Making a Difference: All About the Kids

Groups and organizations fall into all kinds of categories — and many of them focus on helping children. If you want to make a difference in a child’s life, there are plenty of opportunities available.

For a permanent — or at least long-term — impact, you can look into adoption or foster parenting, both of which we’ve discussed previously. Another option is being a big brother or big sister. That means forming a relationship with a child in need of positive influences. To learn more about the Big Brother / Big Sister program, visit their website.

Short-term impacts can take on many forms: volunteering, donating, mentoring, coaching, and more. For volunteer opportunities, reach out to organizations in your community such as hospitals, schools, and libraries. You can read to kids; help them with their school work; deliver gifts, foods, etc. to sick kids; become a teacher’s aide; help organize programs, events, and fundraisers; babysit; and much more.

Mentoring and coaching take this one step farther. In addition to helping the children, you’re teaching them valuable skills that have a lasting effect, such as teamwork, self confidence, leadership, and more.

One important thing to remember when working with children is that these are just kids — meaning they’re still vulnerable and impressionable. Your actions can have a greater effect than they would with adults, simply because of this. Children will look to you for guidance and knowledge, and how you handle that can determine how those children view you, other adults, and the world.

Working with children requires patience and understanding, especially if you’re working with kids who have had to deal with traumatic events, such as illness, abuse, poverty, and homelessness. These events can have created emotional and physical scarring that can affect a child’s personality and actions. But while these scars can make it difficult to get through to a child, your guidance can have a much greater impact because of them.

If you want to help children, but lack the time or understanding to volunteer or mentor, you can also consider donating. The organizations that help kids need money to continue, and they often rely on donations to fund some or all of their projects. Find an organization whose mission you can support and give as freely as you can.

Making a Difference: Foster Parenting

Not everyone is cut out to be a parent. And even among those who are, many will go through a difficult time that makes them incapable of caring for their children. As such, there are a lot of kids out there in need of loving homes. Not all will be a permanent need — some will be temporary. If you think you’d like to open your heart and home to one or more of these children, you may want to look into foster parenting.

Requirements to qualify to be a foster parent vary from state to state. Contact your local Department of Children and Families to get more information. You’ll need to apply to be considered and go through a screening process to verify that you’re a responsible adult capable of caring for a child. If you would like to adopt a child through the foster care program, notify the department so they can pair you with children who are more likely to require adoption rather than temporary care.

Some locations offer a monetary stipend to help care for the children you’re responsible for, but don’t let that be the deciding factor. Though not permanent, foster parenting is very demanding and is not a task to be undertaken lightly. The children going through the system often have emotional scarring and will need patience and understanding as well as love. Be sure you’re capable of providing this before taking that step. Also, it can be emotionally trying to have to give the children back at the end of their designated time — especially if you question the parents’ ability to care for their children. It’s one more thing to consider before deciding to apply.

Foster can be very rewarding, and it’s a very personal way to make a difference in the lives of others. Children have unique needs, and having a caring role model and caregiver can truly have an impact. If you think you’re capable of being that caring role model and caregiver, then foster parenting may be for you.