Foster children deserve the chance to be children, to be part of a family, and to live up to their potential. That's the whole mission of a South St. Louis County-based nonprofit launched 20 years ago -- and they've been sensationally successful, with the help of community volunteers.
Angels’ Arms so far has improved the lives of 600-plus children, including more than 140 sibling groups, by providing them with loving homes and allowing them to thrive in happy, functional family settings.
After serving as a foster parent herself for several years and frequently receiving calls to care for sibling groups, Angels' Arms Founder and Executive Director Bess Wilfong knew firsthand that fostering is an extremely difficult calling. However, with true dedication to keeping brothers and sisters together within a nurturing family until a forever home is found, all things are possible with community support.
Angels’ Arms teams provide homes, resources and emotional support to experienced foster parents so they can raise the standard of care for foster children.
The group has 13 homes located throughout St. Louis City and County, and St. Charles County. House parents don't receive a salary from Angels’ Arms. Rather, the foster parents receive a stipend from the state to take care of each foster child. Angels’ Arms staffers furnish the homes and provide resources for house parents so they can take in children that need a home.
"We're very proud that 100% of Angels' Arms children have graduated from high school, compared to a 50% rate for foster kids statewide," proclaims Bess.
She says the group's "Life Launch" program works one-on-one with youths 14-21 years old to assist them with life skills, career exploration and mentoring. They also provide a transitional living space to foster young adults who are aging out of the system, preparing them for independence.
The "togetherness" accomplished through all the day-to-day activities is the primary driver for Bess. "Giving love in so many forms to 'our' kids and our parents is the most gratifying part of my job," Bess confides.
Abbey Perano, Angels' Arms communications coordinator, says the entity achieves these goals with 100% community engagement and no state or federal funding.
The entity currently has six full-time employees and two part-time employees. After making a donation, supporters receive an acknowledgement letter that can be used for a tax deduction.
Due to the underpinnings and results of this nonprofit, that's why professionals, such as Angie Schulze, mortgage loan officer for Regions Bank, say it's so motivating and rewarding to support the group. She and her daughter have volunteered for the organization's events for the past year.
"It's all about the kids. I have two kids of my own, and the thought of them not having a family is just so heart-wrenching," explains Angie. "Angels' Arms does so much to help foster children through transitions and to encourage them. It's a great support system that helps give children everything they need to better themselves as they move through their lives. They even help them prepare to go to college."
Due to coronavirus-related concerns, foster families have been challenged with meeting the food, educational and entertainment needs of the many children in their care. Additionally, the organization's two upcoming main fundraising events in October and November are being transformed into virtual events.
Angels' Arms has a Amazon Wish List that outlines donations needed to support foster families. To explore how to fulfill the wishes of a particular child, email email@example.com or call 314.842.8400. (Due to limited space, Angels’ Arms cannot accept used clothing, stuffed animals, toys or books.)