May is foster care awareness month and I want to take a moment to bring your attention to the overwhelming need for foster families and how YOU can help some of the most vulnerable children in Austin. As a foster and adoptive mom, this topic is near and dear to my heart!

Foster Homes are So Important

If a kiddo goes into foster care, it’s because they’ve experienced something really scary – neglect, abuse, loss, trauma, or something that threatened their safety. The child needs a safe, immediate, welcoming, place to go and an understanding adult who is willing to love them until the child can safely go home. It’s a high calling! In my experience it wasn’t easy, but so worth it to make a difference in a child’s life.

There is a Huge Need

Most foster parents decided to foster after becoming aware of the depth of need in their local community. I’m no exception! We had considered adopting internationally, but when my husband and I realized there were so many kids in our own community who needed a family, we decided to foster through the state of Texas. There are over 10,000 children in Texas waiting for foster and/or adoptive homes. When you understand the depth of the need, it’s really hard to ignore! We didn’t have any special experience or childcare accreditation – we were simply overcome by compassion for the kids in need of a place to call home. I knew I could offer a child a safe and loving space, for as long or as little as they needed me, and everything else would fall into place. If you have an extra bed in your home, please consider fostering a child!

How to Become a Foster Parent

It’s a process that takes a little time and lots of paperwork, but after about six months we were licensed and waiting for our first placement. The initial step is to find an agency and attend orientation. Then, you’ll undergo a background check, do lots of paperwork, get a home study, participate in foster parent training and have a home inspection. As the foster family, you’ll have a caseworker that leads you through the whole process! If you’re at all curious about fostering a child, take the first step and go to an orientation where you’ll get your questions answered. Click here to find an orientation near you:

It takes a Village

One of the things that humbled me as a foster parent was the sheer number of people who were involved in each foster child’s journey. If fostering is not possible for you right now, at least take a moment to acknowledge foster parents, extended and biological family members, CASA volunteers, mentors, policymakers, lawyers, caseworkers, and other members of the community who help youth in foster care find safe homes. Truly, it takes a village of dedicated individuals and they usually get very little recognition! If you know someone in the industry, take a moment to tell them their hard work is appreciated. If you know a foster mom, give her a big hug and tell her she’s changing the world!

Photo Credit :: Allison Turpen Photography

Mary J. Mearig
I love sunshine and have no idea what a day without coffee would be like. I’m married to my high school prom date. I met my husband Seth in our hometown Juneau, Alaska where we had our wedding 14 years ago. Seth has my name tattooed on his bicep and we go back to AK every summer. I’m a #boymom to three wild, funny, charming, energetic little men. I like to think of parenting as a great’s too soon to tell if it worked or not! While we wait for the results, I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be.


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