May is National Foster Care Month, and this year’s theme is Foster Care as a Support for Families, Not a Substitute for Parents. The month is marked by awareness campaigns and recognition of the important role and dedication of foster parents.
While in-person celebrations may not be possible this year, it’s still important to recognize the incredible foster parents in your community. Here are some tips to help you and your agency celebrate National Foster Care Month from a distance.
1. Focus on your social media campaign. Especially now, more people are using social media to find ways to stay connected and get involved with causes that are important to them. Using social media to promote National Foster Care Month is a great way to raise awareness, share stories and resources, and get more people thinking about the needs of foster parents and youth in your community. Visit the National Foster Care Month website for more tips on spreading the word via social media.
2. Hold a virtual celebration. National Foster Care Month is often a time when agencies hold galas or award ceremonies for their foster parents. This year, hold a virtual celebration using an online meeting platform such as Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, or Zoom. You could have a fun theme like “foster parents are superheroes,” and encourage everyone to wear superhero shirts and capes. Part of your celebration could also serve as a support group for foster parents. Learn more in this AdoptUSKids article about facilitating virtual support groups.
3. Match volunteers with foster families to help support them throughout the month. Volunteers can drop off groceries, supplies, or gifts for foster families. Ask foster parents what kind of support from volunteers would be most helpful.
4. Ask foster parents how they want to be supported and empowered as you celebrate them. Foster parents are creative and innovative. They may have some great ideas on how to celebrate National Foster Care Month at a distance, and they know best what support they need. Listening to foster parents about their needs and ideas is always important.
5. With permission, share stories of successful partnerships between birth and foster families. Hearing real stories about how foster parents support birth parents helps people understand the critical role foster parents play in reunification. .
6. Coordinate thank you letters, cards, or videos to be sent to foster parents. Have agency staff and community volunteers write or record thank you messages for foster parents. You could also share thank you videos on social media throughout the month.
7. Connect with local foster parent associations or other parent-led community groups to share resources and a unified message. Do you know what your local foster parent association or other community groups are planning for National Foster Care Month? Partnering with your local parent-led organizations can help to ensure that your community is hearing unified messages about foster parents, birth parents, and children. You can also share resources and help each other spread the word about your virtual events or campaigns.
8. Replace your awareness walk with an awareness caravan. Make signs and decorate your cars for a National Foster Care Month caravan. Drive through neighborhoods to raise awareness and have some fun while social distancing. Your caravan could also drop off supplies or meals for foster families on the way!
9. Share resources, information, and tools that encourage supportive relationships between birth parents and foster parents. Share reputable resources that help people understand that children fare better when their birth parents, foster parents, and child welfare professionals work together towards shared goals. Offer tips and creative ideas for how foster parents, birth parents, and children can stay connected even if they can’t do in-person visits. There are many great resources on the National Foster Care Month website.
10. Share ways to get (and stay!) involved. Many people are looking for ways to help their communities during this uncertain time. Share the needs of foster parents and youth with your community and ways people can help meet those needs. Some examples may include organizing food or toy drives, donating school supplies or technology to help with distance learning, or donating therapeutic supplies. Make sure you’re also sharing information about how people can stay involved when social distancing is behind us, such as by mentoring youth, becoming a respite care provider, or by becoming a foster or adoptive parent themselves.
However you plan to celebrate this May, be sure to align your messages to reflect the importance of partnership between birth parents and foster parents.