After witnessing a horrific car accident that involved two foster children, Michelle Brown knew she had to help other kids in foster care in a way that she couldn’t help those two girls in the accident. She gave CPR to one of them, but sadly neither survived. Afterward, she testified in court and spoke to various caseworkers and realized the kinds of help these children need. Thus, the Israeli native started the Foster Kids Charity—an organization with the mission to meet various needs of foster kids across Texas.
What kind of things do you provide for kids in foster care? I just wanted to do something a little bit more happy [for them]. Our mission is to provide the basic needs for foster children, but we do way beyond. We do parties for them, we do graduation, we have movie nights. It just makes me happy because I see them happy.
Also, I wanted to help in any way to promote adoption from foster care. Because a lot of my friends and family [and other] people that I know turn to adoption in China or adoption [from a] different country, and a lot of people do not adopt from U.S. foster care.
For those waiting for adoption in foster care, maybe if they spoke to the agency involved here with us and working with us then maybe there was still a chance. Those were the two goals in the beginning. And of course it took off a lot better and a lot longer than I thought. I mean, we’ve been here 10 years.
You mentioned movie nights and birthday parties. How does that work? We have several families in need, and when there’s a birthday for the foster children, we ask them to just send us an email to remind us. Then we bring in groups of volunteers and go to the foster child [in] their home to meet with them if possible [for the party].
For movie nights, we usually do promotional movie nights with different movie theaters. Sometimes we [also] get tickets to the Mavericks or FC Dallas—outings [where] they can go and have fun.
Tell me about the graduations. Every year in May, we host a graduation. This year it will be 48 teenagers. So, we’re honored if they actually graduate high school; it’s already an achievement.
We meet and we have one graduation in each one of our regions [Dallas, Tyler and Beaumont, which has the highest number of kids] and the CPS office.
Why the CPS office? They volunteer as the community events organizer. We have food for them, we have the table set, we invite the family. Usually, each one of us take turns to congratulate them, and we’d have a small party for them to give them a gift. It’s nothing too big, but it’s just to encourage them and to provide them with the basic stuff. A lot of them go to college but they don’t have supplies.
The hardest ones are the ones that are a ward of the state, because they don’t even have parents. They’re the hardest. It’s just so sad. I mean, we don’t know what’s going to happen after. We can only hope they’re not going to drop out of college. But we help them by giving them a gift card, [usually] for $400; it does help a lot. We look forward to those graduations.
How has the coronavirus pandemic changed the graduation plans? How has it impacted your operations? We are handing gifts out to case workers who will then take it to each child, and we will hold a Zoom remote graduation ceremony for them. But it has been very challenging. We’ve seen a 40% increase in child abuse cases, and so many foster families have lost jobs and need emergency food or funds, which we were only able to provide for partially.
We’ve also seen an increase in foster parents inquiring about surrendering their foster children to child protective services. That’s the most heartbreaking news you can hear from a foster parent.
That’s awful. How can the community help out? First, we are selling masks to benefit foster families in need of food and for all other emergency needs. You can even buy masks and have us send them to CPS workers in need, which there are plenty. [Also,] funding is obviously essential. Food donations too. And [when it’s safe], we need volunteers.
Sometimes it also helps to just share on Facebook and share on social media about the charity—even if they cannot help, maybe their friends and family can help. We’re 100% community-based.
Photo courtesy of Foster Kids Charity.