Who is Foster Kent Kids?
Foster Kent Kids is comprised of staff from WMPC, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and staff from each of the five private foster care agencies in Kent County: Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Charities West Michigan, D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s, Samaritas, and Wellspring Lutheran Services. You can learn more about each agency, and how you can support them, or how to become a foster parent through the agency by clicking the logos below.
Join us for National Foster Care Awareness Month, as we host a 3-part lunch and learn virtual workshop series. All events are free and open to the public.
Brittney Sherell rose from being labeled a ward of the state to become an author and founder of a non-profit supporting youth in foster care. Her book “A Suitcase and a Dream” chronicles her life experiences, including overcoming childhood abuse and growing up in the foster care system.
During her one-hour workshop, Brittney will share lessons from her experiences as a former foster youth and current advocate.
Ebonie Byndon-Fields serves as Director of Care Coordination and Innovation for WMPC. She has over 18 years of experience in child welfare, the judiciary, mental health and teaching in higher education.
Her workshop will discuss the value of recruiting men and women of color for foster care placement and the benefit it has on children of color.
Rachael Aday is a foster parent recruitment and licensing specialist in Kent County. She has worked in the field for three-and-a-half years. During her time working in child welfare, she has developed a passion in providing support and advocacy to relative and community foster homes.
She will interview foster parents Josh and Lena Sparks to share their experience.
Join us for an engaging discussion on the need to create more foster homes for teens. Panelists will include foster care youth, adoptive parents, and school administration. Through their discussion they will share the lessons, challenges and rewards of their foster experiences.
#BeMyPerson for youth in foster care:
Become a Foster Parent
Become a foster parent! We need caring homes for all children who have been removed from their families due to abuse or neglect. Foster parents are crucial supports to children who are in crisis, and they can instill hope and a sense of belonging. Our greatest need is foster parents who will care for teenagers, sibling groups, and medically fragile youth.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, we can refer you to one of our partner agencies who will assist you with training and licensing each step of the way! Some of the steps are:
- Attend a three-hour orientation that provides an overview of agency policies and licensing rules
- Fill out an application
- Participate in home visits and interviews
- Complete criminal background checks
- Fulfill foster parent pre-licensing training
- Become licensed – licensing takes four to six months to complete!
Children in foster care range in age from newborns to teenagers and often are in sibling groups. They may remain with you for a short time or for a long duration as their parents work on the issues that brought their children into foster care.
WMPC provides foster care through our five partner agencies: Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Charities West Michigan, D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s, Samaritas, and Wellspring Lutheran Services. You can sign up to become a foster parent with our partner agencies directly. Visit their website by clicking their logos from above.
If you have a heart for children in care, but foster parenting isn’t possible for you, you can fight for the rights and well-being of the 400,000+ in the U.S. foster care system simply by raising awareness of the state of the foster care system.
First learn about where the system falls short. Talk to foster parents, read the stories of former foster children, listen when you hear about foster care on the news, and reach out to your local agencies. Then, use your voice to educate others about what you’ve learned. The children who suffer because of our collective negligence are voiceless. They need us to speak for them.
Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a volunteer who is authorized by the court to speak on the behalf of a child in foster care. A CASA spends time with the child, gets to know him, and speaks with everyone in the child’s life, including foster parents, birth parents, relatives, teachers, social workers, attorneys, and medical professionals. They then take what they have learned to the judge and make recommendations in the best interests of the child.
CASAs can be a source of stability and hope in the life of child and many volunteers find the experience to be rewarding. Find out more at https://casakentco.org/.
Become a Mentor
The opportunities to volunteer with kids in foster care are endless. You could become a mentor by taking a vested interest in the life of a child in care that you know personally or you could sign up through local programs to volunteer or become a mentor here in Kent County:
Become a Respite Caregiver
A Respite Parent provides periodic weekend or short-term care to foster youth being served full time by another foster family. Do you know a foster family in your community that could use a break? Consider asking if they have a respite caregiver. Or contact any of the five foster care agencies for how to become this resource.
- Single or married, and at least 25 years old.
- Live in a home that passes health and fire safety inspections and has room available for at least one youth.
- Clear state, federal, child protective services and driving record background checks.
- Financially stable beyond a foster care stipend.
- Complete 27 hours of pre-service training, and 28 hours of annual in-service training thereafter.
Make a Donation
Most children in foster care arrive at their first placement with little to nothing in their possession. Child welfare agencies try to help by collecting the most needed items, such as clothing, suitcases, duffle bags, back-to-school supplies, and Christmas gifts. Whether you can give gently used items or a gift of cash, donations to a local agency are almost guaranteed to be put to good use immediately.
Consider donating to Foster Kent Kids. A coalition made up of all five private foster care agencies. Our goal is to recruit and retain foster parents in Kent County. Reach out at www.fosterkentkids.care today.
Support a Local Foster Family
Foster families need all the support they can get. Foster parenting is much more than loving on the kids (that’s the easy part). Often, it is the day-to-day hardships and complexities of working with a team of people within a government entity that is the biggest challenge.
Family visits, doctor appointments, school meetings, counseling, trainings, caseworker visits, emails, phone calls, reports, logs, and endless stacks of paperwork keep foster parents on their toes. A community supporting a foster family can lessen the burden. Offer to do a particular task that you could do weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly:
- Mow the foster family’s lawn!
- Make a freezer meal for a foster family!
- Fold laundry every Tuesday morning while the foster parent watches the Price is Right and drinks a Mocha Frappe!
- Read with a fourth-grade foster child for 20 minutes after school twice a week!
Committing to helping a foster family for even an hour a week can be the difference in a parent barely hanging on and finding the balance they need to be their best selves for their family.
For a list of 99 Ways to Support Foster Families in the community, check out our ArtPrize page.
Enhanced Foster Care
WMPC recently launched a new service, Enhanced Foster Care (EFC), designed to provide an intensive community-based approach by stabilizing current youth in foster care, diverting youth from being placed out of the community, and deliberately returning youth from residential care back to the community.