The Incredible Responsibility of Caring for Children in Foster Care
There is an incredible responsibility for caring for children in foster care. Foster Love - Together We Rise is joining forces with one of their favorite foster care organizations this May for Foster Care Awareness Month. The goal is to help educate the community and advocate on behalf of the 430,000 children currently living in care.
One way to gain insight into foster care is through the people who’ve committed their lives to help children. One of these folks is Dan Shufelt the President and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands.
Meet Dan Shufelt
Dan Shufelt is a long time advocate for children in care. He began working with Arizona Helping Hands as a member of their board of directors in 2000. After serving on the board in different leadership roles he moved into his role as President and CEO in 2014.
The Partnership Between Foster Love - Together We Rise and Arizona Helping Hands
Arizona Helping Hands is the largest provider of basic needs for children in foster care within Arizona. With over 14,000 children in care, Arizona Helping Hands provides beds, cribs, clothing, diapers, personal care items, back to school supplies, footlockers, and birthday packages. Foster Love - Together We Rise and Arizona Helping Hands have worked together to distribute Sweet Case duffle bags and bicycles to foster youth.
Arizona Helping Hands likes to integrate these items as part of their Birthday Dream program. The Birthday Dream program provides personalized birthday packages to children in foster care ages 1 through their aging out of care.
Doing Better for the Community
When speaking with Dan we discussed why he chooses to work with the foster community. Dan mentioned how in 2013 Arizona’s foster care system was in crisis. Arizona Helping Hands became the support services to foster families and children in the community.
“Since that point, we have met families who open their hearts and homes to children in need, and to the relatives who step up to help grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and others. No child ever asks to be abused or neglected, nor to have their lives disrupted – sometimes on multiple occasions. As a community, we can do better and it is our responsibility to bring hope and joy into the lives of boys and girls in foster care.”
Filling the Basic Needs for Foster Families
Arizona Helping Hands’ primary goal is to provide a safe place for children in care to sleep. This seems very simple but prior to their transition into this space, many foster families were not ready to support new fosters. Dan shares,
“Frequently when foster placements were made boys and girls were left to fight over spots on the sofa at Grandma’s house or unusual sleeping arrangements. We have changed this dynamic, and now children can sleep safely and comfortably in their own “big boy/big girl” bed, or infants can sleep safely in a crib. We provided 2,582 twin beds and 978 cribs to children in foster care in 2019 alone.”
Inspiration Through Good Works
It has now been a decade working with Arizona Helping Hands, and Dan credits the people and children as his inspiration. He says,
“Having met many phenomenal foster parents, I have had the privilege to befriend them and the children who they step up to love and care for. I’m fueled by the kids. Knowing that our work will give a child a greater sense of worth, a bit of joy and a feeling of safety makes me want to keep going and doing all we can to help.”
The Heroes of Foster Care
When thinking about the foster care system, it can seem dark and sad. It is a difficult time of uncertainty for children and their biological parents. But as Dan points out in our conversation, we can meet real-life heroes. Foster parents.
Every day they are opening their hearts and homes to children. Dan shares, “They open themselves up to incredible vulnerabilities to help children in need of that one caring adult. They cannot be sure of whether a child will be with them for a day – or for a lifetime. They face incredible responsibilities and burdens, all with the hope of bringing a ray of sunshine to children who don’t experience enough happiness.”
How to Help Kids in Care
The foster care community always needs help and it doesn’t mean you have to become a foster parent. Though, they are always needed and welcome.
Dan says, “Everyone can do something to help kids in foster care. As a “stuff” provider, it is so easy to support our work by picking up an extra package of diapers or wipes at the store or buying a gift card for a teen through our birthday program. Organizations like Arizona Helping Hands are dependent upon the generosity of our community to continue to do the important work.”
This is great to keep in mind. Being active in the foster care community doesn’t take a lot. It just requires some mindfulness and connectivity.
But-Maybe You Want to Start Fostering
If you have been considering getting your license to foster, congratulations. Neither Foster Love - Together We Rise or Arizona Helping Hands manages foster cases but here is some great advice from Dan.
“Foster parenting is not an easy task, nor for the faint of heart. It requires fortitude, perseverance, and commitment beyond words. There are agencies here to assist along the way. Seek out support and assistance from those who care.”
In conclusion, Foster Love - Together We Rise is beyond thankful to have a friend in Dan and Arizona Helping Hands. Children in care need passionate, hard-working people, who care about their community. Arizona children are lucky to have Dan on their side.
If you are in Arizona and would like to connect with Arizona Helping Hands, please contact them here. For those nationwide, Foster Love - Together We Rise is always ready for you to join the mission. Check out more information on helping kids in care here.