There are 14,000+ children in Arizona’s foster care system. So many little ones and young souls who are in need of a safe place to land, searching for their forever homes. It is not an easy task to say “Yes” to the Department of Child Safety when a child is in need of that one caring adult.
Foster parents face unique challenges. They are called upon to take in babies who have been born substance exposed, youngsters whose sense of “normal” is mom is cooking meth in the oven, teens who have seen it all and have a jaded view of family relationships. Children placed into foster homes could be with a family for a day, or for a lifetime. Why would anyone take such risk? Why open yourself up to such exposure?
Responses to those questions of why receive a variety of answers. Some say it is their faith that inspires them to care for the littlest among us. Others have told me that their personal experience in the foster care system has shown them the importance of being there for a child in need. Then there are the kinship providers, whose blood or fictive relationship to children crying out for love and safety draws them to say “yes” when called upon.
Kinship providers represent half of all families in the state’s foster care system. Most are grandparents who receive the call from the Department of Child Safety. At a moment’s notice, they are asked to say “yes” to become 24/7 parents to children who have been abused and neglected.
At Arizona Helping Hands we assist those who step up to help these boys and girls. We have provided beds, cribs, clothing, diapers, personal care packages, back to school supplies and more to 4,500 children already in 2019.
Recently I spoke with John who was observing his 2 and 4 year old great grandchildren enjoying a few minutes of happiness in our children’s play barn. He shared that he is a veteran subsisting on his military pension. Last week he was playing golf, this week he is changing diapers and putting these little ones to bed each night. He said “yes” out of love for those children after his granddaughter was incarcerated.
And Jorge, a young man who became a dad in an instant when his biological brother was born drug exposed. I saw the love in his eyes when he held this little beautiful bundle, but I also saw the weight on his shoulders. He and his girlfriend became instant parents to a baby that needs constant love and attention. I felt such admiration as these two young people shared that they want to become licensed foster parents to be there for others who desperately need a safe and loving home.
It is such a privilege to meet and interact with foster parents. At Arizona Helping Hands, our assistance goes beyond providing the “stuff” needed to assist along the journey. We also have an opportunity to interact, to support and to provide a hug. We know the role they play is not easy, but the work they take on for the littlest and most fragile is incredibly important.
I have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. I have been blessed with the love of a family, with friends and relatives who have played such important roles in my life. I have a job that I love at Arizona Helping Hands, and take great pride in the work we do to assist John, Jorge and dozens of amazing foster parents. I’m also grateful to all who donate to Arizona Helping Hands to support our work. It is only with your support that we can make a difference for foster parents.
More families are needed to step up and help children in need. Please consider if you have the heart and the courage to take on such an important role. And this Thanksgiving please join me in giving thanks to foster parents who say “YES.”
Dan Shufelt is the President & CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care. Learn more about the Organization at www.azhelpinghands.org and contact Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org