There are lots of ways to help: becoming a full-fledged foster parent, signing up to offer “respite care” and give foster parents a break, joining one of the groups that support foster parents or act as mentors to youth, working in the legislative arena to promote laws that help keep families together in the first place. You can also help to get the word out about the need for foster care and the foster care crisis.
If you are a business, you can offer to put up posters or information about foster care. If you are in communications, you can help an agency network, have them on your radio or TV station, or help them build an ad campaign. You can offer discounts for foster parents, which is especially helpful for businesses that cater to families (such as restaurants, toy stores, activity centers, sporting events, book stores, coffee shops, and more!). Finally, there is simply the importance of discovering more about the fate of children growing up outside of their home in Washington, and in turn helping to create dialogue about the foster care crisis. The creation this year of the Dept. of Children, Youth and Families could bring in new energy and broader participation that might bode well for the health of the system and the people in it.
Become a licensed foster parent: DSHS and certain private agencies will set up an interview and conduct the home study that leads to licensing. Go to https://www.fosteringtogether.org to learn about the various ways to get licensed (including respite care). This website has links to DSHS as well as private agencies. Fostering Together has liaisons in each area to help with the licensing process including how to manage wait times (DSHS wait-times can be quite long), navigate hurdles or even help find an agency that has no wait time.
Join a group that supports foster parents: Check out our local Family Education and Support Center http://familyess.org/contacts. FESS offers a huge range of services, and in collaboration with the State Training Alliance provides monthly training and support for foster/adoption parents at the Children’s Museum. Become a mentor to a youngster: Stonewall Youth (Olympia), The Mockingbird Society (Seattle and surrounding areas), Foster Care to Success, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Big Brothers Big Sisters, Foster Youth in Action, Friends of the Children (Seattle).
Help in the legislative arena: Foster Parents Assn. of Washington State supports and advocates for foster families. Their website links to all the key organizations that affect foster parenting and gives a clear picture of some of the main issues for foster parents. The Mockingbird Society works to provide opportunities for kids in the foster system and to improve outcomes for them and the parents.