On any given day in the United States, there are about 415,000 children in foster care. Children are placed in foster care because their families are going through a crisis. Often these children have been removed from their parents because they are unsafe, abused or neglected. 135,000 of the children in foster care are up for adoption, with an estimated 50,644 of these children getting adopted each year. The average wait period for adoption is nearly 8 years.
These statistics are shocking and troubling. As college students, it is difficult to find a tangible solution for helping children in the foster care system and children who have been adopted. However, Foster and Adoptive Parents Night Out gives Saint Anselm students a unique opportunity to aid both these children and their foster or adoptive parents.
On the last Thursday of every month, Saint Anselm students prepare to host 50 children for Foster and Adoptive Parents Night Out. The event, more commonly known as FAPNO, gives foster and adopted children a night of games, crafts, and movies while their parents run errands, catch up on chores, or enjoy a well-deserved dinner date.
This relatively new Anselmian tradition began nearly four years ago with the help of Riley Duggan '15 and Caroline Powers '07. Duggan, an alum who had been dedicated to the Meelia Center, worked with DCYF social worker and alum Caroline Powers '07 to craft a night that catered toward both the children and their parents.
Jenna Baker '19 currently serves as the coordinator of FAPNO, after volunteering for the event throughout her freshman year. Baker reflects on what the program has come to mean to her.
"As a freshmen, I attended FAPNO and was able to learn about the value of making connections with children in foster care and the importance of giving foster parents some time to themselves. Every month, dozens of foster children come running on to campus with smiles on their faces and enough energy to keep us college students busy for hours! FAPNO is a great way for students to gain some service experience which is something that is so important to the Anselmian community."
Baker comes up with a theme for each night and and picks crafts, games, decorations, and a movie that go along with the theme. Baker also gathers volunteers to make and prepare these crafts, games, and decorations in the nights leading up to FAPNO. Additionally, she ensures the planning process is communicated to the social workers and parents. Baker emphasizes how important this event is for all involved.
"During FAPNO, we play games with the kids, feed them dinner, do arts and crafts and watch a movie. But what the kids enjoy the most is being able to spend time with fun college students who become friends and positive role models for the kids.
FAPNO is also very important to families because it allows the parents to have some well deserved respite time. In addition, FAPNO provides foster children with an opportunity to interact with other foster children, as well as engage with dedicated SAC volunteers who are great role models and support systems for them."
This month, FAPNO will be held on Thursday, February 23 from 5pm to 8pm in the Carr Center. The theme is "Zootopia," complete with zoo-themed games and crafts. All are welcome to stop by and volunteer for this event and make a difference in the lives of children and parents, as well as making a difference in your own life.
For more information on FAPNO, contact Jenna Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org!