Gifts You Can Give
Ways You Can Help Prepare Foster Youth for the Future and Beyond:
Gift Your Home
Spending the holidays without a family and with nowhere to go is a significant issue cited by young people who have transitioned out of foster care. Extending an invitation to holiday celebrations or birthdays can help a youth fend off the depression that usually sets in around these important times of year.
Gift Laundry Service
Many adults can look back at the times they returned home as a youth with bags loaded with dirty clothes to wash. The offer to use laundry facilities can be a great way to keep a regular connection with a youth and provide them with a way to maintain pride in their appearance, regardless of an unstable housing situation.
Gift an Emergency Place to Stay
30% of young persons will be homeless within one year of leaving foster care. The offer of an emergency couch to sleep on or a guest bedroom to stay in can reduce anxiety and keep young people safe during hardships.
Gift Food or an Occasional Meal
A friendly, family-style meal every Thursday evening or an invitation to Sunday brunch or a monthly lunch can provide a youth with a healthy alternative to the fast food that often composes a youth’s diet. It also provides a chance to connect and to role-model family life. An open invite to “raid the pantry” can be very comforting to young students or those on a limited budget and will help to ensure that the youth’s health isn’t jeopardized when funds are low.
Gift a College Care Package
Students regularly receive boxes of homemade cookies, a phone card or photos from their parents when away at college. A regular package to a foster youth who has transitioned from care reminds them of connections “back home” and allows them to ﬁt in with their peers.
Gift a Job
An employer or person in a position to hire can help by providing special consideration when hiring for a new position. A phone call to the youth inviting them to apply, help with a written application, coaching for a job interview are all ways to help. Supportive adults can offer a youth the chance to help with yard work, housecleaning, babysitting, etc. in order to earn extra money and to establish a work reference.
Gift Job Hunting Support
Finding a job can be a daunting task for anyone. Advice, help completing applications or creating a resumé, rehearsal of interview questions, transportation to interviews, preparation of appropriate clothing, discussion of workplace behavior and just plain cheering on can help a youth successfully land a job.
Gift Career Counseling
An adult working in the youth’s ﬁeld of interest can offer advice which could launch a youth’s career. Youth particularly beneﬁt from connections and introductions that lead to apprenticeships, job shadowing or other real-world experience. Supportive adults can help the transitioning youth make these contacts.
Gift Housing Guidance
Securing a ﬁrst apartment is a rite of passage to adulthood. But without guidance, ﬁnding housing can turn into an overwhelming experience. Youth leaving care often lack references or a co-signer which a supportive adult may be able to offer. Former foster youth may have opportunities for ﬁnancial assistance, but may need help locating it or applying for it. Also, supportive adults can utilize apartment hunting as an opportunity to discuss other daily living challenges, like roommates, utilities, selecting a neighborhood, transportation to job and needed services.
Gift Fun with You
Extending an invitation to a youth to go bike riding, bowling, shoot some hoops or to simply take a walk can promote health, relieve anxiety and provide a comfortable way to connect. Recreational activities like cooking, woodworking, painting or playing guitar can provide an outlet for youth and help to develop skills. Other activities include going to a movie, playing cards or chess or Monopoly, taking photographs, going shopping or taking a short trip.
Gift Your Time
Mentors have proven to be an effective inﬂuence on youth. Whether a formal or informal mentor to a youth in care, the supportive adult can be a role model, a coach and a friend.
Youth often need help with transportation and may have no one to turn to. A supportive adult can be a transportation resource, specifying the limits of the offer, i.e. for school, to ﬁnd employment, for medical appointments, to visit relatives, etc. You can often help the youth ﬁgure out how to use public transportation.
Gift Education Assistance
According to statistics, only 50% of foster youth will graduate from high school. These shocking statistics show that many youth in care struggle through school against terrible odds including multiple moves, learning disabilities, lack of parental support and missed time in class. A supportive adult can help by becoming a tutor or educational advocate, or by simply providing advice when needed. Youth planning to attend college can use help with college applications, fnding ﬁnancial aid, and visits to prospective college campuses.
Gift Marriage or Family Counseling
Youth coming out of foster care often lack the skill to cultivate and maintain lasting personal relationships. In many cases, role-modeled relationships for the youth have included biological parents with dysfunctional relationships and paid caretakers from group homes or facilities. Supportive adults can provide frank discussions about relationships, marriage, the role of a spouse and how to be a good parent when the time comes.
Gift Your Time
It can be scary attending a medical appointment all alone. A supportive adult can accompany a youth to a medical appointment or rehearse what questions to ask, interpret a doctor’s instructions, or provide advice about obtaining a second opinion.
Sometimes the life of a youth can be transient, moving from location to location before getting settled. The supportive adult can provide a safe place to store valuables and help ensure that the youth doesn’t lose track of valuables, including photo albums, family keepsakes and records.
Everyone does better with a personal cheering section. The supportive adult may be the only one to offer encouraging words to a youth.
Gift Talk Time
When a youth transitions out of care, there are often moments of insecurity, loneliness and anxiety. The supportive adult can provide a listening ear for a youth to vent, offer advice and wisdom, or be a sounding board for ideas. It may be wise to establish “calling hours” to avoid late night or early morning calls if that is a concern.
Gift Phone Use
Sometimes a phone is simply not an affordable luxury for a youth starting out on their own. A supportive adult could provide use of their phone as a message phone for the youth’s prospective employers or landlords. Use of the phone can be helpful to keep in touch with caseworkers, siblings, parents and former foster parents, or to access resources in the community.
Gift Computer Use
Access to a computer is a valuable tool for a youth for school work, employment or housing search, or contact with siblings and friends.
A youth may need assistance and/or advice in purchasing or preparing clothing for events like a job interview, weddings or special occasions, or graduation. Sometimes special opportunities need special gear, like a school ski trip, a costume party, etc. A supportive adult can assist with laundry, ironing, mending, shopping for new clothes, or occasionally purchasing a new item. Improving a youth’s personal appearance can boost self conﬁdence.
Gift Spiritual Support
Youth often develop the same spiritual beliefs as their parents. Youth coming from care may have lacked this spiritual guidance. A supportive adult can invite a youth to join them as they search for their own spiritual path. The adult can offer to explore religion with the youth and invite them to participate in church or other spiritual activities.
Gift Legal Counsel
A youth emerging from care who gets into legal trouble usually cannot afford legal advice. When youth have a tangle with the law, they often land in deeper trouble because of their lack of experience and resources in navigating the legal system. A supportive adult can assist by connecting youth to needed legal services. The supporter may also wish to provide preventative advice to the youth who may be headed for legal entanglement.
Gift a Cultural Experience
Supportive adults who share a cultural background with a youth may wish to engage them in cultural activities. Even if the cultural backgrounds are different, the youth can be motivated to participate in cultural events. Support can be given to examine cultural traditions and beliefs and encouragement given to take pride in their cultural identity.
Gift Moving Help
Moving is so much easier with the support of friends, from packing, to manpower, a truck to move, to help setting up the new apartment. The supportive adult can also invite the youth to scout through their garage or storage area for extra furniture or household items that might be useful.
Gift Cooking Lessons
Many times youth coming out of care have not had the opportunity to practice cooking on their own. Meal preparation is often a natural way to engage in meaningful conversation and build a relationship. The supportive adult may decide to take a youth grocery shopping, or help stock the youthʼs ﬁrst kitchen with a starter supply of utensils, spices, cleaning supplies and food.
Simply knowing that someone will be aware that you are missing, hurt or in trouble is important. A supportive adult can instigate regular check-ins with a youth transitioning out of care, easing feelings of anxiety and building conﬁdence that someone is concerned about their safety.
Gift Money Management
Sorting through bills and balancing a checkbook can be a particularly daunting task for a youth with a learning disability, deﬁcient math skills or lack of experience. Understanding how to maintain and obtain credit, deciphering loan applications and budgeting are some of the items where a supportive adult can lend help.
Gift Addiction Help
A high percentage of youth in care have parents who had drug or alcohol dependency problems. Working with young people transitioning out of care to avoid these dangerous pitfalls and offering support if a problem should develop could help break a familial cycle of addiction.
Gift Mental Help Support
Some youth in care suffer from mental health challenges. Depression, attention-deﬁcit disorder, eating disorders and other illness may afflict the youth. It is suggested that the supportive adult educate themself about any mental health disorders that are at issue.
Gift Help with a Disability
Many youth in care have learning disabilities which may make complicated reading assignments more difﬁcult. The supportive adult can make arrangements for a youth to collect materials for review on a weekly basis or to give a call on an as-needed basis.
