Helping Children in Care…Because They Matter
Helping children in care is important because, well, they matter. May is Foster Care Awareness Month. To help people gain insight on the foster care community Together We Rise interviewed Paige Procknow, National Angels, Chief Marketing Officer.
Paige began her career with National Angels in 2017. Through the organizations’ 20 chapters they serve children across the U.S. and have their headquarters in Austin.
A Great Partnership
Together We Rise and National Angels are longtime partners, distributing Sweet Case duffle bags and bikes to youth they serve. TWR also helps National Angels with immediate support by providing gift cards and thank staff during Social Worker Appreciation Month. Helping children in care is a community effort and National Angels works hard to meet the needs of the community.
Creating Healthy Relationships
The motives behind helping children in care vary from person to person. Paige talked about her connection with helping children and their need for healthy adult relationships.
“I personally choose to work with the foster care community because it is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. I did not grow up in foster care but did experience a lot of things that made me feel very ‘other’ as a child and know first-hand the value of having healthy adults step in and show that they see and care about you. That you matter.”
She shares how these healthy adults helped change the trajectory of her life. Inspiring her to do the same for other children.
“I feel that it is my responsibility as a human to use the small talents and resources that I have to leave the world around me just a little bit better than the way that I found it, and working in the foster care community gives me the opportunity, daily, to show up and serve however I am able to.”
One of the hardest lessons for those who work with children in care are the statistics. The children statistically are suffering in so many ways and once you learn this reality, what do you?
Paige shared how these truths motivate her to help more.
“One of the many factors that influence this is the fact that they simply do not have the same support system that a lot of us did in our teen and young adult years. I truly believe that if we, as a community, can wrap community and support around these children and young adults during this difficult time, they can (and will) rise above these odds.”
Identifying the Needs
When working with vulnerable populations the needs can vary. With the foster care community, there are three main audiences: children in care, foster families, and biological parents.
Because of these segments, the needs of each group are different. Paige identified the resounding isolation some foster families experience in their work.
“In terms of the needs that foster parents have, the most common answer I hear is support. Fostering can be a very isolating journey––friends and family may not understand just how emotionally and physically taxing it can be, with doctors appointments, visits, paperwork, and all of the responsibilities of normal parenting. It is a lot!”
“Most foster parents just need someone who will show up for them, be a listening ear, get respite certified so they can babysit for a few hours, and bring dinner over so they don’t have to worry about it for once. This is one of the main goals of our Love Box program––to provide this customized, holistic support to foster families by matching them with a volunteer who commits to JUST SHOWING UP in whatever way the family may need them to.”
Creating A Safe Environment for Children in Care
Children enter care for a myriad of reasons, with the end goal being reunification. Each child enters care because of an experience that is considered unsafe for them. Paige lamented about how children experience care.
“Not only have they experienced a traumatic event, but they have also been removed from their family of origin, and the familiarity and comfort of their home and life. Even if it was in their best interest, it is a very scary and difficult thing to experience. In addition, they may have been placed in another neighborhood or city, apart from any friends or teachers that may have provided a sense of safety and belonging. “
“While we cannot change what they have experienced, we can certainly do our best to create a new sense of safety and belonging by surrounding them with a community of people who are committed to being there for them. We have found that when youth are matched with a mentor or Love Box group through our programs, they not only gain a greater sense of belonging, but also self-confidence.”
A Lesson in Goodness
There are so many takeaways from working with the foster community. Paige credits her experience with National Angels as a reminder of the goodness in the world and people.
“Probably the greatest thing that I have learned is that there are a lot more good people in the world than there are bad. Watching (or scrolling through) the news, it can often feel like this isn’t true––but it absolutely is. I am so encouraged by the ordinary people who show up for children in care and each other in extraordinary ways. Whether that’s foster parents taking in emergency placements, or sibling sets, or families becoming forever families, or volunteers moving mountains for families in need, or mentors taking youth on college tours, and helping them navigate adulthood… It’s incredible the capacity that we have to show up for each other. It inspires me to look for more and more ways that I can show up for those around me.”
Get Involved With Helping Children
For those interested in helping children in care, Paige suggests getting involved.
“There are many ways, but speaking from my own lens and area of involvement, I would say get involved. Do life with a youth in foster care. Commit to showing up and being a consistent person who makes a difference in their life.
We have created the Love Box and Dare to Dream programs for everyday people, who may not be called to foster or adopt, but can commit to giving their time to a child or youth experiencing foster care. We have locations in 20 cities across the U.S.––you can find a chapter near you at www.nationalangels.org. If there is not a chapter near you, I would encourage you to contact a local child placement agency and see what the needs may be in the foster care community in your area. Get respite certified, offer to babysit, drop off a meal with a family… Do what you can!”
Get Advice from the Source
For those looking into fostering Paige suggests getting advice directly from the source.
“I would encourage you to reach out to one! Find someone from your church, workplace, or neighborhood who you could talk to, or contact a local placement agency. There are also tons of resources, groups, and chat rooms available for those who are interested in learning more!”
In conclusion, we would like to thank Paige and the National Angels team for doing good work nationwide. Helping children in care is a labor of love. If you are interested in learning more about their mission click HERE.
For those looking to support youth in foster care with the neighborhood. Check out how to get involved with Together We Rise HERE.