In Washington, thousands of children are without a home — some are even living in hotel rooms — because there aren’t enough foster families.
According to a recent report by Washington’s Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman (OFCO), there are 9,200 kids in the foster care system, 5,100 licensed foster care homes, and 4,200 relative placements.
With thousands of children in the foster care system, Seattle Angels has made it its mission to walk alongside these children and their caretakers.
Seattle Angels is a nonprofit that works to match community members with local foster families. With the majority of the board residing in Redmond, Kirkland, and Woodinville, the nonprofit works on the Eastside and in Seattle to offer families consistent support through intentional giving, relationship building and mentorship.
Seattle Angels acts like a matchmaker, according to Seattle Angels president Deb Christian. The organization works with the state’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) and other placement agencies to identify foster families in the community that could use wraparound support of community.
“We work within our community to recruit volunteers to provide that neighborly love and support,” Christian said. “We recruit in churches, businesses and neighborhood groups and then match them with families to foster this relationship. We train, equip, support, background check and foster the relations between two.”
Through its intentional giving, relationship building and mentorship, Seattle Angels has been able to support foster families on the Eastside. One program that has truly benefited families is the Love Box program.
The program provides foster parents with community and holistic support so that they can continue to do what they do. Volunteers are matched with a local foster family based on compatibility and scope of needs. When families are matched with committed volunteers, parents feel much more supported.
Heather Uhler of Woodinville is one of the many parents who has received support through the Love Box Program. She said a Love Box was gifted to her family recently. Uhler has enjoyed getting to know the “amazing family” that is supporting her family.
“I think it’s such a beautiful way to get to know more about foster care and the families in your community that are involved in it,” Uhler said about the program. “It’s also a very tangible and meaningful way to support those families. It has meant so much to our family to be supported in this way. We feel so seen and honored through it. It’s been humbling and encouraging to be able to receive all that the Love Box program provides”
Uhler and her family have been a foster family for a year and have fostered two boys who the Uhlers are in the process of adopting.
Uhler and her husband were houseparents in a home for at-risk high school boys for more than three years. During that time, the two had nearly 30 teenage boys come through their home. Similar to foster parenting, Uhler said those boys came into their lives for only a season and in most cases, the boys were reunited with their families in some capacity.
“Our hearts were really drawn to someday fostering teenagers, knowing that more often than not, a teenager who enters the foster system is much less likely to be adopted,” she said. “We wanted to be able to offer a forever family to kids who the odds were against ever finding someone to adopt them.”
According to Uhler, being a foster parents stretches a person far beyond what they think they can handle. She said as you work through things, you learn and grow.
“You get to experience a world view shift that changes how you see people and it changes your focus and the goals you have for your life,” she said. “Our foster boys have given me much more than I could ever give them. I am blessed to be able to be a part of their lives.”
Every foster family’s story is different and so are their needs. Seattle Angels makes sure that each Love Box is geared toward meeting those specific needs. A Love Box could include a specific brand of diapers or wipes, or a favorite cereal and milk, or even what type of detergent works best for a family. It could also look like a date night for the foster parents or simply hanging out with the family. A Love Box can also look like helping a family financially. It will look different depending on the volunteer group and the family.
“We really try to be intentional about supporting [families] and loving them. We want to show up for the entire family,” Christian said. “Volunteers love and bless them with what their family is used to. This is just a vessel to bring love to the family and build relationship.”
All Love Box volunteers and leaders require a background check, training and a signed confidentiality form.
“I love supporting such a well-run, beautiful organization doing the very hard work of supporting families and can say from personal experience that they are doing a great job,” Uhler said. “They have taken so much care in the way they are connecting with our family and have been so intentional with each step.”
To learn more or to sign up to be a Love Box volunteer for Seattle Angles, visit www.seattleangels.org.