We’ve heard from a lot of you that in the midst of adjusting to the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, you also really want to help other families in your community – especially foster and adoptive families. There are all sorts of ways to volunteer your time and resources to help foster and adoptive families in your neighborhood. It’s no secret that children – who thrive on routine and predictability – have been especially impacted by the recent stay-at-home orders and changes to daily life. Youth with trauma histories are experiencing the impact of the prolonged disruptions to school schedules, extracurricular activities, and social activities even more acutely, because they’ve had lives full of loss and unpredictability already.
If you don’t know of any foster and adoptive families, there are still plenty of opportunities to help your immediate and extended neighbors. We polled our colleagues, did some research, and came up with some ideas, many of which are specific to certain communities in Indiana. A lot of these things can be done at home – which can be a nice way for your whole family to participate in helping someone else’s family! This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you are aware of other resources in your area, please share those with us.
If you’re a whiz at tech support, Middle Way House in Bloomington may be a great place to utilize that skill. You can volunteer for this on-call support to assist their staff as they continue to work remotely.
Boys & Girls Clubs are often “safe havens” for foster or at-risk children and youth. The Clubs offer camps, athletics, after-school activities, and programs that help youth recognize their potential as responsible, caring citizens. The Boys & Girls Club in Bloomington is delivering food and art/craft kits to families in their Ferguson Crestmont and Lincoln Street Clubs. You can get more information and view the list of items needed here.
In the Evansville area, families or individuals looking to volunteer can search for a project at Need A Neighbor’s website.
Many children and youth rely on the meal programs at their schools for at least two of their meals each day. With schools closed, food insecurity becomes even more of an issue for at-risk children. To help mitigate this need, Feed Evansville has many opportunities for volunteers, from preparing meals to handing out “Grab & Go” lunches to grocery delivery.
The YMCA in Fort Wayne is working to address food insecurity during this time by providing “Grab & Go” meals. They are in need of food donations, which can be dropped off at one of 5 YMCA locations.
If you’re an attorney and have time to donate your expertise, Indiana Legal Services would like to talk with you! Simply call 260-424-9155 and leave a message.
The city of Fort Wayne has compiled a list of volunteer opportunities.
Indianapolis and Marion County
The Little Timmy Project has been hosting diaper drives around Indianapolis every weekend, to provide families in need with diapers and wipes. It’s easy to help by purchasing items off their Amazon Wishlist, contributing monetarily, or even donating your own unopened packs of diapers. (You can send them a message through Facebook and they’ll schedule a pick-up time!)
Coburn Place offers transitional housing and other services to survivors of intimate partner or domestic violence. Putting together activity kits for families at Coburn Place can be a fun and low-cost way for your family to pass the time while also providing some enjoyment for someone else’s family. You can also make handmade “Welcome Home” cards to be given to families on move-in day.
Food insecurity is a real issue in Indiana, even without a pandemic forcing many food pantries to close. The number of families served by Gleaners Food Bank’s Community Cupboard has doubled. Last week alone, Gleaners served over 5,000 families at their warehouse distributions. Gleaners relies on volunteers for much of their community work, but to minimize risk to the public right now, the Indiana National Guard is being utilized to pack meal boxes. After May 8, though, Gleaners anticipates needing community volunteers again. You can sign up for a shift on their VolunteerHub site.
In Marion and Madison counties, Hands of Hope has been instrumental in implementing CarePortal, which connects child welfare workers with churches and individuals who are looking to help vulnerable children. Although CarePortal was launched prior to this public health crisis, it has become an even more important resource now.
Indy.gov has a growing list of resources for families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – and it is regularly updated as agencies, faith communities, and other organizations pitch in to help those impacted.
Girl Scouts of Northwest Indiana, an organization that, among other things, supports girls in low-income communities, is in need of volunteers to be virtual troop leaders during this time of social distancing. Are you willing to create a short video tutorial on a talent, skill, or expertise you have – like dance, photography, public speaking, cooking? That’s another way you can support the Girl Scouts in Northwest Indiana.
The Salvation Army in Munster/Hammond is actively seeking volunteers to help with their food pantry, where operating hours have increased to meet the need exacerbated by COVID-19. Many of their volunteers are older, and thus high-risk, so Salvation Army is in need of other volunteers who can take the shifts previously covered by those who need to remain home and safe.
REAL Services runs over 20 programs in 12 counties to help seniors, low-income families, and disabled individuals. They are still accepting new volunteers, and opportunities range from handyman work to clerical assistance to housekeeping.
The city of South Bend has a list of organizations that are in need of volunteers as well.
Statewide and/or Virtual
Host a virtual storytime. Pick some of your favorite books, contact families you know or promote your storytime on Facebook. Repeat as often as you want.
Volunteer to be a reader for Horizons Reads. You can do this from the comfort of your own home. Visit their website for more information on the Horizons Reads program, and to volunteer.
If you’re a fan of snail mail, there’s never been a better time to sit down and write some letters or have your kids make some drawings. Maybe you know of a foster child who could use a pen pal, or of an adopted kid who just needs a virtual (or hand-drawn) high-five. Many senior living centers would welcome these letters and works of art for their residents.
If snail mail isn’t your thing, but you love to chat on the phone, volunteer to be a phone buddy! You can go to Call to Connect’s website to volunteer as a phone pal or to sign-up to receive a call.
Foster Success, a nonprofit dedicated to helping youth who are transitioning out of foster care, has compiled a list of everything from energy assistance programs to storage and housing assistance. And the Indiana Foster Care website has all sorts of great content for families
The Indiana Foster Care and Kids’ Voice of Indiana websites both have great collections of activities, educational ideas, and other tips. You may be able to get some ideas for other ways to help foster families virtually. Or, just go to Covaid – a new platform to connect volunteers with people who need help – to register as a volunteer.
If you have the means, consider sharing groceries or cleaning supplies with a foster family. Often, the families who provide homes for children in foster care do so at their own expense, and as changes in employment and child care loom on the horizon, that extra bag of groceries may go further than you realize.
If you’re not a parent, offer to run some errands for a family in need. That can free up time for a busy mom or dad to focus on helping their unsettled kids calm down. They can text you their list of errands; you can drop off whatever you need on their porch – no human contact required, but lots of human support received.
Maybe you have an old laptop or iPad that a kid in your school district could borrow. Yeah, you might not get it back in the same condition, but if you weren’t using it anyway…. If you have the ability, consider contributing to efforts like those organized by One Simple Wish or Together We Rise, to provide devices, housing, and other resources to youth who may fall through the cracks otherwise.