The Dog Days of Summer

Boy with dog

Many families with children own a pet. Animals are great for kids—and kids are great for animals. They mutually benefit from having an in-home playmate. But pets can be downright healing for children and youth in foster care.

Removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect, SoCal’s 35,000 foster youth are often recovering from trauma. As a result, trusting people and forming supportive attachments can be especially difficult for children and youth in foster care.

The great news is that research has shown that foster kids who have the opportunity to enjoy the comforting contact and affection of a pet can then more easily form trusting relationships with other people. Forming trusting relationships—a skill we all need for good cognitive health and social well-being—is a key milestone in overcoming the effects of trauma. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion and empathy. For these reasons many foster care and adoptive families consider getting a therapy or emotional supportpet.

So let’s appreciate our animal friends, and remember that there are vulnerable children in need of their love and support.

 #Superhero: 10 Ways to be a Foster Child’s Hero

Does your idea of a superhero wear a cape, primary colors, a big letter on their chest, and a mask? Maybe your superhero can fly, or has some heightened sense or ability that allows them to come to the need of others and save the day. We love a good superhero story complete with magical powers, a captured villain, and of course, a happily ever after ending, but we’ve discovered something—Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes, the greatest superpower is the ability to see and care for others in need. Our foster children and youth need everyday heroes doing everyday things to make their days brighter. Read on for free, hands-on and everyday ways to be a foster child’s hero. Remember, you don’t have to foster a child to make a difference and change their life.

10 Ways to be a Foster Child’s Hero

  1. Be a cheerleader/cheer them on. A great way to encourage and support a foster child is to attend their school activities, plays, sporting events, etc.
  2. Share a ride. Help transport a foster child to school, extra-curricular activities, visitation meetings, or consider ride sharing/carpooling with a foster parent.
  3. Be a tutor, chaperone, or proofreader. Offer to help a grade school foster child, or former foster youth attending college by offering to tutor, proofread, help with homework, or chaperone an outing.
  4. Teach a foster youth to drive. If you know a current or former foster youth who isn’t driving, help them learn to drive, which is a valuable independent living skill.
  5. Be a library and reading buddy. Take a foster child to the library, and offer to read to a foster child.
  6. Teach a hobby. Offer to teach a foster child how to play an instrument, paint, or some other creative craft.
  7. Provide lodging to a former foster youth during college holidays and summer breaks.
  8. Mentor or provide apprenticeship to former foster youth in your professional field.
  9. Teach interviewing and resume building skills. Help a former foster youth prepare for the job market by teaching them interviewing skills and reviewing their resumes.
  10. Invite a foster child or youth to a sporting event, neighborhood game, or another free community event.

It only takes one adult to change the life a child forever. You can be that one caring adult that makes a difference. For more ways to support foster children and youth, please see our website.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

San Diego Pride Parade: Why We March for LGBTQ Equality

For years Walden staff has joined the LGBTQ community to march in the San Diego Pride Parade. Along with our family and friends we wear rainbow tutus, faces, capes and the brightest ‘Walden pink’ t-shirts and hats we can find. Although we love the atmosphere of love and community, we are marching for more than fun. We march to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community because we know the message of Pride, equality and freedom, is still not guaranteed for all, especially for our LGBTQ youth.

Recent reports confirm what we have witnessed in our own homeless youth population—LGBTQ youth are at a greater disadvantage to suffer from homelessness, suicide attempts, and drug abuse as their straight and cis gendered peers, and when they are in these most fragile states, they are also more likely to be sexually victimized and physically harmed. Although LGBT youth comprise less than 10 percent of the youth population, studies show they comprise up to 40 percent of the homeless youth population.

  • We march because LGBT youth are 120 percent more likely to be homeless than their straight and cis gendered peers.
  • We march because LGBT youth are more than 8 times as likely to attempt suicide as their straight and cis gendered peers.
  • We march because LGBT youth are at greater risk to be sexually victimized, struggle with mental and physical health issues, and three times as likely to use illegal drugs as their straight or cis gendered peers.

We march for Pride because we know the peril our LGBTQ youth face, and we believe all children, like all people, deserve to be safe.

