An average of 34 children come in to foster care in Arizona every day (Child Welfare Report Oct 2015 to Mar 2016), and it’s not difficult to find the bad news about the situations that brought them in to foster care, or the badly overwhelmed system that is charged with caring for them. What is missing from the landscape is information about the good work of agencies and individuals who quietly and without fanfare, turn around the lives of children in foster care every day. From backpack drives to shoe giveaways, donations of gently used clothing to special events, active and engaged legal representation, to dedicated CASA’s and Foster Care Review board members, our community comes around children in foster care, every day, to improve their lives and change their futures.
Thursday is ‘check writing day’ at the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation, where we write and sign dozens of checks for children in foster care to participate in childhood activities like little league, music lessons, martial arts, gymnastics, swimming, tutoring and more. (www.affcf.org).
The board of the Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents is all volunteers and all foster and adoptive families. This hard working board develops and implements a schedule of events every year – summer stay-cation, parents’ night out, Christmas in July, family camp and more to show kids in foster care, and those who’ve been adopted, that there are other kids ‘like them’, and provide interaction and support to families who can sometimes feel isolated and confused. (www.azafap.org)
Every Saturday in October, November and half of December, hundreds of community volunteers come out to refurbish bikes to ‘like new’ condition to give to foster and adoptive families during the holidays in the Recycle Your Bicycle program. (recycleyourbicycleaz.com)
Every day, Arizona Helping Hands gives away beds and cribs and clothing and supplies to families, many of them kinship caregivers, who unexpectedly find themselves parenting again. (www.arizonahelpinghands.org)
Every day, great Guardian Ad Litems go the extra mile for their vulnerable clients, sticking up for them in court and checking in on their lives, to make sure they’re getting the support and resources they need.
Having a CASA can make all of the difference in the outcome of a child in foster care’s life, and every day CASA’s across the state go the extra mile to ensure that their ‘CASA kids’ are getting what they need. And, every day, foster care review boards, made up of 100% volunteers, ensure that judges are aware of what is going on in 100% of the foster care cases. (www.azcourts.gov/casa)
The good news about all of these every day organizations who are turning around the lives of children in foster care is that they need you to be successful. You don’t have to sit on the sidelines, overwhelmed by the sad stories of children who come in to foster care and stay too long. You can get involved. You can fix a bike or load a mattress or fill a backpack and send a child off to school with all new supplies. You can tell your friends about the foster care tax credit. You can be a CASA or join a foster care review board. Good things are going on in foster care every day. You just have to reach out and get involved.
Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation
Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents