Ten Things that Drive the Foster Village Mission

by Chrystal Smith

As this caring community looks for places to invest their time and resources, we know how essential it is to understand the ins and outs of our mission and vision at Foster Village.

We’d love for you to stop by our resource centers to get to know us and see our mission in action, and we also know that sometimes folks like to learn a bit more before connecting in person. So, we’ve put together a top ten of sorts that highlights some of the ways Foster Village stands out as a foster care bridge organization.

We hope you’ll catch a glimpse of our approach, our mission, and our heart for coming alongside children and families experiencing foster care.

1. Lived Experience

The majority of our staff and board of directors have lived experience. Over half have spent time as licensed foster parents, some are former foster youth, and all have some personal story of faith-fueled connection to our mission. We are committed to learning from and being led by folks who understand the ins and outs at a deep level and elevate these voices.

2. Community Led

Our mission is run by the community, for the community. We bring together compassionate neighbors, businesses, churches, and other partner organizations with the shared goal of sustaining those caring for children intersecting with the child welfare system. We do not rely on state funding for our services, allowing us to quickly and efficiently meet the needs that the system cannot. 

Our programs are designed to complement existing efforts that are not always accessible to everyone who needs help. There are many cracks in the overburdened child welfare system, and we believe the community is best positioned to bridge those gaps. Because of this, our volunteers and donors from far and wide can easily support local children and families directly and efficiently.

3. Whole-family Support

We support the whole family, from placement to permanency. This includes the foster family and birth family when appropriate. At Foster Village, we believe that those caring for children 24/7 are the ones best positioned to ensure vulnerable children have their needs met. And these caregivers need support as well. By wrapping around the entire family, we are eliminating the risk factors that come with isolation. Caregivers are sustained, and children have the connection and care they need from those closest to them.

4. Breaking Generational Cycles of Adversity

Our vision is to break generational cycles of adversity and see families restored. We have the audacious hope that someday foster care will no longer be needed. While foster care is currently a necessary and often beautiful example of caring for children, there is always trauma with family separation. Our programs aim to prevent the factors that lead to children being moved from home to home. And our services go all the way upstream to wrap around families working with CPS to prevent the need for children to enter state custody.

This year alone, we’ve had the opportunity to walk alongside 129 families working to reunify and/or stay together. 68 of those were single mothers working full-time, intensive outpatient programs to overcome substance abuse. These moms were able to avoid family separation thanks to your support. And their children did not have to experience the additional trauma that comes with entering the foster care system.

5. Home-like Resource Centers

Our home-like resource centers serve as a ‘home base’ of connection for those intersecting with child welfare as well as those wanting to help. Each resource center is stocked with tangible brand-new necessities for children entering foster care and available free of charge to those caring for them. We share with the kids and families that the community provides everything and that they are surrounded by a village of folks who want to ensure they have everything they need to make the foster care experience more dignified. 

Our resource centers also serve as a hub for support gatherings and access to professionals with expertise in trauma and therapeutic services. And each resource center has a Play Studio with wall-to-wall sensory-rich opportunities to play and connect with loved ones during family visitations. Our resource centers were the first of their kind, set up by child development professionals who have a deep understanding of everything that should be considered for a healing space designed for children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

6. Fast Response Time

Foster care can be a stressful waiting game for caregivers, all while navigating the urgency of meeting the immediate needs of children placed in their home. Our team of staff and volunteers know the importance of responding to requests quickly, especially since the families we serve welcome kiddos at a moment’s notice. And sadly, when children are removed from an unsafe situation, there is often no time to gather their belongings. We respond to and fill Welcome Pack requests for tangible items within 24-48 hours, which helps the emergency placement process feel a little less chaotic for caregivers and children.

By removing one stressor (the mad dash to gather essentials) caregivers can truly be present for children who are transitioning homes. Even with this value of a prompt response, we remain relational and start building connections with families right from the start.

7. Customized Welcome Packs

Foster Village Welcome Packs equip families with essentials that are hand-picked and customized for each child. We make sure clothing, bedding, toiletries, toys, and books fit each child’s unique needs and interests as we honor the inherent dignity and worth of each individual. Families who come to “shop” from our resource centers for their Welcome Packs receive a personalized experience as they connect with our staff and volunteers.

We also offer convenient doorstep delivery to families all across the Austin area who have requested the items they need to welcome children. An average Welcome Pack includes over $500 worth of essential care items for a child just placed in a new home.

8. Trauma Reduction

Each of our programs is created with Trauma Reduction in mind. When it comes to foster care, there is always trauma, and children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect (no matter what age) have heavy burdens and scars to process and carry for years to come. Unfortunately, in good faith efforts to prioritize physical safety, the foster care system often adds additional trauma for these children.

Many former foster youth cite their time spent in foster care as the most traumatic experience of their adverse childhood experiences. At Foster Village, we are committed to reducing trauma wherever and whenever possible. Our home-like resource centers reduce the trauma often felt in the sterile institutional setting of CPS offices and police stations. Our Therapeutic Support Services equip caregivers with tools and training on how to parent children coming from hard places. Our Project Soothe program provides sensory tools and guidance to help little bodies process big feelings. And our play-focused spaces, activities, and approach give kids the chance to be kids as they learn and grow in the ways that best fit who they are.

Our staff, board of directors, and volunteers are trained in trauma-informed care, and every time we provide childcare at our events, we make sure that there is at least one trained adult for every two children.

9. Partnering with Parents

Partners in Permanency, our program dedicated to developing healthy partnerships between foster families and birth families, is the first of its kind. Our approach to partnership is relational, trauma-informed, and child-centered as we help families navigate boundaries, communication, and any tricky situations that come up with the kids they all love. We offer a monthly support gathering for foster families who are actively developing partnership tools, and we walk closely alongside families who are navigating reunification.

Our family grants help bridge gaps for reunifying families who often face barriers that can be overcome with community support. Housing, child care, transportation, and day-to-day relational support are essential pieces of the permanency puzzle, and our program is designed with the customization and connection needed for families to break generational cycles of adversity.

10. Continued Support after Adoption

Our programs are designed to support families even after adoption is finalized. Post-adoption support is generally difficult to come by, and we know how critical it is for families to stay connected to relational support and trauma-informed resources as they work toward healing. Our Support Gatherings, one-on-one in-home therapeutic support, and programs are all available to adoptive families free of charge as we walk alongside them through the joys and challenges they’ll continue to navigate together.

We know that children who have experienced complex trauma need a lot of time and a lot of support to reach the point of healing. And we are committed to staying with them for the long haul.

Perhaps the most special gifts of Foster Village is in our name itself: we have an incredible village. The people who are part of this mission bring heart and hope to what happens every single day. This village invests time, talent, and treasure to ensure that children and families experiencing foster care don’t ever walk the road alone. And when a caring community beyond the system steps up to wrap around our vulnerable neighbors, we can bridge so many gaps together.