I have been the most creative I have ever been as a Mom during the last few months. I credit COVID-19, not my desire to be the best Mom ever. We have hit every core subject and extra-curricular activity we can think of, although none of it we have mastered, especially the math. I’m still trying to figure out how they teach first graders to count because we are still using the finger system over here. We have even jumped to a Home Economics class—-cooking, cleaning, laundry, and baking. It’s never too early to learn right?

Baking by far has been the favorite of my kids. I’m no Cake Boss, but I have learned over the years that there is an art to baking, which is why I don’t do it very often. However, in order to keep myself sane, I have added it to the list of things to keep the kiddos entertained. A couple of weeks ago, we made a blueberry pie for the first time with homemade crust and everything. I felt very proud of myself….oh, and the kids. The measurements were just right…they had to be. If you’ve baked at all, you know if ONE ingredient is measured wrong, it can throw off the whole entire recipe. Which is the worst when you are salivating over what you think is going to be delicious. No matter what you are baking, it takes the right combination of ingredients to make the perfect recipe. 

Foster care is a massive system with so many facets, that it takes more than one department to run effectively. That is why in Central Texas, collaboration is key to supporting children and families involved in the child welfare system. There is not one agency that does it on their own or without the support of another nonprofit or program. Foster Community has the benefit of working in partnership with multiple child placing agencies, the Department of Family and Protective Services, and numerous nonprofit organizations that work to serve children and families. When we all come together, the system works better. Families have endless resources, gaps in services are addressed, diversity and equity are considered, funding increases and there are more families for children in care.

Some people may have thought that COVID-19 would separate us, but it has had the opposite effect. The silver lining with COVID-19 is that it has brought about an even more collaborative spirit among all of our programs—The Rainbow Room from Partnerships for Children has worked jointly with Carrying Hope and Foster Angels to supply families with basic needs. We have provided backpacks with supplies, electronics, and arts and crafts to keep kids busy. Foster Community is also working to host more virtual information sessions for prospective foster and adoptive families in conjunction with the Department of Family and Prospective Services and Child Placing Agencies. In addition to that, the Adoption Collaborative of Central Texas moved forward with the first Virtual Match Party. We had 20+ families in attendance hoping to potentially provide a child with a forever family. It was an incredible experience coming together with adoption caseworkers, CPA program directors, case managers, and families.  It took all of us to make it work. No matter what service arm we are from, we are all a major ingredient in creating the perfect pie.

Our goal is to keep children and families connected. The more connected we are, the more connected they remain, no matter what distance is between a parent and child. Positive permanency is more likely to happen when we use all of our strengths as organizations to create unity, hope, self-efficacy and restored families. 

Back in November, a great friend of Foster Community, Kim McPherson from St. David’s Foundation, came and spoke at the Resource Forum to share with us her thoughts on collaboration. It is a constant reminder that combined efforts are key to continued support for the Child Welfare System to impact the lives of those it serves. Her words have really resonated over the last two months.

“It’s tempting in this work to try and do everything, but that’s not realistic. Look at your spheres of influence to determine where you can make a difference and where you can collaborate to fill the gaps.”

Foster Care Awareness Month is more than just letting people know about children in need of homes. It’s about the impact that service providers and families have within the foster care system when we are doing it together. Keep baking, find the right ingredients, and you will create a recipe that changes a life.