May is National Foster Care Month and actress Jen Lilley has partnered with the foundation Project Orphans to give oprhans and children in foster care loving homes in the US. Jen has launched the #VoicesThatGive contest, an opportunity to give creators from virtually all walks of life including singers and actors a chance to win the grand prize of $10,000, a walk-on roll on a Hallmark Channel movie, plus a set tour and taping of Home & Family. We spoke to Jen about foster care, the contest, her debut album and her brand new podcast.
Why is foster care important to you? How did that journey start for you personally?Children in foster care entered a broken system through no fault of their own, but because they sustained unimaginable abuse or neglect. They are voiceless victims, and I feel it’s my duty to rise up and lend them my voice as an advocate.
My love of foster children stemmed from the fact that as a child, my parents often opened up our home to people in need, so I didn’t find the concept scary. It blossomed after becoming a child advocate through Childhelp, and their wonderful mentorship program, “Special Friends” which is like a Big Brothers/Big Sisters type mentorship for the children in their villages.
Choosing foster care, adoption, is a very personal decision. How did you come to that decision?
When I learned that Los Angeles alone makes up 10% of all the children in the foster system, I felt it was my duty to start tackling that statistic by becoming a foster parent myself. All children deserve safe, loving, and stable homes, and I truly believe once your eyes have been opened to a plight, you need to do something about it.
The goal of foster care is to reunify or restore children to their birth families, but that’s not always a safe or healthy option for the child, as was the case for both Kayden (who’s adopted) and his little brother (who we’re in the process of adopting). I think when reunification is not possible or in the best interest of the child, foster parents should be willing to adopt the children in their care, and adopting our children has been the greatest privilege of our lives. I don’t take the responsibility or the weight of what it means for their birth mom or the boys lightly, and I am just praying that everyone we come in contact with finds love.
What do you want the public or future parents to know about adopting through foster care?
So many things! First, the goal of foster care is not adoption. However, there are literally over 100,000 children in the United States waiting to be adopted right now out of the Foster Care system, and there are incredible organizations like the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption as a resource to match you up with a child. Second, adoption through foster care is virtually free! We paid just $500 in court fees for Kayden and were reimbursed $400. Now fostering children should never, EVER be about money. And honestly, when you consider the stipend, you’d make more getting a part time job than taking on the 24/7/365 emotional commitment of a child, however, I mention how affordable it is because I know so many people would adopt if they knew it was affordable. It’s a myth that adoption is always outlandishly expensive. Adoption through foster care is incredibly affordable. Third, if you already have bio children, I can tell you with great confidence that you will love your foster and adoptive children as much as your own. So many people are afraid of that, but I find time and time again that adoptive parents don’t differentiate between the two, and I know I certainly don’t think of the boys as any less of mine than our daughter Julie. We’re family. Period, and it is our joy. For all the other questions, please start listening to my podcast Fostering Hope. We tackle so many of the big questions and concerns
Tell us about your work with Project Orphans and the #VoicesTheGive contest
Project Orphans is an incredible charity that exists to care for orphans, widows, and families in Uganda, Africa. The co founder of Project Orphans, Brittany Rae Stokes and I are both foster and adoptive moms here in the U.S. and we share a dream to help solve the foster care crisis here in the United States. Through my VoicesThatGive contest, we want to create Project Orphans USA, a revolutionary neighborhood-based model here in the U.S. filled with safe, loving, and stable foster homes committed to caring for orphans and children in foster care.
#VoicesThatGive is a global, online talent search for artists of all genres and experience levels to showcase their talent, launch their careers, and possibly win $10,000.00 cash and national press. It’s FREE to enter, and 100% of my profit will be donated to Project Orphans.
I created Voices That Give as a unique way to partner my dream of creating quality music that gives back to children, with my love of artists and core belief that everyone was created on purpose with unique talents and gifts.
How it’s going to raise money for charity?
Artists of all genres can enter during the contest for free during the month of May, which is National Foster Care Awareness Month here in the United States. Then, in the month of June, the contestants will collect votes from their friends and family. All of their supporters get 1 FREE vote, but then they can purchase voting bundles to support their contestant of choice. If fans purchase 10 votes for $10, then the contestant earns 10 votes getting closer to the grand prize, the fan gets my album (the music tie in), and 100% of my profit goes to Project Orphans to support kids in foster care. So everyone wins! The more votes purchased, the more rewards the supporter earns, and the more money for charity. It’s like Kickstarter meets America’s Got Talent meets Go Fund Me and everyone wins!
Let’s talk about your podcast, Fostering Hope, and what you want to accomplish with it. What can listeners expect from it?
I just want to open up the dialogue about foster care. 51% of surveyed Americans are under the misconception that children in foster care are juvenile delinquents, when the truth is, they’re children who found themselves in a broken system through no fault of their own, and who desperately need love, stability, and safety to survive. I want Fostering Hope to inform, equip, and inspire those who have barely heard of foster care to help (and everyone can do small things with great love and have a profound impact) and to encourage the people already in the trenches of foster care to keep going!
How has your childhood & your parents influenced your journey working with foster care & orphans?
They raised me to be empathetic, passionate, and opinionated. And few things make my blood boil more than child abuse and neglect, so naturally, that’s a fit for advocacy.
Outside of Hallmark Channel projects, you are working on your debut album. When can we expect that and what kind of sound would you describe it?
It’s a classic, feel-good 60s vibe that hopefully takes you on a journey of love, loss, and empowerment. I’ll leave the descriptions up to you after you listen to the sneak peek preview 🙂 During the month of June, fans can automatically win my album by purchasing voting bundles to support the contestant of their choice in my Voices That Give contest.
How are you keeping busy with your family during quarantine?
The 4 kids, the podcast, and launching the Voices That Give global contest have me incredibly busy, but it’s worth the lack of sleep! I mean if this contest is successful, it will literally change the world for artists all over the world and save countless children in foster care displaced within our nation. Isn’t that incredible?! Thank YOU for lending your voice to the cause and telling your readers about the Voices That Give contest! Best of luck to all their entries!