When anyone enters homelessness a cycle of disadvantaging consequences begin; however, these consequences for LGBTQ youth are often life-threatening—their physical and mental health declines sharply, they are less likely to secure long-term education, and they are at greater risk for suffering from sexual abuse and exploitation, along with drug and alcohol abuse. Added to these risks is the combined social stigma and discrimination of being homeless and LGBTQ identifying. The combination of these consequences set LGBTQ youth up for lifetime difficulties in the job market, financial instability, less long term educational success, and a diminished life expectancy.

This does not have to happen. Yet, because there is little funding at federal, state, and local levels to specifically target and support LGBTQ youth and the unique dangers they face, it does.

When we join our LGBTQ brothers and sisters to march in Pride, we are affirming the value of the LGBT community, and working in solidarity for their future.

Pride marches combat shame.

Pride marches redefine worth.

Pride marches create safe, welcoming communities.

Pride marches champion equality and standing against discrimination.

Pride marches raise awareness for the housing, employment and marriage inequality the LGBTQ community faces.

Pride marches honor the lives of LGBTQ people killed or violently harmed because of their sexuality, and says Enough!

Pride marches create community for people who don’t have the daily privilege to openly be themselves.

Pride marches are not for us to look for opportunities to wave rainbow flags, wear colorful clothes, and party with strangers, though these are part of the fun of participating in Pride marches. Pride marches are to create solidarity for those amongst us struggling and suffering. Whether we join and march alongside LGTBTQ as identifying or allies, we are holding space to affirm value, and we are marching to empower the LGBTQ community to remain proud of their identity and continue working towards progress for equality.

Supporting Teen Independence: Tools and tips to empower youth

 

As children mature into adolescents, parents and caregivers must also adapt, shift, and grow into a new role: life skills and independence coach. There are few young adults who reach adulthood without an adult intentionally guiding, teaching, and mentoring them, ensuring they have the life skills necessary to become successful adults. When practiced, teen independence builds confidence, creates self-assurance, and helps teens grow into self-sufficient and independent adults.

Adult independence is best defined and understood by looking at the four major kinds of independence that contribute to self-sufficiency. As with all people, teenagers mature at differing rates, creating a broad spectrum of readiness and ability to begin practicing independence. As a parent, caregiver, or mentor of an adolescent learning independence, help them by building on the skills they already possess, while slowly introducing them to newer and more advanced skills. By meeting your teen where they are at, you set them up for early success that builds confidence, which further promotes self-awareness and self-sufficiency.

4 Types of Independence

Domestic Independence

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • House chores

Time Management/Awareness

  • Managing time to complete tasks; scheduling tasks
  • Study skills
  • Short/long term goal setting

Relationship Intelligence

  • Appropriate social skills
  • Building healthy relationships
  • Confidence with and around different people/situations
  • Creating healthy boundaries in relationships

Self-Awareness/Self-Help

  • Self-care, including hygiene and mental/physical health
  • Protecting self in public
  • Ability to cope with emotions (boredom, loneliness, anger, frustration, love, grief)
  • Building resourcefulness

In addition to these differing types of independence, teens and young adults need to learn the following life skills that help them become contributing citizens:

Accountability: The awareness to connect choices to their likely consequences, and the ability to cope with and recover from errors in judgment. Also includes the ability to learn from mistakes and successes, so mistakes aren’t repeated, while successes are built upon.

Responsibility: The ability to take care of responsibilities at work, school, and home, often with little to now prompting. The awareness of what needs to be done, and the confidence to take on tasks as needed.

Decision Making: The ability to identify and solve problems using rational thinking, listening, and developing an ability to prioritize and balance wants and needs.

Work Ethic: An appreciation and understanding of the need to invest time and labor into gaining something desired. The willingness and ability to work long and short term for things wanted and needed.

One of the most effective ways of helping a teen learn independence is placing a mentor in their lives. These mentors help them wade through impulsive, emotional decisions, provide guidance and leadership, and surround them with adults they can trust and model positive behaviors after. If you are a parent struggling with teaching your teen independence, consider helping your teen find a mentor. If you have been placed in a mentoring role with a teen, consider it a great opportunity to empower and invest in the next generation.

12 Ways to Support Teen Independence

  1. Provide autonomy. Give your teen a chance to make decision on their own, within boundaries. Be present to help them recover from mistakes, yet allow them to experience the consequences of their actions.
  2. Model healthy adulthood. Allow your teen to see you make positive decisions, as well as practice responsibility and accountability. This includes modeling self-care, healthy living habits, healthy relationships, strong work ethic, and trusting behavior patterns.
  3. Talk with mutual respect. Show your teen respect in the way you talk with them. Make sure that you practice listening to their ideas, validating their decisions, and allowing them to express their opinions without judgement or ridicule.
  4. Be a curator, not an overseer. Remember, do not engage in a power struggle with your teen. Set strict boundaries, and yet be willing to give up power on things that doesn’t compromise your teen’s safety, as well as your joint morals.
  5. Teach your teen how to be a good friend. A big part of being a great citizen and establishing healthy relationships is understanding how to be a caring friend. Make sure to teach your teen how to care for relationships with others.
  6. Talk money young, and often. Make sure to teach your teen financial literacy and how to make wise money decisions. Get them in the habit of managing small amounts of money, so they can grow into a financially literate adult.
  7. Teach emergency preparedness. Make sure your teen knows how to react and who to contact in the face of an emergency. Stress the importance of a level head, reacting without panic, and basic emergency skills like how to deal with minor injuries, small grease fires, natural disasters, and minor car accidents. Make sure they always know who to call for help.
  8. Teach your teen how to be emotionally levelheaded. Part of surviving in the world is learning how to react emotionally in a varied number of situations. Make sure your teen knows how to regulate their emotions, particularly anger, grief, anxiety, sadness, and loneliness. Make sure to teach your teen about healthy mental health, and how to seek help early.
  9. Teach trust and boundaries. To help set your teen up for a life of healthy relationships, teach them how to build trust in others, as well as how to set, enforce, and observe their’s as well as other’s boundaries.
  10. Support location/transportation Intelligence. Make sure your teen knows how to travel alone, whether through a city, a state, or abroad. This includes teaching them how to read maps, understand directions, knowing local landmarks, and understanding how local transit operates.
  11. Show interest. Express genuine interest in things or people your teen are interested in. This includes getting to know their friends, understanding their hobbies, being familiar with “pop” culture or the culture they are invested in, and showing genuine support in their life.
  12. Give them space and privacy. Allow your teen to experience space and privacy to develop a sense of self. Make sure to include them in family and group outings, but always give them the freedom to be alone as needed.

Finally, the greatest way to help a teen grow into a self-sufficient and successful adult is to give them ample love and encouragement from an adult they an trust. Always look for ways to be a loving and caring adult to the teens in your sphere of influence. It only takes one adult to alter the life of a youth forever.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Foster Youth

For decades the picture of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been a U.S. war veteran, fighting bravely on behalf of our country. Through public awareness campaigns and public service announcements we have collectively learned to associate PTSD with the brave fight of our soldiers. We recognize the symptoms—flashbacks, jittery nerves, withdrawn or depressed behavior, chemical dependency, an ongoing experience of negative feelings—and actively champion causes to help our military heroes recover. We want you to know there is another silent epidemic of PTSD amongst us: Former foster children are nearly two times as likely to experience PTSD as U.S. war veterans.

Sit with that statistic for a minute, and consider the thousands of current and former foster children suffering with PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that effects survivors of life-threatening events. These events can surely include combat, but also include incidences of abuse, witnessing or experiencing violence, and separation from primary caregivers in children. While it is normal for everyone to experience life-changing events that disrupt the quality of everyday life, those who are in prolonged or severe life-threatening situations have a higher incidence of PTSD and require help recovering.

Understanding PTSD

PTSD is a broad umbrella for four different types of symptoms, with each symptom or any combination of these symptoms occurring on a spectrum particular to the individual. It is important to remember that each PTSD diagnoses is uniquely individual to each person’s combination of experiences and personal temperament.

  1. Reliving/Re-experiencing. Those experiencing this symptom will relive or re-experience the incident repeatedly, often having bad memories and/or nightmares. They have “flashbacks” that make them feel like they are undergoing the experience again.
  2. Avoidance behaviors. Individual with this symptom will work hard to avoid people, situations, or memories that trigger or recall the traumatic event. This can range from refusing to talk or think about the event, to avoiding similar situations and people that resemble the traumatic experience.
  3. Ongoing negative beliefs and feelings. It is not uncommon for a PTSD sufferer to have a shift in their thinking about themselves and/or others as a result of their trauma experience. This could involve feelings of guilt, shame, anger, resentment, or can be a shift away from activities that once brought joy. Other common emotions are numbness, inability to experience happiness, or a persuasive feeling that the world is dangerous and distrustful.
  4. Hyperarousal/Hypersensitivity. Those suffering from PTSD often feel amped or keyed up. They may experience more jittery nerves as they are often acutely aware of danger. This leads to difficulty concentrating, sleeping, and finding it hard to rest and relax.

