Volunteer Guideline

Thank you for your willingness to volunteer with children and/or teens in foster care. Whether you are assisting with a one-time event or engaging in ongoing interactions, your compassionate presence and involvement are powerful reminders of the capacity for every individual to make a difference.

Children in Foster Care

Facts and statistics on foster care in Los Angeles County are stark and sobering. According to the Alliance for Children’s Rights:

• 28,000 children are currently in foster care in Los Angeles County.
• Children who have experienced child abuse are 42% more likely to be abused and neglected again.
• Nearly half of youth in foster care have learning disabilities or delays.
• Half of youth who age out of foster care end up homeless or incarcerated.
• Nearly 2,000 young adults 18-21 are enrolled in extended foster care in Los Angeles County.
• Teen girls in foster care are 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant by age 19 than those who are not in foster care.
• Half of young men aging out of foster care have become fathers, as compared to 19% of their peers who are not in foster care.
• http://www.extraordinaryfamilies.org/about/the-children-and-youth-we-serve/
(There are great statistics about the ethnic make-up of children.)

Foster Children and Trauma

Children in foster care are particularly vulnerable to traumatization because of their exposure to a variety of adverse conditions, such as hardship, pain, abandonment, abuse, neglect, crisis, grief, loss, instability, unpredictability, and more.

Our Mission and Response

All Saints Church Foster Care Project (FCP) provides community education, public policy/advocacy and direct services for children and youth who have been removed from the care of their parents to the supervision of the state. FCP recruits and sustains volunteers who serve in public and private agencies or work on special projects designed to enhance the lives of foster, homeless, transitional, and incarcerated children and youth.

FCP believes that:

• "Foster children are our children"
• Every child is entitled to a safe and stable environment.
• Every child deserves to feel loved, valued, and cared for.

Volunteer Contributions

As a volunteer, you create a positive environment by providing a calm, attentive, reassuring presence.

How Can You Be Most Helpful and Effective?

Volunteering can be highly rewarding. It can also be emotionally demanding. Practice self-awareness and self-care. Remain alert to boundaries and personal triggers. Here are some points to ponder:

• Consider what attracted you to the volunteer experience.
• Tune in to your strengths as a volunteer.
• Evaluate any potential weaknesses.
• Be aware that interactions may reactivate issues from your own history, with the potential to stir a variety of feelings: such as sadness, anger, and protectiveness.
• Be vigilant in separating your own experiences from those of the child or youth in foster care.

Interacting with Children and Youth in Foster Care

• Bring compassion and an open mind.
• Understand the basic rules of your agency to maintain the safety of the child and yourself.
• Be calm, non-judgmental and caring. Avoid oversharing your own stories and experiences. Sometimes an encouraging “mmm hmm” or “uh-huh,” is the best response.
• Employ effective listening techniques:
• Concentrate and maintain attention.
• Pay attention to body language.
• Listen for main ideas and themes.
• Use empathy.
• Learn to tolerate silence.
• Children may be shy or standoffish at first, but usually relax as they realize you are a kind and reliable person. Don’t take rebuffs personally.
• Remain attentive to issues of personal space.
• Mentoring and tutoring provide wonderful opportunities to offer tangible assistance while building rapport.
• Please do not ask personal questions about their living arrangements or reasons for being in foster care.
• Do ask “ice breaker” questions, such as what they like best about school, what kinds of activities they’re interested in, and what they like to do with their friends.
• Please do not share your phone number or other personal information.
• Please do not offer a ride, give or lend money, or directly assist in other ways--even though you may very much want to help.

Thank you for your interest. If you wish to volunteer or would like further information, please contact: inbox@fostercareproject.org or click on the Volunteer button at the top of the page.