“The mission of Foster Village is to come alongside children and families in the Austin area child welfare system and show them that they are not alone. Our goal is create opportunities for the community to be a “village” of support to these vulnerable and underserved children and families.”
We had the opportunity to sit down with the founder of Foster Village Austin, Chrystal Smith, and learn about the amazing work that they are doing to come alongside foster families, emergency placements and birth families. While we were with Chrystal, we learned so much about the wonderful things that Foster Village is doing.
Foster Village Austin was started in 2016 by foster parents, child welfare advocates and a group of passionate and diverse community professionals. Foster Village’s desire is to create a community that surrounds some of the most vulnerable people in our society: foster children and their families.
Foster Village has a resource center in Dripping Springs, just southwest of Austin, that provides basic necessities for every child. When you arrive at the Oak Haven Resource Center, kids and families are able to walk through the home selecting items from the “Shopping list” that they are given upon arrival. This resource center is so much more than just a place to come pick out new clothes and toiletries. The Oak Haven Resource Center sits on a beautiful lot that truly feels like a haven. Everything about this home radiates a sense of peace and restoration for those who walk through the door. When we arrived, we met Chrystal, the founder, and Haley, who gave us a tour of the entire facility while sharing the beautiful story that lead them to this specific home. This home also provides a safe place for social workers to bring kids for longer periods of time while they are waiting for paperwork and moves to be made. Instead of waiting in a hotel or a CPS office, kids and social workers are able to come to Oak Haven to play with toys and rest.
Another amazing component of Foster Village is their Care Closets. The Care Closets are storage spaces that are filled with like-new items for foster or bio families. When a foster family gets a placement call and they don’t have all of the immediate items they need to bring a child into their home, the Foster Village team goes to the Care Closets to pack a truck load of items for the family. This could include bunk beds, dressers, strollers, car seats, clothes, toys, you name it! Foster Village will have a volunteer go collect all of these items and bring them to your house within 24 hours of receiving your initial phone call! Can you believe that?! This is also a huge support to birth families that are working hard to get their children back. A lot of these families don’t have resources or the household items needed in order to be approved to have their children placed back in their care. Foster Village will help provide all of these items so that this is one less thing birth families have to stress or worry about while trying to get their lives back on track.
One of my favorite programs that Foster Village also provides for the community is a Parent’s Night Out. We had the opportunity to volunteer at their Parent’s Night Out in June, and it was truly so much fun. Foster families from all over Austin brought their foster kids and bio kids to have a night of fun with Foster Village. Amanda and I got placed in the Kindergarten- 5th grade group which was a blast. While we were there we just kept coming back to wow, “it really does take a village.” Parents become exhausted and worn out and they simply just need a break to breathe. The simplicity of what Foster Village was providing these parents with was amazing. Child care. And it gave these parents a chance to regroup, refocus, and come back 3 hours later with a little bit of a refreshed spirit. Respite care and child care for foster families is huge. If you’ve ever thought about wanting to start getting involved with foster care but can’t commit to the immediate and potential long term commitment of a foster child, get background checked and begin providing child care and respite care for foster families in your community! This Parents Night Out included some serious lego building on a lego wall, a pizza party, playground tag and ended with a Foster Village volunteer, who is also a girl scout, teaching the kids how to build owl homes and sharing some fun facts about the owls in the area. The kids loved it! Getting to be a part of the Parents Night Out was a really cool way to get involved with foster families in our own community and we look forward to the next one that we can volunteer at!
Foster Village rallies around families and helps provide a community for foster families. I am encouraged to know that Foster Village exists and I am excited for its growth as people begin to hear about it around the country and think, “Hey, we could do that in our own city”.
To read our conversation with Chrystal Smith, founder of Foster Village Austin, click here!