Children Experiencing PTSD

As children age, their PTSD symptoms mimic adults, but children generally display PTSD symptoms according to their age. Here are PTSD symptoms observed in children:

  • Under 6: Children under the age of 6 will often have issues sleeping, and will need their caretakers close for comfort. It is important to recognize these symptoms as PTSD and not “clinging” behavior. These children also act out their traumas through play.
  • Ages 7 to 11: School age children continue to act out their trauma through play, but also may draw pictures or tell stories that feature their trauma. These children can suffer from nightmares, or may begin to act overly aggressive and irritable. In addition, they may have trouble with schoolwork and friends.
  • Ages 12 to 18: Pre-teen and teenage youth display symptoms similar to adults. They can experience depression, anxiety, withdrawal, or exhibit reckless behavior such as substance abuse, promiscuity, or running away.

Raising awareness of the challenges our current and former foster youth experience helps us to overcome the difficult road these children encounter in gaining self-sufficiency and success later in life. Recent studies show former foster youth are less likely to complete post-secondary education, and generally are under or un-employed compared to their peers. These lower success rates are directly connected to the higher mental health crises current and former foster youth experience. Issues such as depression, social phobia, panic or anxiety syndromes, as well as higher incidences of drug abuse, incarceration, or teenage pregnancy are common barriers that keep these youth stuck in cycles of stress and challenges.

What Can You Do?

We say it constantly: The power of one caring adult can change the life and direction of a youth forever. After 42 years of working with foster care children and families, Walden has seen first-hand how the right action, and the right people can alter a child’s future.

Like adults, children with post-traumatic stress syndrome can and will heal—with help. Among the many different treatments available, we are strong champions of holistic, wrap-around services that engage our youth and their families’ mental health needs, as well as meeting their other health and physical needs. Walden’s therapeutic foster care program shows that healing is possible through nurturing and targeted services. Here are ways you can help current and former foster youth:

Raise Awareness

  • Reading and sharing articles that highlight the challenges current and former foster youth face helps by supporting organizations committed to helping children heal.
  • Know the warning signs, and act. If you see something, say something.
  • Understand treatment options. There are many ways of treating PTSD in children, including counseling therapy and medication. Knowing there are pathways towards healing raises hope.
  • Reduce the stigma. The greatest barrier of children and adults facing mental health illnesses is the stigma often attached to care. Help dismantle stigmas by sharing, talking, and providing support to those in need.

Be a Foster Youth Champion

  • Support organizations committed to helping foster children find loving homes and healing. Often, these nonprofit organizations can benefit greatly from regular monetary donations, big or small.
  • Volunteer your time and resources. Can you volunteer, or give a foster youth a job? Think about resources you have that can help a foster youth gain independence, and offer your support.
  • Educate and teach. Educate yourself on legislation affecting foster youth and teach your peers. Most people do not act out of a lack of information, not from a lack of caring.
  • Be a foster youth and children’s advocate locally and nationally.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be overcome. For our youth is takes one caring adult to change the path and alter the life of a child forever. We have seen it hundreds of times, and will work tirelessly to ensure all children have a loving home and family. Join us.

To read more about current legislation affecting foster youth, please visit our Newsroom.

To learn more about how Walden supports former foster youth, please visit our Transitional Housing Placement program page.

To learn more about our therapeutic foster care program, please visit our Foster Care program  page,

To learn more about the challenges former foster youth face, please read see our previous posts:

The 18th Year: Challenges for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

Actions of Impact: How to Help Former Foster Youth Aging Out of Care

To offer financial support, please visit our donate page.

Actions of Impact: How to Help Former Foster Youth Aging Out of Care

At first glance aging out of foster care appears to be a welcome relief for former foster youth. Often, children come into foster care under stressful situations, and the assumption is their trauma continues the longer they stay in the foster care system, away from their parents and family. Unfortunately, a number of former foster youth are never able to reunite with their families, essentially leaving them alone in the world. These youth leaving the foster care system—whether they eagerly awaited it or not—face more challenges than their peers, further traumatizing them, creating hurdles in their lives that act as barriers to long term success.

They are more likely than their peers to be homeless, face drug dependency, experience teenage pregnancy, become jobless, or end up incarcerated.

