My husband and I have been foster parents since 2007 and have welcomed more than 100 children into our home. Being a foster parent is my calling, but I know it’s not feasible for everyone. It wouldn’t, however, be possible to help these kids grow up to be healthy, successful contributing members of society without the support of our entire community.
May is National Foster Care Month, so we’d like to share a little about what the community’s support really means to local foster children.
There are close to 10,000 foster children in Washington state, and caring for them is so much more than putting a roof over their head or feeding them dinner. It means helping them heal from abuse and neglect and teaching them healthy boundaries and social skills that come naturally to children raised by appropriate adults. Most importantly, it means providing love and stability during an extremely stressful time in their lives.
That stability comes in many forms. We created a nonprofit in Pierce County called the Wishing Well Foundation out of our experience in having so many children arrive at our home with just the clothes on their back. Something as simple as being certain they have an outfit to wear to school the next day provides a level of comfort that I think so many of us can easily take for granted.
We often hear questions about why the monthly stipend we receive doesn’t cover things like clothes for school. The answer is two-fold. The need for clothes, shoes, pajamas or school supplies is immediate, but it can take weeks to receive a stipend. And while the stipend does help, it is nowhere near enough to cover everything a growing child needs. This is why your support is so important.
I am constantly moved by our amazing community. The slogan we’ve likely all heard on the radio rings loud and clear everyday: Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone can help a foster child. And there are so many ways to help.
One of the easiest ways to make an impact is through donations of items such as clothing. We accept contributions at our nonprofit and are lucky enough to have a large partner like Sleep Train’s Foster Kids program, which collects essential items at each store throughout the region.
I love so many facets of being a foster parent and running this nonprofit. But the best part is seeing the faces of children when they shop at our store for the things they need. It is so empowering for them to pick out their own clothes and shoes, especially during a time that can feel very out of control.
I’m often choked up as as they squeal with delight and ask “where do you get all of this stuff?” To which I reply, “It comes from the people in our community. They want you to know that you are loved and supported and that they care about you.”
We want what any parent would want for their kids – to see our foster kids grow up, be successful and feel loved. The ongoing support of our community, whether it’s by donating time, money, or essential items, makes this possible.
Erika Thompson is a foster parent and the founder of local nonprofit The Wishing Well. She is also the foster parent liaison for Pierce County. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, contact Erika or another liaison through www.fosteringtogether.org.