May is National Foster Care Month. There are many children who need help - over half a million in the U.S. - but most people aren't sure what they can do to get involved. Tony Shellman, a former foster child, and Henrietta Jones, a foster mom, have some ideas on how you can help.
One common misconception is that foster children are strictly "problem children" who come from dysfunctional families. That's not so, says Shellman. "I think the problem is that everybody acts like people aren't disfunctional - period. If you take the foster piece off of it, at the end of the day... I don't know one person... that doesn't have some type of dysfunctionality in their family."
Another setback for people who want to get involved with a foster program is the time commitment. "[Reaching out] makes a huge difference," says Shellman. "Just a little bit of time can change a lifetime." If you're not ready to be a full foster parent, consider mentoring a child. Something as simple as a phone call can keep a child from setting foot on the wrong path in life.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, "Contact one of the agencies," says Jones. "Just give a little time. You don't have to give all your time... Once you get the kids in your home, see that they're treated like you would treat your children." Still today, Jones receives calls from her former foster children, wishing her a happy birthday or just saying "hi".
A little effort can go a long day. "Once you get going, you'll have the best time," says Shellman.
For more information on becoming a foster parent or to learn how you can get involved, click here.
By Erin Petrun