May is National Foster Care Month. Here, we talk with Jacqui Bryant, a University City resident and the Executive Director of Charlotte Angels—a nonprofit organization that supports children, youth and families experiencing foster care—about her goals for the organization and how University City can play a role.
How did you get involved with Charlotte Angels?
When I was a foster parent, I knew that, if we were given the tools and support families need, we would create a better environment for the child. I’ve always been a part of the foster-care community, because I felt like I needed to advocate for changes for kids. At Charlotte Angels, I started as the director of community outreach and became Executive Director in 2021. I had been on different boards when I started fostering my own children, about 12 years ago, and I needed help with learning about what behaviors were considered “normal” and what were trauma-based things that needed to be addressed.
Tell us a bit about Charlotte Angels and what you do.
We started in 2019 as a chapter of the larger National Angels network. Adding an additional loving person in a home for a child is never a bad idea. There are many other great agencies that provide different services, but along with our community volunteers we are committed to serving a family or youth for a year. Activities vary from coming to watch a movie or take a child to get pizza or bake cookies together. It’s about building the relationship with the family or youth and also providing real support for the foster parent. We’ve seen kids who’ve never been to a sporting event. We want to provide social capital and give them experiences that they might not have in their own environments.
What makes University City an attractive area for Charlotte Angels?
I live in University City, and I envision the area providing kids who are experiencing care, an opportunity to dream big! UNC Charlotte is a major organization in the area and we hope our kids will see the beacon of light it might become for their lives.. There’s a student-led organization at UNC Charlotte called Tan Kap Vini (TKV) that tutored our kids before the pandemic, so we had an opportunity to bring them to campus, have lunch, see the dorms—it was amazing for them. University City offers that to our kids, and I think it’s a nice connection for us, to start helping them dream that college could be attainable.
How can people get involved?
Love Box leaders are matched with family and visit once a month to provide love and encouragement. We have families who are on the waitlist, and those families could use help while they’re waiting to get matched–someone who can bring them a box full of things like toilet paper and snacks. Our Angel Ally program is for people who want to volunteer, who don’t want to be matched, but can help with more of our emergent needs as they arise. And we have many kids on our Dare to Dream Program waitlist, which helps ages 14 to 21. It’s for kids in high school, so it’s time for them to start thinking about next steps in life. We provide one-on-one mentorship to help guide and advocate for the child.
How can we learn more?
Head over to our website, charlotteangels.org. You can click on the Get Involved tab and see what might be a good fit for you.