“Foster care is where kids go when their parents don’t want them anymore.”
From the mouth of babes. A stunning realization washed over me as I stood in front of my classroom telling them I’d be out the next day volunteering with children in foster care. Foster Care. Two words. So much meaning and confusion. Children, who don’t know other children in foster care, don’t understand what it means. As an elementary school teacher and devoted volunteer helping children in foster care, I was devastated to learn that a child in my class had these misconceptions. He didn’t mean any harm, he didn’t mean anything, he simply didn’t know.
But that’s where we can change things. As the reigning Mrs. Arkansas International, I’ve made it my platform to educate my state about foster care adoption and I spend my free time working with children in foster care. I want to start the education process with children. If we can learn when we are young that children in foster care want what any child wants, love, a hug, someone to depend on, we can start eliminating the myths that these children are troublemakers or unlovable or worse, unadoptable.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption parallels my path with their initiatives to find forever families for children in foster care. The grants they provide to adoption agencies allow agencies to hire adoption recruiters who can take on smaller caseloads and they use a child-focused recruitment model. It means they get to know the child. Foster care adoption is not a solution to parentless children, or childless adults. It’s critical that we focus on the child’s needs.
Our opportunities to educate about foster care adoption are everywhere. At school, at the park, in a restaurant, or on the job, children who have never had a second thought about foster care, will interact with someone who is living in it. We need to open our hearts and minds to the stories of these children.
Here are just a few ways that your child can become more familiar with the foster care system:
- Learn – By talking with our kids and teens about the myths and facts of foster care and adoption, we can prevent bullying situations that all too often occur with children who have been adopted or are in the system. There are many information meetings that adults and children can attend to learn more. Check with your local department of children and family services office to see what is available in your area.
- Volunteer – If you have older children (teens) find a way that they would like to give back, whether it is tutoring a foster child, mentoring, or helping a local foster care/adoption event.
- Give – Help your child organize a clothing drive, bake sale, or car wash to raise funds for local nonprofit adoption organizations. I always tell my students that even though they are children, they are not to be underestimated. You can also contact the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption if you’d like to make a gift that can help find a child their forever home. Just click here.
No matter how young, or small, we can all do our part.
Until every child has a forever home.
Jessica Jackson is Mrs. Arkansas International and her platform is raising awareness about foster care adoption. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with her husband Brian. She just finished her first full year teaching elementary school and he just completed nursing school. The couple is focused on helping children in foster care find their forever homes and the connection runs deep. Jessica had a friend growing up who lived in the foster care system and from a young age was moved to help. While serving as Mrs. Arkansas International, Jessica plans to tour the state raising awareness and helping more families open their hearts to adoption.