You can help.

In very simple and practical ways, you can help a former foster youth transition into adulthood safely, improving their chances of achieving longtime success.

10 Ways to Support and Impact the Lives of Former Foster Youth

  1. Mentor. Contact a local foster agency and volunteer to help mentor a teen. This is a great way to be a caring adult in a teen’s life.
  2. Teach financial skills. Offer to teach financial literacy to teens, making sure they know how to open a bank account, manage a budget, and learn financial maturity.
  3. Donate clothes. Often, teens looking to start work lack professional or work attire. Donating clothes or gift cards to buy work clothes can help them get enter and stay in the workforce.
  4. Offer College/financial aid help. Many teens may not know how to file for financial aid, or even apply to college—offer to help them with deadlines, reading submission essays, and sending out applications.
  5. Hire a foster teen. If you own your own business, hiring a current or former foster teen can provide great help to them financially, as well as give them the opportunity to learn marketable skills.
  6. Teach food literacy. Take a youth grocery shopping with you, teaching them how to read labels, and then teach them how to cook a healthy meal.
  7. Donate furniture and household goods. Contact local foster care agencies to donate items of need.
  8. Donate school supplies or create a book fund. Former foster youth entering school will need books and supplies, offer to help.
  9. Help with transportation. Transportation is often a big hurdle for young adults striving to work and/or go to school. Offer to help drive them or give them bus tokens.
  10. Be present, be a friend. Often former foster youth need a consistent, loving adult in their lives to provide emotional support. Your presence will help them regain trust in others, as well as help them learn how to build meaningful relationships.

We know the statistics are rough to hear and face. However, imagine the life our former foster youth are facing daily. Your willingness to be present and support a former foster youth will change their life.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

To learn more information about how Walden supports former foster youth, please visit our Transitional Housing Placement program.

To learn more about the challenges former foster youth face, please read our post: The 18th Year: Challenges for Youth Aging out of Foster Care.

To offer financial support, please visit our donate page

 

The 18th Year: Challenges for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

This year 23,000 youths will turn 18 while in foster care, aging out of their system of support. While society tends to look at this transitional stage in life as an exciting threshold to cross into adulthood, statistics tell us our youth aging out of foster care are facing a harrowing battle to thrive. Their livelihood and opportunities to succeed are fragile and dangerously hanging in the balance.

Of the youth aging out of foster care this year:

  • 4,600 will instantly become homeless
  • 11,500 will develop a substance dependence
  • 70% of the girls will become pregnant before age 21
  • 11,500 will have gainful employment by age 24
  • 690 will become college graduates
  • 25% of them will suffer PTSD

Close your eyes, and think back to your 18th birthday and finish the following sentences:

When I turned 18 I lived at _______________ with __________________.

When I turned 18 my food was provided by ______________________.

When I turned 18 I felt _________________________ coming home every night.

When I turned 18 _________________________ encouraged my dreams and goals for the future.

When I turned 18 I wanted to become a/an ____________________________.

For the majority of us, we can recount our 18th birthday as a time of great expectation and anticipation for our future. Some of us were well prepared and felt ready to join the world as an adult, either working or entering college, the military, or trade school. Most of us, whether we left home or stayed, needed the love and support of our family to help us transition into the world as adults. A great deal of us had someone, whether our biological parents or another caring adult, to help guide and nurture us into adulthood.

The majority of youth aging out of foster care do not have the safety and support of family to help them thrive and are essentially on their own. These youth are often faced with a number of challenges that create barriers for their continued success. For example, if they find a job they have to manage transportation, and other work related costs while learning life lessons associated with working—lunch money, work clothes/uniforms, understanding workplace etiquette, and learning how to build meaningful relationships. It does not end with employment, youth looking for a stable home face a myriad of challenges—establishing credit, security deposits, turning on utilities, purchasing furnishings, and securing food.

At each step towards independence, youth aging out of foster care are no different than other young adults—they need continued financial and emotional support, and help learning life skills that promote independence. The only difference is these former foster youth often lack the nurturing and supportive family systems their peers enjoy. And this difference, for a number of our youth, can make the difference between life and death, success or a lifetime of challenges.

We know, the statistics and facts are distressing. But we also know that every adult has the power to change the life of one youth in their community. It only takes one adult to alter the life and path of a youth, and we want to empower you to be the change our youth need.

