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May is National Foster Care Month across the United States, and it comes from the sorely lacking need to raise awareness for the many families affected by foster care. From disrupted families to foster families to the families of social workers, and of course the children themselves, this month is one that needs more attention.

In South Carolina, there were more than 3,700 children in foster care in 2015, and they averaged 18 months in care. In that time, these children are cared for by foster parents, people who put their own lives on hold to care for and love children. They may care for these children for a few days or even many years, and most of the time they only have a short time to prepare for children they don’t know to come into their care.

That’s where an outreach program like Fostering Faithfully comes in. Founded in Oconee County and serving the Upstate, Fostering Faithfully helps foster families get things like cribs, car seats, clothing, toiletries and more for the children who often come to them with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

This community also provides meals for families, picks up groceries, watches children while parents take others to doctor’s appointments and more.

Abby Crooks is the director of Fostering Faithfully, and together with her husband, Jonas, they have fostered more than 30 children in the past six years. They have adopted two little girls to add to the two sons they already had.

“Our goal in creating Fostering Faithfully this past year is to provide a nurturing foster community for Oconee and Pickens county foster children, and the parents called to love them,” she said.

Foster families are almost invisible to the community, according to Crooks, and she hopes this organization will help bring them to light. Fostering Faithfully has partnered with area churches to purchase things like shoes for the area’s foster children. They also have a “bank” with most needed items for when a family gets an emergency placement.

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Crooks noted that of the 76,000 people in Oconee County, there are only about 50 foster homes. She said the county is short by 100 homes and there is a great need to keep these children in their schools and near their siblings without sending them to other counties across the state.

Not everyone is called to be a foster parent, and that’s okay. But almost everyone is equipped to help foster families. Crooks said the biggest need for foster parents is a break.

“Asking foster families if their kids can come play for a few hours or for a day would be a huge blessing,” she said. And no background check would be required — if the parents trust you, a few hours is fine.

Making meals for families is also a small way to make a grand gesture. Many times, foster parents have to shuffle children from appointment to appointment, on top of their other children and their jobs, so things like nutritious meals often fall by the wayside. Bringing food or offering to help grocery shop is a great way to help a family.

Crooks said monetary gifts are also helpful. Foster families usually pay out of pocket for things like car seats, clothing and more. They also use a lot of gas taking children to doctor’s appointments, to meet with social workers, and so on. A gift card or check can go a long way to relieving some of the stress that comes with parenting children in foster care, she added.

For more information, visit the Fostering Faithfully website at www.fosteringfaithfully.org, or the Guardian ad Litem website at http://gal.sc.gov.

Foster parents are regular people, just like you. And they need support and encouragement just like you. But maybe, just maybe, they have a little bit of superhero in them, too.

More:11 events you shouldn’t miss in May

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