What are some ways college students can support foster kids and families?

What do you see when you look into the eyes of a child? Do you see happiness, dreams, imagination? What if you looked into their eyes and saw pain, fear and hopelessness? 

In Los Angeles County alone there are over 30,000 children in foster care. These are children who do not have a place they can truly call “home,” or a group of people they can call “family.” Many people’s hearts break when they hear this. How can we as college students let foster kids know that we are here for them? Perhaps our route to helping children begins with helping the parents.  

As college students, we might not think that the world of foster care is something we can minister at this point in our lives, but that is not the case. Within our university’s theology department alone there are at least five faculty members that are foster parents. So, what can we do to help? Not only do the children need our love and support, but so do the parents who are caring for them.

Paul Shrier, a foster parent and professor at Azusa Pacific University (APU), explained what it means to be a foster parent. Shrier noted that first and foremost, “Being a foster parent requires all of your effort.” There are some instances when foster parents are assigned a child, or children, with little to no notice ahead of time, and that is when support is needed the most. 

From the first day the children are placed into a home, there is always something that needs to be done. Shrier emphasizes the need for immense flexibility on the foster parent’s end. While following everyone else’s schedule, foster parents might lose themselves. 

According to Dr. John N. DeGarmo from Foster Focus, “The turnover rate of foster parents ranges from 30 percent to 50 percent. Thus, 30 percent to 50 percent of foster parents make the decision to no longer be a foster parent home for children in need.” 

With a rate this high, what can we do to help? Having a positive impact on the lives of a child in foster care starts by asking the foster parent that exact question.

Angela Davis, a foster parent since 2014, penned the article, “17 Practical Ways You Can Support Foster Parents,” which lays out easy ways one can help support a foster family, and the children as well. 

Transitioning into a new home is hard for both the parents and the foster children, but we can act as a helping hand during that time. Davis highlights how sometimes during the first few weeks, a foster home can be absolute chaos. 

“The very last thing these parents want to think about it is how in the world are they going to feed everyone,” Davis wrote. 

Simply bringing food, gift cards, or take-out is easy but extremely helpful for families. Shrier said that he and his wife “had tons of help from APU students,” from coming and hanging out with the kids, to planning birthday parties, to helping wash laundry. Day to day help might seem like minimal support, but for the children and families, it’s monumental. 

You could help run errands, become a mentor to a child or take some time to teach them new skills. All of these things present you with the opportunity to be a true friend to the kids and real help to the parents. 

College students can also go through background checks and get fingerprinted, making them a legitimate aid, with no permanent obligations. If you and a group of friends were to all get background checks, you could provide respite care or emergency care when foster parents are in a pinch. Finding ways to help can be a phone call away. 

Just think, one of those 30,000 children in foster care could be right down the street from your university or workplace. Their foster parents could be a coworker or teaching your next class, and all you need to do is ask, “What can I do to help?” 

As college students, we have a lot on our plate, but we still find the time to do our laundry, hang out with friends and go on adventures. What if we used some of that time to go over and mow their lawn, wash their dishes or spend time building relationships with the children and their families? It could be one of our greatest adventures.

For more information regarding how to get a background check, visit Background Checks for Prospective Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Caregivers.