Every child deserves to be loved and supported.
As the U.S. celebrates National Foster Care Month in May, there are concrete ways American communities can help kids in real need.
Austin, Texas-based nonprofit National Angels allows anyone to get involved in supporting and caring for foster children, even if adoption isn’t in the cards.
National Angels CEO Susan Ramirez told Fox News Digital in an interview that the organization’s mission is to “change the way children, youth and families experience foster care in our country.”
She said, “Not everyone is called to foster and not everyone is called to adopt. But we believe that every single person can make a difference in a child’s life.”
Children are often removed from their homes due to neglect or abandonment, and sometimes are the victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, according to National Angels. (National Angels )
At any given moment, there are more than 430,000 children experiencing foster care, Ramirez noted.
Children are often removed from their homes due to neglect or abandonment, and they are sometimes victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, according to National Angels.
Statistically, a majority of America’s homeless and imprisoned population have once experienced living as a foster child, said Ramirez.
“So we are trying to change the statistics,” she said.
National Angels CEO Susan Ramirez is based in Austin, Texas. (National Angels )
National Angels operates in 21 cities and 16 states. It gives people the opportunity to interact with foster children through two major programs.
One way is the Love Box program — which pairs a volunteer with a foster family for monthly visits.
National Angels has seen “big” changes in the foster system.
The one-year commitment is centered around acts of intentional giving, relationship building and mentorship, Ramirez said.
Love Box volunteers help provide tangible items such as groceries, household essentials and school supplies. They also give the gift of their time.
Foster caregivers have rated this program a net score of 9.7 out of 10, Ramirez noted.
A volunteer carries a National Angels Love Box. (National Angels )
“It shows us that this is transforming [the families’] experience,” she said. “We’re also seeing placement stability.”
On average, foster children move approximately seven times within the span of two years, Ramirez said — which makes placement stability a “big factor.”
“We believe that the closest touchpoint to healing is when a child gets removed from their home and placed into a foster home,” she said.
“Our goal is to try to keep them in placement until reunification happens, or until they’re adopted — so [in] having that kind of holistic family support, we’re seeing that we are increasing child placement stability, which is awesome for us.”
National Angels’ second program is called Dare to Dream, a one-on-one mentorship program.
A National Angels volunteer is shown reading a book to a foster child. (National Angels )
Mentors are assigned to a mentee based on proximity, capability and compatibility, and are expected to visit twice a month to work on developmental milestones.
“So youth who are 16 years old will work on getting a driver’s license, opening up a bank account, understanding financial literacy,” she said.
She added that when a child ages out of foster care, he or she has “a direct path” to a good future where the child does not “end up homeless.”
National Angels has seen “big” changes in the foster system, Ramirez noted, including children staying in placements, making better grades in school, attaching to others for the first time and saying, “I love you.”
She continued, “We’re seeing a greater sense of belonging. We’re seeing that children are now able to experience some normalcy.”
National Angels is creating a “greater sense of belonging” for foster children nationwide, CEO Ramirez said. (National Angels )
Foster children normally don’t have access to experiences such as extracurricular activities and summer camps, the CEO also said, but National Angels has been able to offer and fund these fun and stabilizing opportunities.
National Angels is increasing normalcy for kids, Ramirez said, as well as “social capital” for families.
“If you’re a taxpayer, it affects all of us.”
“Research shows that through our program we’re actually increasing people’s community,” she said.
“And having a sense of belonging makes it so much more likely that [families] will continue to do this important, meaningful, hard work when they don’t do it alone.”
A ‘big goal’
In 2022, National Angels served more than 3,000 foster children, Ramirez said.
The nonprofit’s goal is to reach every child in the country by 2050 — a “big goal” she believes is achievable with the help of the “right partners and outreach.”
A National Angels mentor and mentee give each other a high five. (National Angels)
As the U.S. foster care system often “doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves,” Ramirez stressed that Americans should know that the issue impacts everyone.
“Everyone can play a role and make a difference in a child’s life.”
“If you’re a taxpayer, it affects all of us,” she said.
“When we talk about our homeless population and our overpopulated prison population, [as well as] rising health care costs — all of those things — if we just go upstream, we know that it starts in foster care.”
She added, “Every single one of these children are in our own communities and we all deeply need to care about this.”
“Everyone can play a role and make a difference in a child’s life,” the National Angels CEO said. (National Angels)
Ramirez also said, “No one’s going to solve this or fix this unless [we] take on the mantle of responsibility … I believe that the only way that we truly change this is by relationships. I believe that with all my heart.”
Ramirez began the first National Angels chapter, called Austin Angels, in 2010 after she felt as if she wasn’t making enough of an “impact” working in sales in corporate America, she said.
“After we had piloted the Love Box program from October 2013 until January 2015, we saw such profound changes in one family’s life, and really felt called to … push the mission forward,” she said.
The goal is to “become the next Chick-fil-A of nonprofits” as the movement grows nationwide and receives “incredible” feedback.
“We received a $50,000 grant from Chick-fil-A. We partnered with Pulte Homes,” she said. “So, some of these national brands and companies are really getting behind our work now.”
National Angels CEO Susan Ramirez left her corporate sales job of eight years to give back to America’s foster care community. (National Angels)
She added that her hope is that “we will have more big companies say, ‘You know what? We also care about children in our own community, and we see this as a viable way to make a difference and make a change.’”
Getting involved “doesn’t have to be hard,” said Ramirez, emphasizing that all it takes is basic skills, compassion and some free time.
“Everyone can play a role and make a difference in a child’s life,” she said. “Tell me what you do for a living, and I can tell you how you can impact foster care.”
All those interested can visit a National Angels chapter that’s nearby. Learn more about the movement at nationalangels.org.