This month, while we champion and celebrate the young graduates among us, Walden wants to share practical ways to help support a youth aging out of foster care in your community. We believe all of us have the power to make a difference, and be the one caring adult in a youth’s life.

Join us tomorrow as we discuss Actions of Impact: How to Impact Foster Youth Aging Out.

Supporting Fatherhood through Community

What if we told you we knew how to decrease youth suicides, reduce teenage pregnancy, turn around climbing high school dropout statistics, prevent a large number of adolescent drug abuse, curb youth behavior disorders, and stop a large number of youths from ever entering the prison system? Would you be eager to champion and stand behind that cause?

Join us in standing behind and supporting fathers!

Statistics show that fatherlessness is directly linked to the perils our youth face:

  • 63% of youth suicides
  • 71% of teenage pregnancy
  • 71% of high school dropouts
  • 85% of youth displaying behavior disorders
  • 75% of youth in drug abuse centers
  • 85% of incarcerated youth

One in three youth under 18 years of age in the U.S wakes up to a fatherless home daily.

When a family has a father present, the positive impact is felt by the children, the co-parent, and as a whole our communities reap the benefits. A father’s engagement directly impacts the child’s behavior, leading to less contact with the legal system, less aggressive behavior, and delayed sexual contact that leads to teen pregnancy. Children with fathers present are more likely to graduate from high school, increasing their lifetime earning potential. Overall, children with engaged fathers perform better in verbal strength, reading, and writing, and girls display higher math competency.

In addition to higher academic achievement, father involvement strengthens a child’s socio-emotional ability, giving them greater problem-solving skills, stronger stress coping abilities, higher moral sensitivity, and a greater capacity for empathy.

Fatherhood has a direct impact on our mothers and fathers, also. Co-parents tend to have a decreased level of parenting stress, a lower incidence of depression (including postpartum depression), and greater relationship satisfaction. Fathers also enjoy a better quality of life, including better health, longer life spans, and greater relationship satisfaction.

Community Based Action: How to Support Fathers Everyday

Now that we’ve shown the multi-faceted benefits of fatherhood, here are some practical, everyday ways to support and foster fatherhood in your community.

  • Remove Barriers
    • Remove societal barriers by discouraging messages and stereotypes that raising children is a “women’s job.”
    • Remove family barriers by championing father’s rights to equal access to their children.
    • Remove workplace biases/barriers by creating a “fatherhood culture” that supports and encourages fathers to take family time.
    • Help create father friendly environments in family agencies.
    • Refrain from negative biases against fathers.
  • Be a Positive Fatherhood Role Model. Model positive fatherhood to young, new, or struggling fathers.
  • Help A Father Learn. Refer fathers to local parenting classes.
  • Shower Fathers with Support. Know a new foster, adoption, single, or expecting father? Throw him a “Father’s Shower.”
  • Host Father Lead Playdates. Gather a group of local fathers and host a play date.
  • Create Supportive Networks. It takes a village to raise a child, and also to support parents. Create a supportive network of parents in your circle of influence.
  • Reinforce Positive Behavior. Encourage and champion fathers taking an active role.
  • Know where to find community support. Support community agencies that encourage and promote fatherhood, and share them with other fathers.
  • Spread the word. Raise societal consciousness by sharing positive fatherhood stories and images on social networks.

Over the past 42 years we have had the great fortune of watching and supporting hundreds of fathers as they nurture and change the lives of their children. We have witnessed firsthand the impact a loving father makes in the life of a child.

We support, encourage, and champion all fathers this and all weekends.

If you, or someone you know is interested in becoming a father, fostering a child, or taking parenting classes, please follow these links to our services:

Foster a Child

Foster/Adoption Resources

Teen Parenting Classes

LGTBQ Services

We appreciate your kind donations, they help us support the many Walden fathers providing loving homes that help children heal.

Donate

 

Be an Everyday Hero: 13 Ways to Support A Foster Family

You’ve heard about the great work foster families do in the community. You’ve read the statistics. Your heart is moved, yet you are not sure how to act. We know fostering a child is not a path for everyone, but we also know many of you would like to journey alongside foster youth, helping them heal, supporting their families, and ensuring a child’s well-being. We’ve compiled a list of everyday ways to support and help foster kids and foster families. After all, not all heroes wear capes, and we bet you can be an amazing champion for a foster family in need.

