By Gaye Bunderson
Angels aren’t just heavenly beings. Sometimes they’re regular folks dressed in clean jeans, wearing smiles, carrying boxes, and filled with helpful hearts. That’s the case with the members of Boise Angels — they’re everyday people who walk alongside foster care families and children and help them navigate the waters of foster parenting and being a child in the foster care network.
Nice people, but why are they carrying boxes? Because nothing says “we care” like a special box filled with useful and fun things. Boise Angels calls them Love Boxes.
Amy Curry, director of Boise Angels, explained, “The Love Boxes are a means to build a relationship with the foster parents and the foster child. They have thoughtful gifts and resources that meet the real needs of the child and their entire family.”
Boise Angels’ information defines the Love Boxes this way: “When our families are matched with committed volunteers who show up monthly with a Love Box, parents feel more supported, and children gain a greater sense of belonging and self-confidence.”
Now that’s a pretty important box — and it’s just one of the things the Boise Angels’ group does for foster families.
One foster mother who was helped by Boise Angels had the following story to tell:
“It seemed that people were in and out every day since we took in my three nephews through the foster care system, more so since the oldest was on hospice with muscular dystrophy. Our caseworker was explaining Boise Angels and asked if we would be interested. I hesitated; my husband said yes. After the caseworker left, he asked me, ‘You didn’t want to?’ I didn’t. We have four kids and had added my three nephews. I didn’t need more people, more visits, more paperwork, more things clogging up my overflowing calendar. … I needed a break.
“My nephew Kevin had been sick and we knew he wasn’t going to make it much longer. Our first Love Box was delivered the day we realized my nephew wouldn’t make it through the weekend. Child Protective Services reached out to Boise Angels. Instantly the week was taken care of. Food was delivered every day. The day of Kevin’s funeral, balloons were delivered to us to release in his honor — the Boise Angels even attended his viewing and the funeral. Every month a box of goodies for us came, a little break, some positivity, love and light in the chaos and fresh grief.
“Amanda, the Boise Angels volunteer, and her family have been so amazing. Inviting us to dinners, outings and even having the kids over, allowing my husband and I our first actual date alone in a couple of years.”
Curry first heard of the Angels through an acquaintance in Texas, where an Angels group was already formed. She and another young woman took the model and launched the Boise group in 2018. Now there are two caseworkers, a board of directors, and a team of volunteers.
Curry earned a master’s degree in counseling and is a registered play therapist. In her ‘day job,’ she works with children and uses play as a way to understand the children in her therapeutic care and to communicate with them.
She got interested in foster care when she and her husband, Andy, took a trip to Africa.
“We volunteered to go to Swaziland in about 2010, and we worked with AIDS kids,” Curry said. “Many people there had orphans in their homes, and that’s when we thought, ‘We can help orphans in the U.S.’”
The Currys are people of strong faith, and Amy explained, “We prayed about whether foster care was for us. We’ve always had a heart for vulnerable children.”
They ultimately came to the conclusion they weren’t going to be foster parents. “We’re not all called to foster or adopt, but we’re all called to love.” They decided their calling was in helping foster children and their families, making the Angels program a perfect fit for them.
“Foster families feel isolated,” Curry said, explaining the families sometimes lose their social network when they take a foster child into their home. Boise Angels steps in to give support, encouragement, and understanding.
Also, its thoroughly vetted caseworkers and volunteers seek to establish healthy relationships with the foster kids so the children may experience the presence of stable, caring adults. “We help them feel valued, and we can help that child become a healthy, functioning part of society. Just being there for these kids is what matters most. They need consistency because sometimes they have been to more than one foster family, so consistency matters. The ‘Angel’ can follow the child, even if they are returned to their biological family. Some families say ‘no,’ but others say ‘yes.’”
Boise Angels is strategic about how it matches volunteers with families, making sure there is a connection, something in common, and good communication. For instance, the family Curry and her husband help live in their neighborhood and they occasionally run into each other at the store.
Another valuable program of Boise Angels is its Dare to Dream mentors. Aging out of foster care can be devastating for a young person, and that’s where the mentoring program comes in. Aged-out youth are often completely on their own at age 18, with nothing in the way of a support system. The heart of the Dare to Dream program is to walk alongside the youth as they navigate life’s challenges.
Dare to Dream volunteer mentors offer advice, encouragement, and support. They meet with an aged-out youth at least every other week and help that young man or woman set goals and determine a pathway to fulfilling the dreams they have for their lives. Mentors meet practical and emotional needs, as well as provide guidance through developmental milestones.
“Jesus Christ is our compass on which we run. He’s the reason we do what we do,” Curry said. But she stressed Boise Angels doesn’t brand as strictly faith-based because they want to help everyone. All foster families are welcome. For the Currys, that’s what loving your neighbor looks like.
For more information about Boise Angels, go to boiseangels.org.