Helping the Helpless: NC Foster Care and How You Can Help

By Zach Maready

One of this world’s unfortunate truths is that family is not always guaranteed, and for over 13,000 children across North Carolina, a forever home is out of reach. The foster care system steps into these lives, working to make the best of broken situations. Social workers partner with families to create safe spaces for children whose guardians are unable to care for them effectively. Worryingly, the number of children placed into the foster care system increases while the number of families able to open their hearts and homes to these kids is falling. Ken Maxwell, a nonprofit professional working with foster families, knows firsthand why this issue is so critical. “The heart and soul of foster care are families,” said Ken. “And we’ve steadily seen fewer and fewer foster families in North Carolina.

The reason for the decline in foster families becomes evident when hearing the stories of those who have already made the commitment. Heather Still and her husband Scott, now the parents of two biological and three adopted children, were not aware when working to adopt a daughter that foster care would be an integral part of their lives. “We just wanted to adopt,” said Heather. “In order to adopt her, we had to go through foster care classes because she was in the foster system.”

As they began taking these courses, the couple was exposed to the great need for loving homes that existed in the foster care system. The couple felt that God was calling them to be a foster family, taking their selfish desires and turning them into joyful giving. “That’s when we decided to go ahead and pursue our foster care license and then leave the rest to God and whatever he had for us in that journey,” Heather said.

The family’s journey was not easy, however. The stipend the government provides for foster families is insufficient to provide food, clothing, and school supplies. Without sufficient outside support, it becomes extremely difficult to foster effectively. “Having been a foster family for almost 10 years, there is absolutely no way we could have done it without support,” shared Heather.

It is here where organizations such as Seven Homes step in. They fill the gap left by government assistance by providing effective psychological training, meals, and supplies to families who feel called to foster care but lack the financial or experiential means. Ken Maxwell, the founder and executive director of the organization, began Seven Homes to better equip foster parents with resources for their placements. “I just fell in love with working with kids that were in hard places, with the idea of helping these kids (and their families) get back together,” said Ken.

While the statewide success of Seven Homes is encouraging, not all foster care institutions are so well supported. Melody Chandler is a former foster parent and passionate advocate of fostering. She founded Lily’s Blessings Closet after fostering a little girl showed her the impact of foster children on the lives of foster families. The charity closet aimed to provide clothing, diapers, and toys for foster families whose placements did not arrive with these essentials. Beginning in her basement, Melody eventually amassed so many items that she needed to find a new location for the charity. “Approved through our church, we were able to rent a building out, move all the things over there, and people were able to come in and shop for free,” shared Melody.

As the project continued, however, Lily’s Blessings Closet ran into trouble. As Melody tried to transition the charity into an independent nonprofit, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic took their toll on her efforts. “We couldn’t pay the rent and the utilities for the building that we were going to even be in, much less have extra money to help a family,” said Melody.
The charity also was unable to find committed volunteers to staff the closet, resulting in the organization shutting its doors two years ago. “Since we weren’t a true nonprofit, we could not do it without support,” Melody said.

These families and organizations are essential in the work to house and show love to some of the most vulnerable in society. Without the assistance of the community in this effort, it can be too emotionally or financially taxing to continue. There are still many ways to help, even those not called to be foster parents. “A lot of people have the misconception that in order to help children in the foster care system, they have to be foster parents,” said Heather Still.
Heather cited donations to families, sending clothes to foster closets, and even simply babysitting for a fostering couple who need a break are ways anyone can help in the effort to show these children love. If you feel led to come alongside families making this journey, reach out to foster families that you know, or go to to find more ways to give.

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