13 Everyday Ways to Help a Foster Care Family

  1. Host a Foster Shower

When a new foster family receives a child they are often given little time to gather all the gear, clothes, and material needs the child will require. While agencies like Walden Family Services do help, there are often gaps of need with each child. Consider donating gently used toys, clothes, car seats, or furniture, or hosting a drive with other local families. Make sure to arrange moving and drop-off, as most foster families with new placements will be short on time.

  1. Arrange a Meal Train/Bring Food

We all know kids can eat, and with a newly expanded and busy family finding time to shop for, cook and clean for a meal can be difficult. Consider creating a meal train that includes help for shopping, and dish/kitchen clean-up in the evening. Make sure to inquire about any special dietary restrictions or needs for the family.

  1. Provide Respite & Relief

Become a respite care provider by going through the background checks necessary. As a respite care provider you are able to provide regular relief for the family, which would give you the opportunity to mentor and build a relationship with the foster child, as well as support the foster family.

  1. Help with Everyday Chores

Dishes, laundry, yard work, washing the family car—these are all everyday things every family needs help with. Offer to help a local foster family with everyday chores.

  1. Sponsor a Foster Child’s Extracurricular Activities

As we discussed in “Common Foster Care Myths and Misconceptions,” foster families do receive some monetary support to help cover the child’s basic needs; however, the extracurricular activities that help kids grow and thrive are not always covered. Consider sponsoring local art classes, sport activities, music, or other enrichment opportunities for a foster child. While providing some financial help and support to the family, you’ll also be giving the child a great gift of discovery and enrichment.

  1. Donate to their Entertainment Wish List.

As with extracurricular activities, entertainment is often an area where foster families and kids could use additional support from friends and family. Offer to donate to their entertainment wish list by donating movie tickets, bowling or miniature golf passes, and theme park or museum tickets/passes.

  1. Build a Snack Pantry

Meals are great, and are often a go-to form of food support for foster families, but children love to snack and graze. A great way to support a foster family is to help provide healthy, quick and easy snacks for the children and parents. Snacks such as ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grain cereals, healthy trail mixes and granolas are great places to start.

  1. Offer to Mentor a Foster Child

Foster children, especially tweens and teens, often need to regain trust in adults. A great way to help support a foster family of tweens and/or teens is to mentor the foster child. Building a lasting and supportive relationship can help the child regain trust in adults, and provide valuable emotional support.

  1. Support the Families’ Existing/Biological Children

As the family expands to include new foster children, existing biological, foster or adoptive kids may begin to feel left out. If you are unable to mentor or provide respite care for the foster children due to laws, consider mentoring or spending special time with any biological or adoptive kids.

  1. Arrange Family Play Dates

A great way to get to know the new children and welcome them into your extended family, network of friends, or community is to organize a family play date. Speak with the foster parents about best times and activities, whether the group should be large or small, and then organize a playdate including all the children. Be mindful that some foster children will need smaller groups and spans of time, or that the new family may need time to settle before starting social outings.

  1. Create a Memory Book

A great gift to a foster child and family is a memory book of their time with their foster family. If you are crafty, volunteer to create a scrapbook for the family/child that includes pictures, favorite memories, special recipes, as well as words of love and encouragement from extended family and friends.

  1. Create Toiletry/Self Care Packs

The first thing new or busy parents forgo is self-care practices. Create a self-care pack for the parents, including any special treatments, toiletries they would enjoy. For an added bonus, create a self-care or toiletry pack for the child with any special personal care items that are appropriate to their needs and ages.

  1. Donate a farm/CSA box

Have you found a local CSA you love and support? What about adding an extra farm box of fresh fruits and veggies to be delivered to a local foster family. This gives you an opportunity to support local farmers and agriculture and a local family, while also promoting healthy eating habits in youth and families.

Over the 42 years we have served families we have witnessed the unending gift of love our foster parents provide to their children. We have seen great transformations in our children, and have witnessed the great catalyst love is for healing. We know these great strides forward are born not only out of our amazing foster parents, but also from the loving support they receive from their extended network of family, friends, and community. Remember, we all can make a great impact on the life of a child in need. We can all wear capes.

For more information about foster care, read our other posts:

Defining and Understanding Foster Care

Common Foster Care Myths and Misconceptions

To stay up-to-date on Walden’s work on behalf of foster youth, visit our newsroom, or follow us on Facebook.

To financially help a foster child, visit our donate page. Your monetary donations provide a great deal of support to our children and families.