Having a loving family that takes care of us, is something that can be easily taken for granted. According to Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) there were an estimated 437,465 children in foster care in 2016 in the United States. More than a quarter (32 percent) were in relative homes, and nearly half (45 percent) were in nonrelative foster family homes.
May is Foster Care Awareness month and Slumberkins is introducing their latest addition, a Sloth named Hartley. Hartley is an ultra-soft and cuddly friend that, when used as a transitional object, can provide an immense amount of comfort and a feeling of security – to help ease anxiety and transitions for little ones. Each Slumberkin includes an accompanying “Sleepytime Rhyme” board book story that helps to promote attachment between caregivers and children, while reinforcing a specific positive life skill.
“to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[a] Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[b] Father.” 7So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:5-7
The corresponding interactive Hartley Sleepytime Rhyme board book focuses on diversity within families and the importance of love – not blood – binding families together into a “Heart Family.” Themes of healthy family attachments, family transitions, self-esteem, and acceptance are woven throughout this thoughtful and heart-warming story. The pairing of Slumber Sloth and Sleepytime Rhyme is perfect of helping talk about diverse family structures. It also emphasizes that whether near or far, we carry our families in our hearts.
In addition to resources like Hartley, foster mentors and foster parents play an integral role to those in the foster care system. They are able to come alongside and help the child process what they are going through. In some cases, the child is reunited with their family or a family member and in other cases the child can be adopted by the foster parent.
Be a mentor. Whether you are a young adult or young at heart, there are thousands of children in the foster care system that need mentors. Check your church or local non-profits for groups that connect mentors with foster youth. Mentor programs often have suggested activities to do with the your mentee. Remember to prayerfully consider the commitment that you will need to make. Because so many people come and go from these children’s lives, it is important to have consistency. Many groups that work with foster youth require at least a one-year commitment and having a consistent day/time that you will meet weekly. Think of all the things that you enjoyed when you were their age going bowling, playing basketball, or just grabbing an ice cream cone. Don’t get discouraged if they try to push you away. Time and consistency will demonstrate to them that you care and eventually provide a platform for conversation and to show them how much you care.
Become a foster parent. While this is not for everyone, it is a great opportunity for some. Becoming a foster parent can be difficult as the goal of the foster system is reunification. Some foster children will be reunited with their families and some will get to be adopted by their foster family. Unfortunately, there is no way of predicting the outcome prior to becoming a foster parent. If you are considering becoming a foster parent, take time to pray. If you know other foster parents, ask them what their experience has been like. Some churches and organizations host events for people considering becoming a foster parent, which also can serve as a support system once you become a foster parent.
Support foster parents and families. Foster parents and families need just as much support as adoptive parents. Often they are taking in a child on short notice, so they will need clothing, toys, baby food and other items that are age-appropriate. Your small group or group of friends can do a “shower” or collect gently-used items for them. When a family takes in a foster child it can initially be overwhelming. Ask them how you can help their family. It might be bringing a meal over, helping with some household chores, tutoring the children in a subject they need help in or even babysitting so the parents can run errands. Ask them how you can pray for their family too and commit to praying for them.
We were given a Hartley Slumberkin for review, but all of our thoughts and ideas are our own.