Contributed by Becky Santoro
In the fall, Foster Village Charlotte opened up a one-of-a kind home-like resource center in the Oakhurst Neighborhood thanks to the generosity of individual donors and the seed money they won being a part of SEED20 through Social Ventures Partners. But why a resource center? What's so important about a physical location?
Well, imagine you are a child that has been taken out of the only home and family you’ve ever known. Even though you are already experiencing toxic stress, being placed somewhere new adds additional levels of trauma. You find yourself without a familiar face, in an unknown setting, without a single belonging.
Now imagine you are the foster parent. You pick up a phone call in the middle of a work day to learn that a child needs you to open your home. You must quickly evaluate your life and decide whether to accept the placement with limited information about the child and the trauma they’ve experienced. You’re asked to come get the child immediately, unsure of whether the child will be with you 2 hours, 2 days, or 2 years. Even with the limited information, you say yes and go to meet the child.
After that initial meeting, this newly formed family does one of two things:
1. They fill out a Welcome Pack request form and a FVC volunteer gathers a bag from the resource center that meets their tangible needs. They drop these necessities off within 12-24 hours, with a card that includes information about how to engage the Village in the days ahead.
2. They stop by the Resource Center and are greeted by FVC’s Program Coordinator. The child plays in the trauma-informed playroom and assists their new caregiver in choosing the items they want to go into their Welcome Pack. The foster family learns of additional trainings and events that will help them adjust to their new reality and engage further in the village of the foster community.
Over the next several months, this family comes back to the FVC Resource Center for trauma-informed trainings, foster family gatherings, family attachment and connection classes, and therapy-led support groups. The child is familiar with the people at the center and loves playing in the backyard. As foster parents engage in professional services and programming, they experience a safe space for their emotional needs to be met and connection with other foster families. And the ripple effect of stabilizing and equipping the foster family directly impacts the child.
Foster Village Charlotte creates connection with dignity for children and families experiencing foster care by meeting urgent needs, providing educational and emotional support, and advocating as a collective community voice for children.
But the story doesn't end there.
Imagine you are the child again and you have a birthday coming up. It's been almost a year since you've been living with your foster family and although you are bonding with them you are struggling with your longing to be with your parents. It's been almost a year since you've been in a home environment and you ache for being in "limbo." But then you learn your party is at the FVC Resource Center and the invitation includes both families. You play, show them around, and blow out the candles with so many adults that are here just for you.
That's the heart of Foster Village Charlotte. They are a village for all. And the beauty of the village is there's always room for more villagers to help strengthen foster homes across the city.
DID YOU KNOW: Foster Village is in the running to win $5K this month thanks to the Amy and Brian France Foundation who have partnered with SHARE Charlotte for this year’s Spotlight Series and YOU can help when you VOTE NOW! You can also check out the other organizations eligible to win this month’s prize, here!