Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms or legs, has spread the Gospel message throughout the world, reaching a wide audience and leaving a lasting impact—and his visit to 2016 OneLife LA was no different.
He made a challenge to the prolife group gathered in Los Angeles State Historic park: “Help that foster child know that there is love,” he said. “It’s easy to stand here, but when will you do something?”
Archbishop José H. Gomez, the founder of OneLife LA, was in the park for Vujicic’s talk. He turned to colleague, Kathleen Domingo, the senior director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, and asked, “What are we doing for foster children?”
Domingo was new to her role, but she wanted to find out how the Archdiocese could better serve foster parents, which led to meetings with many different foster care agencies, county officials, and a partnership with FosterAll.
“For the past few years, there has not been a single Sunday where FosterAll wasn’t at least at one of our parishes in the Archdiocese,” Domingo says about the nonprofit that helps prospective foster parents through the hurdles of becoming certified.
“We are keeping them busy,” she adds about FosterAll. “They had to hire a lot of additional staff and a lot of additional Spanish-speaking staff to meet our population’s need.”
Vujicic’s challenge has sparked a movement in Los Angeles. The foster community in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is growing with an estimated 600 foster families in Catholic schools and parishes. (Some foster families take in as many as four children at a time.)
On Oct. 13, FosterAll and OneLife LA sponsored Catholics Love Foster, a daylong event that began with Mass and ended with a picnic in the park, complete with bouncy castles, great food, and a network of foster parents sharing their personal experience.
Domingo adds, “It was a gorgeous Southern California day. It was beautiful seeing kids who had been through a lot, running and playing and getting to know each other.”
Still, Domingo says that there are a lot of roadblocks to becoming a foster parent. But there’s help out there—and there are ways to help foster children even if you aren’t ready to become a foster parent.
Let’s take a look at some of these options:
Support System. Foster children are in our schools, churches, and communities. Remember to make them feel welcomed. Domingo tells a story about one five-year-old girl whose foster mom was nervous about her first day at Catholic school—but the day could not have gone better!
“They just wrapped around this girl and gave her so much love and attention,” Domingo says about the school teachers and parents. “She’s absolutely thriving—thriving academically—but also she made best friends the very first day.” Be the reason a foster child feels accepted in your community.
Financial Support. Consider making a monetary donation (even a small one!) to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society of Los Angeles. Domingo explains that many families looking to foster hit roadblocks because of a simple-to-remedy concern like needing an additional bed, installing fire alarms, or putting in a fire extinguisher.
These requirements cost money and often put a financial toll on an already stressful situation. For help, many prospective foster parents turn to Saint Vincent de Paul—who could be waiting for them with your financial donation.
Connect and Share. Know a foster parent that is struggling? Burnout is a far too common story for a lot of foster parents, Domingo says. Tell a foster parent about FosterAll, about events like Catholics Love Foster, and about organizations at your church or school that are geared towards helping foster parents thrive.
Sometimes, foster parents just need to know that they aren’t alone and that they can share their story with someone who understands. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is working to connect foster parents for this kind of support. Spread the word!
As we’ve already seen, sometimes awareness is where it all begins.