Gift Car and Home Repair Skills
Youth may need help keeping an automobile in good repair. Teaching a youth about the care of their car can help them build self-conﬁdence and skills that can last a lifetime. Helping a youth ﬁx up their apartment or a rented home, or asking for their assistance in projects around your home, can teach new skills which may be put to use throughout life.
Gift Housekeeping Skills
Some youth, particularly those who have lived in a residential facility or restrictive environment, may not have had real-life experience in keeping a home clean. The supportive adult can discuss cleaning supplies to use for particular household chores, how to avoid disease and organization of clutter once a youth has transitioned to their own home.
Gift Home Decorating
Helping a youth decorate their home can be a fun and rewarding way to contribute to the youth’s sense of pride and self esteem.
Gift Help Voting
Youth in our society often form their ﬁrst political impressions based on their parents’ political beliefs. Youth in care often do not receive this role modeling. A supportive adult may wish to discuss current local, state and national issues, help a youth register to vote or take a youth to the polling location to vote.
Gift Help with Community Service
Volunteering to help others or for a worthy cause is an excellent way to build self-esteem. Supporters can offer to engage a youth in their own good work or embark on a new volunteer effort together.
Gift Community Resources
Navigating through the maze of government agencies and myriad of social service programs is difﬁcult at best even for a resourceful adult. The supportive adult can help the youth make a list of useful resources in the community and offer to visit them together.
Gift Safety and Personal Security
The youth transitioning from care needs to take charge of their own personal safety. The supportive adult can encourage them to take a self-defense class, get CPR certiﬁed, and get current on health and safety issues. The adult can take a tour of the youth’s apartment and make suggestions regarding home safety, can help develop an evacuation plan, and make plans with the youth on what to do in an emergency situation. The supportive adult can offer to be called when something goes wrong, and offer to be listed as “person to contact in an emergency” on business forms.
Sharde from Indiana, FosterClub All-Star
“Permanency is important because if you spend your entire life moving around it doesn’t give you a chance to get close to anyone, and you don’t learn how to build those essential relationships you will need later in life. Moving around also influences you to run away from your problems.”
If the youth is a parent, babysitting services can be the relief that is needed to keep a young family intact. In addition to providing a time-out, the offer to watch a child while the young parent gets other chores around the house accomplished (laundry, cleaning, etc.), provides an excellent opportunity to role-model good parenting skills.
Gift Emergency Cash
Most of us have experienced a cash shortage at one time or another as a youth. Youth coming from care usually lack this important “safety net”. The supportive adult may wish to discuss upfront their comfort level in supplying ﬁnancial assistance. They would discuss what constitutes an emergency (not enough to cover rent? a medical emergency? cash for a date? gas money?).
Many applications, including those for college, housing and jobs, require a list of references be provided by the applicant. If the supportive adult is able to give a positive reference for a youth, they should make sure a youth has their current contact information so that the supporter can be included on their list of references.
Sometimes youth have a difﬁcult time speaking up for themselves in court, at school, with government systems, etc. Supportive adults can help a youth organize their thoughts, speak on their behalf, or assist in writing letters.
Often youth in care have difﬁculty forming new friendships and relationships when they leave care. A supportive adult can extend regular invitations to the youth to attend social and community gatherings as an opportunity to form new friendships and make connections with people. Good opportunities to make new friends include family weddings, hiking trips, garden clubs, community service projects and volunteer opportunities, dances, sporting events, debate groups, community college classes, etc.
Even for many older youth, including those over the age of 18, adoption remains a dream. An adult who is able to offer this ultimate permanent connection for a youth may make an initial offer to adopt through a Permanency Pact. Often youth may have fears about adoption, interpreting adoption to mean loss of contact with biological parents or siblings (this should be taken into consideration when discussing this option). Youth who once declined to be adopted often change their minds, so an adult may want to renew the offer from time to time.
JJ from Michigan, FosterClub All-Star
“Permanency is a feeling that is different for everyone, it is not bound by time nor can it be measured. It has to be discovered and often times it has to be tested, and rejected more than once before permanency can be established. ermanency is so hard to understand because it is a conceptual idea of an emotion and is received on both ends very differently for every person. There is no straight ‘by the book’ definition of permanency because the emotions I feel cannot be felt by anyone else, and that’s the great thing about it.”