Foster care is a puzzle with a lot of pieces: children, their families, their foster families, and the professionals who work with them. For all of them, it’s stressful. A nonprofit staffed mostly by volunteers offers support services that include “Journey Home,” a neutral, welcoming space for Ottawa County families to visit with their kids who are in foster care. Michigan Fosters’ leaders dream of replicating the program in counties across Michigan.
Q: What needs does Michigan Fosters address?
A: Foster care is messy. Everyone involved experiences secondary trauma – social workers, supervisors, counselors, attorneys, but especially foster parents and their families. Yet the system is set up in a way that sometimes compounds that hurt. No network of support exists for the professionals and families that wrap around these kids.
Q: How does Michigan Fosters respond?
A: Our mission is to forge a community of support. We respond to foster families quickly, providing them with supplies and support they require when taking on a new foster placement (or when disaster strikes, as it often does).
In our first year, we provided a welcoming and neutral space for 168 hours of parenting time, along with numerous meal and craft kits for families in care to create together. We delivered freezer meals, date night boxes and Christmas Magic packages to support and sustain foster families, and in cooperation with Hope Pkgs and Kids Belong we dropped off bundles of household supplies, backpacks, clothing and bicycles to foster families receiving new placements.
Through collaboration with local businesses and organizations, we are on track this year to more than double our reach throughout Ottawa County. We work to ensure that everyone impacted by the foster system is aware of and has access to the organizations that are here to support them. By helping to hold up and cheer on foster families, we see less placement disruption and greater foster family retention – both of which ultimately benefit children in care.
Q: Tell us more about “Journey Home.”
A: Journey Home is a physical house at the corner of 8th and Hope in Holland. It used to be the Holland Heights Church parsonage; the church donated it to Michigan Fosters. Before it existed, foster children and their parents met for family visits at agency offices or similar public places. Now, families spend time together in a cozy home without the distractions that accompany other settings. They can snuggle on a couch, read a book, make a birthday cake — even celebrate a holiday. This house provides a path toward home again, one that becomes more tangible each time they visit.
Q: How can volunteers support your work?
A: There are lots of ways to support the foster community without ever taking in a foster child. One of the simplest is through monetary donations to help sustain and grow our programs. Another is to give your time or talent. You could host a Mitten Meal workshop with friends to create multiple freezer meals together in one quick evening. You could become a member of our Tidy Team and help keep Journey Home clean for the families who visit. You could deliver meals or bundles of supplies to foster families in need, or help tackle big and small projects on one of our volunteer days at Journey Home — especially if you’re handy. Older houses always have their projects!
Urban St. magazine is distributed to residents and visitors of the lakeshore communities of Holland, Zeeland, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Saugatuck, Douglas, Fennville, Muskegon, Nunica, Port Sheldon and West Olive at numerous pick-up locations including attractions, retailers, restaurants, hotels and salons/spas.