initiative
Do you have a heart for foster kids? I’d love to hear how you would impact their lives.