May is National Foster Care month. This month is set aside to recognize and appreciate all people who are part of the foster care system — foster families, child welfare advocates, mentors, and volunteers. These are all people who have dedicated their time and effort to help the more than 400,000 youth in the foster care system find permanent homes. They have opened their hearts to these children in need.

Since its inception in 1912, the Children’s Bureau has been working to keep children in their own homes whenever possible, and when it is impossible, providing a home life with foster families. In 1972, the Bureau sponsored National Action for Foster Children Week, in an effort to recruit more families to become foster families. In 1988, this week stretched into a month to raise awareness of the needs of children in the foster care system, educate the public on how the system works, and urge people to get involved.

So how can people get involved if they can’t commit to being a foster family? One way is to advocate for foster care awareness. Whether or not you know someone who has been involved with foster care, take time to learn about the system, and help spread awareness. is packed with information, and is the sponsor of National Foster Care month. They even have tools to help you spread awareness through social media and outreach programs.

Another way to get involved is through organizations that allow anyone to support a foster child, even if they are not able to be a foster parent. One Simple Wish is one of these organizations. Through its website, people can select a wish to fulfill for a foster child, or donate money. Wishes range from a specific toy, to a ticket to the zoo, to a computer for schoolwork. Similar organizations are Together We Rise, which provides duffel bags to children in foster care, and The Forgotten Initiative.

Volunteering your time with local agencies is another way to help. The opportunities are endless, from tutoring or reading with a child, to teaching them how to play a sport or instrument. The agencies also need volunteers to work events and fundraisers or chaperone outings with the kids.

If you know a foster family, ask them how you can help. No matter how small the help may seem, it will be greatly appreciated by a busy foster family. Pick up groceries, mow the lawn, do homework with their child, fold laundry. If anything, be a listening ear and a friendly smile.

Finally, if you are interested in becoming foster parents, there is a great need. AdoptUSKids is a project of the Children’s Bureau that provides information and resources to families exploring foster care adoption. Committing to being a foster family is committing to open your heart and home to a child who desperately needs it.

Thank you to all who work to support children in foster care! Share to raise awareness for National Foster Care Month.