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  • Writer's pictureFostering Christmas Team

5 Additional Ways To Help Foster Children

A thoughtful Christmas gift can transform a foster child’s holiday season, but they have many other needs throughout the year that often go unmet. If you’ve found joy and fulfillment in participating in Fostering Christmas’ work, you might be glad to know there are many ways to help foster children living in the Treasure Valley. Here are some of the best ways to deepen your involvement in foster kids’ lives beyond donating gifts or supplies.

Mentor a Foster Child

Foster youth are not dealt an easy hand in life, and research shows they are more likely to experience homelessness as an adult, be arrested or incarcerated, and suffer from mental health challenges, including depression and substance abuse disorders. But mentoring programs can help reduce the risk of these outcomes for all at-risk youth.

Teen and mentor talking on a park bench

Having a mentor can help foster children feel like they have an adult on their side and provides an outlet to express their emotions and problems. Mentors can also help kids learn essential life lessons they might have otherwise received from their parents. One of the easiest ways to become a mentor is through Big Brothers Big Sisters, which has many foster youth as participants. You can also connect with other mentoring opportunities by dialing 211.

Provide Transportation

Foster youth often have busy schedules. They frequently attend therapy or other doctors’ visits, check-ins with social services, and supervised visitation with their families of origin. Getting from one place to another is a hassle while missing appointments can have serious consequences.

Becoming a volunteer driver who can help foster youth get where they need to go is one of the simplest ways to give back. It could require a time commitment of only a few hours a week but make a big difference in a family’s life — and ensure a foster youth receives the services they need to thrive. Potential volunteers can call 211 to learn more!

Offer Respite Care

Parenting is hard work at the best of times, and everyone needs a break. The unique needs many foster children have can be particularly overwhelming, which is why many foster parents are grateful for respite care opportunities. Respite care can involve anything from caring for the children for a weekend to a few hours. The goal is to give foster children an alternative yet supportive environment and to provide foster parents a chance to recharge.

Idaho Youth Ranch is a local organization that provides short-term residential respite care to foster families and other families experiencing a crisis, and it has plenty of available volunteer opportunities. You can also provide respite care independently by befriending a family with foster children and offering to babysit, host a sleepover, or plan an outing.

Teen coffee shop employee carrying drinks

Provide Work Opportunities

All youth must learn how to participate in the adult working world, but foster kids often lack parental figures who are positive examples. Further, they often don’t have the connections many teens use to find their first jobs and acquire workplace skills. Worse, the stigma of being in foster care can prevent some employers from giving these youth a chance.

If you hire, own a business, or know someone who does, you could provide an invaluable resource to older foster youth. Early employment can help teens build a professional network, learn financial skills, and improve their self-esteem. A chance to do honest work for a fair day’s pay is an opportunity that keeps on giving.

Become a Foster Parent

Taking responsibility for a child is a big commitment, but becoming a foster parent may be more feasible than you realize. While it’s not for everyone, this is undoubtedly the best way to help local in-need foster kids. What youth in foster care need most of all is safe, caring, stable homes. If you can provide one, take some time to learn more about the process.

These are just some ways to make a difference in local foster children’s lives. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare urges people interested in volunteering their time to dial 211 to learn more about the available opportunities. The gift of your time may be the greatest gift of all.

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