When a friend has a baby, you know how you can support them. We celebrate, shower them with gifts, drop off meals, check in emotionally, entertain siblings, and offer help.
But, if your friend welcomed a foster child into their home, would you know how to support them? The Seattle Angels Love Box program is one way to help new foster families adjust to taking in a new child.
What is the program
The Love Box program provides fostering families (caregivers, children in foster care, and biological/adopted children) with community and holistic support. A year-long commitment, volunteers visit (monthly) and offer support on a consistent basis. Volunteers do everything from supporting childcare, helping families with meals, and transportation to appointments and extracurricular activities, and providing material needs like school supplies, groceries, clothing, toys, and books. They also provide mentorship to the foster child. Activities include playing games, sharing a meal, and being intentional about the time spent with the child. This helps build normalcy and makes transitions smoother for the entire family.
A new and complicated experience
Foster parenting can be an isolating experience for many reasons and the child welfare system is complicated. When you become a foster parent, you are not only learning about a new child (or children), but you’re also navigating a broken system. A system full of many players (judges, case workers, counselors, etc) and many appointments. It’s no wonder that 50% of newly licensed foster homes close their home to fostering within the first year.
My experience with National Angels Love Box
The National Angels Love Box program comes to the rescue in a complex situation. Their mission is to improve the stability of foster care placements by providing holistic support to foster families. The ever-growing program has 21 chapters; the Seattle chapter was founded in 2019 by a former foster parent, Deb Christian.
When my family became Love Box volunteers nine months ago, I knew we were committing to a monthly care package and meet-ups for a year, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. After being matched with a foster family, I quickly learned that the Love Box program is so much more than providing a curated package to meet some tangible needs.
Supporting our foster families, more than a box
The program model is uniquely personal, intentional, relational, and holistic in its approach to supporting foster families. Over shared meals, play dates, and special outings in lieu of a physical “Love Box”, we have become friends with our foster family. We have had the privilege of witnessing them welcome their first foster child and “walk them home” to their biological family. They now have another foster child and we are all learning how to best support them with the different dynamics that each child brings.
Co-executive Director, Marianne Wong, calls the connections made between neighbors and community members some of the “special sauce” that the Love Box program cultivates. Whether it’s friendship or someone that you know that you can count on, it’s a relationship that wouldn’t have happened organically.
A foster parent’s experience with Love Box
Local foster parent and Love Box program member, M, waited a while to be matched with a Love Box volunteer. But she received a thoughtful Love Box right away—a gesture that made her feel “seen” for the first time. One of M’s favorite parts of the Love Box program is that their volunteer rotates their time by taking their biological and foster children out for one-on-one time. The family gets some reprieve and all of “their cups” are filled at different times.
M says that fostering is the hardest thing they have ever done and while they chose it, her biological children didn’t. M appreciates that the Love Box program supports everyone in the foster family, including biological children, who are also affected by the change in family dynamics.
Kinship families need support too
While M chose to foster, many of the Love Box program foster families didn’t anticipate fostering. Kinship families, or relatives providing care, may not be as supported or as prepared to foster. Kinship families don’t receive the same financial support that licensed foster parents receive from the state. Seattle Angels also serve many single moms who choose to foster.
The dynamics and needs of the foster families in the Love Box program may differ, but as Seattle Chapter founder, Deb Christian, says, these foster families are, “—just families. They’re not the bad headlines…Most families are doing this because they have a heart for kids…Love Box families may be some foster family’s only friends.”
How to volunteer
The organization has an ambitious goal to support all foster families who want and need help. There are 28 families waiting for a match with Love Box volunteers.
If you are interested in making an impact in the lives of local foster families through mentoring and committing to a foster family for support fill out the volunteer form and wait to be placed with a family based on scope of need. If the Love Box Program feels like a big commitment, then join the Angel Alliance monthly donors program. Monthly donations help the program’s financial needs. In turn, it provides the materials that foster families need when opening their family to a child as they wait for placement with a volunteer.
Looking for a one-time giving opportunity? Angel Allies can contribute toward bigger one-time needs for a Love Box family. For example, providing a double stroller when a family suddenly needs one.
As a volunteer, I am thankful to be a part of this meaningful volunteer program. It’s an added bonus that my young children get to participate in filling the Love Boxes. They get to interact with the foster family too and that opens up their world to volunteering in a very direct way.