Four Key Questions to Help You Help More Kids In Foster Care

I like to think of myself as a generally positive person but I must confess that the annual scavenger hunt for school supplies has always had a tendency to steal my joy. I use the phrase “scavenger hunt” loosely because the truth is that most things listed on a normal scavenger hunt list actually exist. I am convinced, however, that this is not always the case with school supplies. Do you ever wonder if teachers think of new products they wish existed and add them to the list with the hope that someone will see it and decide to create it? It might look something like this:

-2 boxes of #2 pencils (no problem)

-2 erasers (no problem)

-4 glue sticks (no problem)

-1 box of magic markers (no problem)

-1 wide-ruled spiral notebook with antibacterial cover and built-in pencil sharpener in robin-egg-blue

Your local Super Store is a living testimony to this reality. Aisles are filled with dazed and weary parents pushing shopping carts with a 2nd grader and a 4-year old hanging off either side. They find the shelf where the mandatory 2.3872-inch binders used to be and, with a sigh, quickly begin to brainstorm what other stores might be nearby that they can stop by on the way home.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that the hunt for school supplies always had a tendency to steal my joy. Notice that this was stated in the past tense. No longer am I afflicted in this way. You see, somewhere in a magic land far away a truly brilliant genius (who I really would love to thank personally) came up with the idea of pre-packaging all requested school supplies in one box and pre-selling them through the school’s PTA. Are they overpriced? Of course. Do I mind? Not one bit . . . “You’ve raised  the price this year to $27,000? No problem – I will go take out a second mortgage and be back shortly to pick them up. Thank you very much. Also, do you accept tips?”

I recently finished an excellent book entitled Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (Chip and Dan Heath). The quote from the book that I’ve been pondering repeatedly is this:

“What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity”

I became a lot less resistant to school supply shopping when someone (did I mention that they are a genius) took the steps to clarify the path.

You might be feeling resistance when it comes to your efforts to get people in your church and community involved in foster care. You wonder why people are not engaging as much as you would like. It really might be that people are resistant. OR it might be the path to action is not clear.

I was having this conversation with a friend and organizational leader, Bruce Kendrick of Embrace Texas this week and he described this reality well:

On the highway of foster care involvement there are a lot of people in the church driving along the access road looking over at the highway thinking “hey, that looks really great . . . but how do I get up there?”

It’s like we’ve created an enormous construction zone on the foster care highway and have blocked off all on-ramps with complexity and confusion.

The problem is that because we are already on the highway we don’t even realize that access has been blocked. We look over at the access road and think “what is wrong with everyone over on the access road – the real action is up here!”

So here are some questions you can ask yourself and your team to help you begin to remove the orange barrels from the on-ramps to foster care in your community:

  1. What is the one step you are offering that takes less than 15 minutes that every person in a church could do to make a difference in foster care (no matter how small that difference is)?
  1. For every program or initiative you offer, what is the very first small step and is that step abundantly clear on your website and in your presentations (i.e. Think big red button on every web page that says “Submit 1-minute Application for More Info”)?
  1. If someone asked you to describe the process for involvement in one of your initiatives in 3 tweets (140 character or less), what would that look like?
  1. What resources are in your church or organization’s foster care “supply kit”? What’s in it and how easy is it for people to find and acquire?

This post originally appeared in our Foster Roster e-newsletter which is delivered each Friday. We keep it short and sweet and fill it with practical articles, videos, blog posts and other tools for leaders like you working to help kids and families in foster care.  To sign up, go to