“You were born with the ability to change someone’s life — don’t ever waste it.”

A person can do many different things to help others, but very few match the impact a loving, caring foster family has on a child in need. About 60,000 children under the age of 18 are in foster care at any one time in California. Typically, these children are removed from their parents by child welfare agencies that have determined that the children can no longer live safely with their birth parents. For most of these children, the foster care experience is temporary and they are returned to their birth parents or other concerned relatives within a year or less.

The job of foster parents, also called “resource parents,” is to provide love and support at a critical time in the child’s life. The nurturing they offer can change a child’s life forever. The stories are countless — this is from a young woman named Sabrina:

Being a Foster Child taught me love. My biological mother was 15 years old when she had me, and I was her second child. Sadly, she suffered from mental illness and addiction, as did my biological father. When I entered my first foster home, I thought that the family’s love and kindness towards one another was unusual, because I was never exposed to such behavior. Foster care gave me a second chance, a chance to live the life that God intended for me. I was placed with several different foster families, and although each one of my foster homes was completely different from the one before, they all shared one thing in common. Love. Every new home that I walked into looked different. Each family had different values, interests, and traditions; however, they all were overflowing with and radiating love. They contributed to unstitching the lies that had been woven into my identity. They showed me that I am worth a home. They showed me that I am not abandoned. They taught me that I am valued. The foster families I’ve been in, the family I was adopted into, and the people I have encountered have made me realize that I was not a mistake.

In Marin County, we are lucky to have a nonprofit that helps children in crisis and the resource parents who care for them: The Marin Foster Care Association (MFCA). MFCA runs several programs that put it at the forefront of support and advocacy. One is the Opportunity Fund, which provides grants for foster children to access tutoring and enrichment activities in our resource-rich community — these activities are often the first steps toward a sense of normalcy for foster children. In 2018, the fund allowed 38 foster children to participate in a range of activities — piano lessons, horseback riding, English and math tutoring, driver’s training, gymnastics, hip-hop dance classes, martial arts, tennis and cheerleading teams, and many more.

MFCA also maintains a Community Resource Center that is filled with every item that a child needs to find comfort in a new home, from clothing to school supplies to toys, all generously donated by corporate donors and the rest of the Marin community.

MFCA offers one-on-one Coaching of teens and parents together and it sponsors Community Events that bond Marin’s foster parents and offer opportunities to just have fun and enjoy each other while celebrating their valuable work and the resiliency of the children they have welcomed into their homes.

If you’d like to support MFCA, visit Top Ten for the top ten things you can do. And, of course, you can offer the greatest gift of all — looking into being a foster parent yourself. You may be surprised at what you discover in the process.