Nurture + Shine

I’m excited today to tell you about a project almost a year in the works behind the scenes at Mediavine. As we stated from the start, Shine is meant to address issues in the wider world that are important to both our publishers and our employees.

Several employees at Mediavine have direct connections to foster care, as either former children in care or as foster parents and, in some cases, as adoptive parents. May is National Foster Care month, and we’ve been working towards this initiative with that in mind. 

The Shine team started with an idea sparked by an employee and impassioned foster care parent — that foster and kinship (that’s when a child is taken in by someone biologically related) families don’t always get the celebration and support that typically accompanies the arrival of a new baby in the family, whether that placement is temporary or permanent. 

There are no meal trains, no baby showers. Sometimes there isn’t even parental leave for a new placement.

We all want to make a difference, big or small. After all, that’s why we created Shine. So over the last year, Mediavine has partnered with several organizations — Foster Source, Hello Bello and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption — to create the all-encompassing project we call Nurture + Shine, in the hope of making that difference. 

As Renee Bernhard of Foster Source says, “Not everyone can foster, but everyone can do something to support a local foster family.”

The Current State of Foster Care

There is a foster care crisis across the United States. In 2020, 217,000 children entered foster care for the first time. Reunification of families is almost always the goal of foster care, but there are also many children that ultimately need permanent care, creating a rolling effect of need but not enough supply.

State by state, child welfare offices are struggling to find placements for children in need of a soft place to land. 

In my own home state of Texas over the past year, foster care has lost on average 1,000 foster care beds, and there were more than 400 children that spent at least two nights without a placement, which meant they were sleeping in child welfare offices or hotels, sometimes even on the floors of conference rooms.

It’s difficult to think about how that would affect the children in my life, and meanwhile it’s happening to children in foster care all across the country. 

Not everyone can foster, but everyone can do something to support a local foster family.

Renee Bernhard of Foster Source

On the Ground in Denver, Colorado

We’ve focused our initial efforts on Denver, where an employee foster parent resides and was able to connect us to Foster Source. 

Foster Source is an on-the-ground organization whose mission is to help make foster and kinship placements a success through myriad means of support, from sourcing furniture (such as bunk beds and cribs) to providing therapy for care to help with adjustment to respite care so a foster or kinship parent can get a much needed break. 

Half of all foster parents quit within the first year, and Foster Source is providing services in the hopes of changing that statistic. Providing more support for first time foster parents and children means a more successful relationship and placement long term, which is so important for children’s wellbeing.

Next, in steps Hello Bello, the diaper company launched by Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, with an offer that made many of us tear up immediately: Six months of diapers or household bundles for 25 families in the Denver area, as identified by the Foster Source team as great in need. 

Diapers are hard for so many parents, foster or not. They’re not an expense that is covered by many aid programs, and they can be one of the most expensive purchases new parents have to make in the first three years of a child’s life. 

Hello Bello was a perfect partner for this venture for another reason. The company offers the ability to create a “Diaper Fund”, either for yourself or someone else. 

You can set one up as a baby shower gift. Or you can set one up for a family you know is in need. Or a family can set one up for themselves. 

It works just like other fundraising and giving services. Anyone can donate at any time to a specific Diaper Fund, and those funds can be used towards anything on the Hello Bello website, which has every manner of product, from laundry detergent to baby butt cream. 

A Diaper Fund has been created for each of the 25 families identified by Foster Source, and Hello Bello has funded their first six months of bundles, while Mediavine has funded their shipping costs for those six months. 

It’s Easy to Help Virtually, Too

Additionally, you can opt into Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption PSAs that you can turn on in your Dashboard right now

These PSAs bring light to the foster care crisis and point readers in the right direction to learn more about what it’s like to adopt a child from foster care, and how each of us can get involved to support that. 

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is the only public nonprofit charity in the United States that is focused exclusively on foster care adoption. The Foundation works closely with child welfare advocates and policymakers, providing free resources about foster care adoption.

Helping Real Families

We’re very proud and excited about this project, because most of all, it helps families like the Radues

We’re sharing their foster journey (with words from mom, Ellie) with you so that you can understand the kind of difference foster and kinship parents can make, and the kind of difference a donation like this can make to the families living this journey. 

The Radue Family Journey

My husband and I have been fostering for just about two years now. We have done respite a few times and have had three long-term kiddos. Our very first placement came to us at 2½ days old 21 months ago and is staying for good. He is truly the light of my life. We are unbelievably lucky to spend our days with him. 

When #1 was 10 months old, we took in a sibling set: a 5-month-old girl and a 2-year-old boy. This brought us to three under three! The siblings stayed with us for 11 months and just recently returned home to their sweet mama. 

They are doing really well back home with mom, and we are so happy to have been part of a successful reunification story.

What is your highest high and lowest low of fostering?

I think my highest high might also be my lowest low, if that’s possible! Our siblings reunified last week after 11 months with us. We miss them horribly. They are wonderful, precious kids that we love so dearly. It was hard to say goodbye. 

At the same time, I am so incredibly proud of their mama. She has had an unbelievable number of barriers to overcome and she did it! She worked hard and accepted the help she needed to move through some big challenges and get to a place where she is ready to parent her kids as they deserve to be parented. 

Watching her learn to put her children’s emotional needs above her own and provide safe and healthy foods for her kids brought me almost as much joy as watching her sweet baby girl learn to walk and her little boy learn to speak English. It has been such a privilege to watch this little family succeed individually, and now, together.

What do you wish you would have known before you started this journey?

When you are a foster parent, you have to be very comfortable with not knowing. I am a person who likes to be informed and aware of what is happening now and next and what I can do to positively impact what happens around me. 

Foster care has taught me that more often than not, the answer to my questions are, “I don’t know” or “maybe”. I’ve grown much more comfortable with uncertainty over the past two years!

What do you want others to know about fostering, kinship, and this type of parenting?

Fostering is not just another road to adoption. Fostering is about supporting children AND their parents through the hardest times in their lives with honest dedication to helping them to be together again. 

Of course, it isn’t always possible, but it is essential that foster families start this process knowing that the only goal that matters is achieving safety and wellbeing for the kids in your care, and knowing that the absolute best outcome is for kids to safely return home to their parents.

Also, this type of parenting requires all of you. You need to dedicate yourself to supporting these kids and families with your entire heart, mind, and spirit. 

It is a massive time commitment and can be unbearably exhausting, but it is also 110% worth every second of stress to know that you contributed to a safe and happy outcome for a child who has experienced trauma.

How You Can Help Today

If you’d like to learn more about how to contribute to one of the 25 Diaper Funds, you can visit Hello Bello’s post, 13 Simple Ways to Support Foster Families

You can learn more about the programs Foster Source provides and help support them, or find a similar organization near you that could use your time or monetary donations.

Also visit your Mediavine Dashboard to enable the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption PSAs ASAP to get those running. 

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