At Hands of Hope, we know it takes a village to support children in foster care, and these kids experience unique challenges at school. Here’s a woman who tackles these challenges every day at work and home. Ashley Hutchison is a mom, foster parent, and middle-school teacher. Her fostering journey began in 2017 when she was asked to act as a temporary placement for a child she knew. Since then she has cared for six kiddos.
Being a foster parent has made her more empathic and understanding as a parent, a person, and an educator. Ashley says, “When you see the traumas these kids face up close, it changes you. You don’t know until you know.” When asked what she wants others to know about foster care, Ashley said, “You have something to offer to a child in care. Everybody does.”
Here are some ways that Ashley says we can help children in care succeed at school this fall.
1. Food insecurity is a common concern. Knowing food is available helps children in care focus on school instead of food. Drop off a load of snacks to help a teacher provide a free snack drawer.
2. When children are removed from their homes, they often change schools and lack supplies for their new classroom. Get the supply list for a local classroom. Buy a backpack, fill it with the listed supplies, and leave it with a school counselor to give to a student who needs it.
3. A new back-to-school outfit can greatly boost the confidence of a child in care. Give them a Target gift card or, better yet, offer to take them clothes shopping.
4. Children in care deserve to pursue their interests, but extracurricular activities can be costly. You can provide a school with funding for children who can’t afford the fees.
5. Between visitations, therapies, and court, time is scarce for foster parents. Fill their freezer with easy dinners. Take care of mundane chores by mowing their lawn or cleaning their house.
6. Can you take family photos? Bake beautiful birthday cakes? Teach a kid how to swim or skateboard? Offer up your unique skills and talents.
7. There is dignity in having your own possessions, and children often enter care with whatever belongings fill a trash bag. Help make a house feel like home for a foster child you know by gifting a roller suitcase, a bed set in their favorite colors, or artwork with their name on it.
8. Forge a friendship with a foster family and be part of their village. With a simple background check, you can babysit for them, or you can even get certified to provide overnight respite care.
9. There are over 15,000 children in care in Indiana, and 427,000 in the United States. Although not every family can foster, the need is great, and God may be calling you to be a foster parent yourself.
10. Need more ideas? Check out our Care Portal, join a Care Community, or start a Family Advocacy Ministry.