Today is the final #CauseItsSummer guest post and as such we’re doing a double header! Once a week this summer, The Causemopolitan has featured a guest post that will inspire you right up out of your seat to get involved and give back in a special series called Cause It’s Summer. Featured bloggers will be sharing their own reflections and stories, tips and resources, and perspective on philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and their own cause-filled life. This week welcome Stephanie Schneider, who works at X PRIZE by day and blogs at Paisley Petunia at night. Stephanie has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know and I’m honored for her to share her personal experience working with foster kids here on The Causemopolitan.
Imagine being a young child and suddenly taken from the only home that you have ever known and separated from every familiar face in your life? Frightening, no?!
The journey of a foster child is not an easy one.
And neither is that of the foster parent. But I cannot think of a better, more giving role. Foster parents open their own homes and hearts to provide a temporary, safe haven for children in crisis.
In 2004, I became acquainted with the foster care system at my first bona-fide real world job. Fresh out of college, I was bright eyed, naïve and hopeful. I landed at Southern California Foster Family & Adoption Agency in Los Angeles, CA. The agency is dedicated to helping abused and neglected children find secure, stable, nurturing homes to live in, until such time as they are reunited with their birth families, are adopted or become independent adults.
My first month on the job, I attended the foster parent orientation classes that are required to become a certified foster home. Requirements vary by state, but here are some of the qualifications to be a foster parent:
- You must be 25 years of age
- You need to have a safe, clean home with room for a child(ren) and their belongings
- No one in your home, or caring for the child, may have a criminal record
- You must be open to a team approach for the care of the placed children, cooperating fully with agency, county personnel and birth families
Over the next two years, I learned so much about the bureaucracy of the foster care system in America. My thoughts on how to improve this decaying, failing system are too long for this post. But along with these challenges, I witnessed the joy in reuniting a child with their parents or extended family (when it was the best thing for the child). I participated in keeping adoptable sibling sets together by matching them with new parents that were waiting patiently to have a family. The creation of new families through adoption is a beautiful thing. We watched as children that had been neglected or abused flourished from the nurturing care of a foster/adoptive parent. The news tends to only report on the horror stories in the foster care system. But I wish they would highlight more stories about the heroes of foster care – foster parents (and social workers) that are so giving of their love, patience and time.
Now, I know that becoming a foster parent is a life changing decision and many of you reading this might not be in a position to fit the requirements above at this time. However, your local foster family agency can always use your help:
- Organize a back to school drive: Collect backpacks, school supplies and books for all grades and bring them to your local agency. Foster kids often leave their homes with nothing but the clothes on their back. Anything new that they can call their own is an invaluable, thoughtful gift that makes a huge impact.
- Donate birthday cakes and organize birthday parties at your local agency: Birthdays sometimes get overlooked with the schedule of court dates and visitation. Remembering how special you felt on your birthday? Help recreate that for a child in need.
- Holiday Toy Drive: Each year I attend my old agency’s holiday party and sponsor a family. This year I will be reaching out to my friends and family to sponsor more children. Ask for a list of ages and gender of the children in their case load and organize a toy drive to make the holidays a little brighter while they are in the foster care system.
And if you are interested in learning about what it’s really like to foster, please check out this blog written by a young foster mom living in Brooklyn. She shares so brilliantly and honestly the joys and challenges of being a foster parent. I am inspired by her words and outlook on life, and her foster daughter is too cute for words.
If you are in the Southern California area and would like to get involved, please contact me below.
Stephanie is a passionate non-profiteer. She worked for two years as the Public Relations & Foster Parent Recruitment Director at Southern California Foster Family & Adoption Agency and remains an advocate for foster children. When she moved to her next position at Starlight Children’s Foundation, Stephanie had the fortuitous honor of meeting and working with Sloane, a kindred spirit in do-gooding. This month, Stephanie traveled to Washington, D.C. to announce the winners of the $10 Million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, an award for the first team to build a car that gets at least 100 MPGe in real world driving conditions and is a safe, affordable and desirable option for consumers looking for more efficient vehicle choices. This is the latest incentivized competition from the X PRIZE Foundation, an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Stephanie resides in sunny Venice Beach. You can follow her adventures in eating, volunteering and living at Paisley Petunia.