No Excuses: Creative Ways Young People Can Help Kids In Foster Care
I turned 21 last month, and, as soon as the celebratory mimosas ran dry, restlessness set in. I compiled a mental list of my new legal abilities—drink, gamble, foster—and that last word stuck with me. “What’s my excuse?” I thought. I’m old enough to be a foster parent, but not doing much at all to support youth in foster care. Granted, I share a one bedroom apartment with a (wonderfully spunky) roommate, and I relate to New York City rats on a spiritual level . . . meaning I’m not actually in a position to be anyone’s foster parent. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help kids in need. I don’t think many young people realize that while our lives might be messy and adulthood looms over us as an ever-present menace, we have something important to offer to others, especially to vulnerable kids.
We can mentor.
- According to studies conducted by Big Brothers Big Sisters and North Carolina State University, kids who have mentors are more confident and disadvantaged teens with mentors are twice as likely to go to college. And since we were kids a decade ago, and teens just a few years back, for some kids connecting with us might be easier than with older adults. We can be both a friend and a role model. There are lots of opportunities to mentor. CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) allows adults over 21 (who pass a background check, of course) to be trained as advocates for kids in need. A CASA volunteer is matched with a kid or teen in foster care. The volunteer builds a trust-based relationship with the child, really getting to know the kid’s personality and story, and stands up for the child’s best interests in court. Other mentoring programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters cater to any kid who needs a positive, adult role model.
We can volunteer.
- While mentoring is one way to use our time to help kids, there are other means of lending a hand for those not able to make such a significant commitment. Contact Arms Wide and ask how you can help. If you have a special skill, from woodworking to graphic design to SAT tutoring, offer it! Or just give your time in whatever way is needed. If you have friends or neighbors who are a foster parents, bring them a meal and a hug. Tell them: “You’re doing a great job. How can I help?”
We can fundraise.
- Judging by the amount of ramen purchased, we young adults don’t have extra money lying around. But we can still financially support kids in foster care. Donate your birthday on Facebook, asking friends to give money to a charity of your choosing in honor of your special day. Give up lattes for a month and use the dollars you save to buy clothes, toys, or other essentials for a kid in foster care. Feeling extra inspired? Start a fun run or hold a bake sale. Donate the proceeds to a foster care and adoption nonprofit. Your options are limitless!
We can share.
- Talk about foster care. Use sensitive vocabulary, emphasizing the fact that these are real, individual kids who don’t fit a single stereotype. On social media, share positive foster care stories and posts about kids searching for forever homes. IRL, dispel hurtful foster care myths and educate your peers about the number of kids who don’t have permanent families. Invite friends to join you when you volunteer, and encourage them to follow Arms Wide on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to keep learning more about adoption and foster care.
As young adults, we’re still figuring out who we are and what we’re meant to do. But consider this part figured out—
we’re all supposed to help kids in need, and there’s a way that fits every schedule and every personality.
About The Author
As the Summer Marketing Intern, Isabel created web content and social media posts to uplift and engage our Arms Wide community. She’s a senior English major at the University of St. Thomas and hopes to teach middle school after graduation.