More than any other season, fall feels like a time that celebrates all things community. As we catch up with friends to trade stories from the summer spent apart, we’re reminded of the important role friendships play in providing a sense of belonging. As we return to beloved sports and activities, we once again feel part of a greater whole. Back-to-school nights allow us to witness how teachers and school volunteers anchor our children to a network of support and caring.
As much as my children and I look forward to September’s promise of the return to school, friends, fall traditions, and community events, that joy is tempered by the knowledge that America’s 400,000+ foster children are seldom able to share in the season’s excitement. Foster children, on average, are moved three times into different foster care placements. Sadly, we’ve heard plenty of stories from former foster youth about living in six, ten, and even twelve different homes.
Each transfer usually requires a switch to a new neighborhood and a different school system. Foster children are not only separated from their immediate families, but, in one fell swoop, they are removed from their friendships, from their sports teams and school clubs, and from the supportive adults (teachers, neighbors, religious leaders) that tie them to their entire community. Bereft of the friendships that sustain them and the community members that nurture them, for foster children, September becomes just another month filled with uncertainty and instability.
Our work at Connect Our Kids doesn’t change with the seasons because foster children need our unwavering support throughout the entire year. Our Family Connections software tool helps social workers (family recruiters and CASA volunteers) identify and maintain the networks of extended family and community members of the foster children they serve. Which translates into less disruption, less uncertainty and fear in the lives of these vulnerable children.
Foster children desperately need and wholly deserve the stability of family, friends, and community. Through Connect Our Kids, child welfare professions finally have a fast and easy way to help foster children maintain access to the supportive relationships that reinforce a sense of belonging and identity, that allow for joy to be found in the changing of the seasons and heading back to school.
Every foster child needs a community of support. The process of piecing together that community is being given a revolutionary update next month when Connect Our Kids launches its pilot software program.
Happy September, friends. We can’t wait to show you what the future holds!
Helping children is a vibrant, happy yellow thread that runs through Katie’s life. She is mom to two super children, works as the Philanthropy Coordinator with Connect Our Kids, and is the Children’s Ministry Director at Idylwood Presbyterian Church. She is living in Falls Church, Virginia, in between posts abroad with her Foreign Service Officer husband.