May is National Foster Care Month and it’s not too late to make a difference. While becoming a foster parent isn’t for everyone, there are endless ways to support foster kids, their [biological] families, foster parents and all of those underpaid and overworked child welfare professionals.
The first step is to find a foster child or foster parent to share your time, resources or skills with. This can be the biggest obstacle! Most foster care systems don’t have a volunteer coordinator- they are too swamped with emergencies and have limited funds. These days, even the non-profits focused on supporting children in foster care may not have staff available to field your interests and help match you to a child. Instead, I recommend connecting directly with foster parents. They can be your liaison to a foster agency and are in tune with the rules and true opportunities to be useful. Look for foster parents in your town via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and at foster parent support groups (Just show up to one, I’m serious, they’ll LOVE you for it).
Here are real people who have contributed to the quality of my foster children’s lives:
1. Professional Photographer Kate Lacey Takes Portraits of My Foster Babies
Professional photographer Kate Lacey has taken baby pictures of all of my foster children. Unfortunately, most children in the system don’t have photos of their younger years but with the digital copies from Kate, my former and current foster kids can always access and share those precious snapshots of their chubby cheeks.
2. Meret Oppenheim Attended Court with Me
Meret Oppenheim attended court with me during a particularly nerve-wracking hearing. While my friends all work 9 to 5, Meret freelances and was able to keep me company during the long day.
3. Logan Sachon Lets Me Sleep
I met Logan Sachon from www.thebillfold.com at a New Year’s Eve party. She said that she followed my blog and would love to help out. I invited her over and the babies took to her straight away. She has spent the night on several occasions doing bottle and diaper duty for the full night allowing me much needed sleep.
4. Antoinette and Elia Rangel Have Taken My Foster Daughter to the Zoo
In addition to babysitting at a discount, Antoinette (left) and Elia Rangel (right) have taken my foster kids to the zoo, museums, and to make beaded jewelry even after they returned to their parents.
5. Rachel Fershleiser Researched Preschools for Me
You might have heard, or watched a documentary or two, about the hell that is preschool admissions in New York City. Rachel Fershleiser took to task sorting out the differences between schools, admissions requirements, and consulted with educators.
6. Christian Villanova Helped My Foster Daughter’s Mom’s Boyfriend with His Resume
After one of my foster daughter’s was returned to her mother, we were able to stay in touch. Christian Villanova helped my former foster daughter’s mom’s boyfriend with his resume which allowed me to see my former foster daughter and spend some time playing in the same room.
7. Sara Bee Jensen Sends Us Baked Goods
Sara Bee Jensen, who also has adopted from foster care, sends us baked goods from Pickle Petuinia. The baker’s husband even hand delivered a big box of treats the week one of my foster children went home to her mom. Never underestimate the power of brownies!
8. Emily Gould Brings My Foster Kids the Best Children’s Books
So yeah, I’m a little spoiled to have Emily Gould (www.emilybooks.com and www.emilymagazine.com) curating my foster kids’ children’s books. And she reads them. Patiently. To squirmy little foster kids. She’s also totally game to foster babies crashing her New Year’s party. I’m sure there’ll be more of that to come.
9. Lauren Gourley Officiated a Godparent Ceremony for My Former Foster Daughter
Lauren Gourley, a licensed social worker, officiated a godparent ceremony for my former foster daughter. Her family attended and designated me as the child’s godmother. It was unique, lovely, and brilliantly facilitated.
10. Kelly Alba Watched Presidential Election with Me as I Stayed Home with a Foster Newborn
There are a lot of cool places to watch TV on presidential election night. And Kelly is a very cool person (you see the photo, right?). But she chose to come to my place and hang with me and my newborn foster baby, keeping us both company through the night.
11. Asia Credle Picks Up the WIC Checks and Formula
In addition to babysitting full-time Asia goes above and beyond by picking up the WIC (Women, Infant and Children) checks and formula that foster babies receive. This saves me several hours each month.
12. Brian Gochenaur Dated a Foster Parent
Need I say more?
13. Jonathan Koppel Waits Up for My Foster Children to Arrive
Dr. Jonathan Koppel came over late one night and waited with me for one of my foster daughter’s to arrive. He’s also done last minute diaper shopping and now keeps my chocolate supply coming shipped in from his current home in Denmark.
14. Deepa Rao Helps Me Pick-Up and Move Furniture for My Foster Kids
Deepa Rao helped me pick-up a crib during the hurricane so that I could take a foster baby a few hours later. She also has been known to man the double stroller at the flea market while I scoot-ch into a booth or two to shop.
15. Stephanie Lau Helped Me Soothe a Fussy Baby
Let me rephrase that. Stephanie Lau took it upon herself to show-up at my apartment for a crisis intervention when I was losing my mind due to a sick, premature foster baby that didn’t sleep. Having just had a baby herself, she taught me several newborn tricks.
16. Susan Kang Hustled Foster Care Paper Work Around Town for Me
Dr. Susan Kang spent a couple of days hustling her pregnant self across boroughs to turn in my foster care paperwork that is only accepted by hand (yeah, obviously not cool). You can read about her experience here on my blog.
17. Anonymous Blogger “SocialJerk” Provides Me with Insight into How the System Works
Anonymous blogger “Socialjerk” provides me with personal insight into how the systems works along with some much needed humor. She also provides a model for blogging ethically about foster care (she’s on the preventative side).
18. NYPD Detective Laverda Pugliese Helped Me Stay Connected to My Former Foster Daughter
NYPD Detective Laverda Pugliese worked with my foster daughter’s mom to encourage her to keep me in her daughter’s life once she was home. It worked! Laverda drove my former foster daughter and her mom different places and created trust and a relationship acting as the bridge to keep us all connected.
19. Rachel Lemaster Was My Official Back-Up Foster Parent
Rachel Lemaster (right) was my official back-up foster parent until she moved to San Fransisco this year. As a NY public school teacher, she tried to gently encourage one of my foster kid’s moms to enroll her child in kindergarten even though it wasn’t mandatory at the time.
20. Niki Carlini Washed My Dishes and Gave My Foster Babies Baths
Niki Carlini gets things done. Every time she comes to my apartment she takes charge and starts cleaning, washing dishes and bathing my foster babies. Best house guest ever!