FROM THE HEART OF A FORMER FOSTER TEEN
By Jessica Cawthorn
May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. That might be something that you are already aware of or, like many, this may be the first that you are hearing about it. I personally do not need a month for national awareness to know how foster care can impact so many lives. I was in foster care for most of my childhood. I entered state foster care as a teenager and aged out at 18. Aged out means that I left foster care at 18 without having been adopted or having been reunified with my biological family.
When people look at me, they don’t automatically see a former foster youth. When I was in foster care, I did my best to hide the fact I was in foster care at all. I simply wanted to be seen as ‘normal’. I was ashamed for a long time of my past. Christ used the adults in my life to show me that my story isn’t one to be ashamed of and that there are people who will show up and be consistent healthy adults in your life. My story, like so many foster youth, is one of overcoming many obstacles in the face of adversity yet humbly laying my life down to Christ.
Foster care likely intersects with your life on a more recurring basis than you realize. Many people like to try and put a face to the statistics of what it should look like but the look and face of foster care is not so easily defined. You might ask why can’t we define it? The reason: foster care can affect anyone.
The teenage cashier that rings up your groceries, the clerk that you are getting snacks from at the movie theater, the cute little child skipping in the grocery store alongside the person who appears to be her mother, all these faces could be a foster child.
Just as the foster children in care can look many ways so can the adults who make a difference in foster care. The role you can play in the foster care world can and should look many ways. There are many roles, and ways to care for them. Get involved with your local non-profits, such as Empower7, who want to support these youth. Considered getting involved in CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates. Check out how you can mentor those youth who have aged out by working with Transitional Resource Action Center (TRAC) or agencies such as Unfaulted or Direction613. Other ways to get involved could be to volunteer your time, help foster families who are caring for foster youth – make their meals, and offer to help them clean their houses. You can also get licensed to do respite care. Look into helping babysit. Do you have a particular professional skill that others struggle to learn? Consider helping those youth who have aged out or who are currently in foster care learn from you.
While I may not need awareness of the many different aspects of foster care, my hope is that this month you learn something you previously did not know. My hope is that you find the avenue for how you can get involved in the foster care world. Foster care isn’t trendy. Foster care isn’t glamorous. It isn’t about saving a child or teen. That’s Jesus’s job. Our job is to show up sacrificially and say, “Use me how you see fit Lord” and let Him do the rest of the work. We can’t do it all, but we can all do something.
To learn more about how you can get involved in the foster care world, visit: