Top 5 Ways You Can Serve a Foster Family Today
Are you looking for practical ways you can help serve the foster care community? Do you want to make a HUGE difference? Whether it’s a friend, family member, co-worker, neighbor, or someone at your church, many know and have foster families in their sphere of influence, and they need your help! Here are five easy ways to start serving today.
When a child is placed there are so many immediate needs you can help provide. Most foster children come with very few items, and although foster parents are given some funds to help provide for needs such as clothes, personal items, school supplies, bedding and toys, the funds are usually not sufficient and can take many months to receive. Even a veteran foster parent, who appears to have everything, will have a list of needed items. A simple way to help out is to offer to purchase needed items or provide a gift card.
Be a Listening Ear
Foster families find themselves overwhelmed, exhausted and isolated even amongst the support of many friends and family. Their hearts break for the children in their care, and for their families, EVERY SINGLE DAY, and they keep these heavy burdens to themselves because so much of what they’re dealing with they can’t talk about, because it’s confidential. It doesn’t mean they don’t need a place to vent though. It’s so important to have people willing to listen, not give advice, but just listen. Make a phone call or stop by and ask how things are going, then take some time to really listen, offer encouragement and pray with them. Knowing someone cares provides an extra boost to keep pushing forward.
Offer a Helping Hand
The children placed in foster care have experienced horrors many can’t even imagine, often the same horrors their parents experienced as a child. This trauma has a profound impact on their ability to communicate their needs. Sometimes that means foster parents can go for weeks isolated at home due to constant meltdowns, or receive daily phone calls from school because their child has caused trouble again. They can be up all night with a child because before placement, nighttime was when “bad things happened to them,” and then have to watch them like a hawk every minute of the day to prevent injury to self or others. It can be impossible some days to do even the simplest tasks like laundry, cleaning or making dinner because of these needs. There are so many possible ways to help though. Offer to mow the grass, bring a meal, do the laundry, clean or grocery shop. If you’re not physically able to help out consider hiring someone, or providing a gift card for a service. It may not seem like much, but an act of kindness like that can give a weary parent a moment to breathe. Those moments are essential to their well-being.
On top of being exhausted, foster parents experience significant time constraints. Most months are filled with counseling, therapy and doctors appointments, in addition to visits with their child’s caseworker, CASA, lawyer and parents. Most agencies don’t provide transportation so foster parents are constantly on the go. Offer to provide rides to sports, school or just to be available when needed in a pinch.
Babysit or Become a Respite Care Provider
Foster parents face ridicule from those closest to them, because they see first hand the toll it takes enduring all the stress and heartache. It is certainly more than anyone can handle on their own, and many don’t understand why they continue to do it. This can cause feelings of guilt when asking for help, because it can fuel increased ridicule. In addition, foster parents may feel that it’s just too much to ask of someone else to watch their child due to behavior challenges. Many times when they do finally ask it’s because they’ve reached their limit. Don’t wait for them to ask, offer your babysitting assistance for a monthly date night or once a week for a few hours so they can run errands. If you’d like to take this a step further, consider getting licensed and trained through an agency as a respite care provider. This will allow you to take care of the children for extended periods…usually for up to 2 weeks depending on the state and agency, as well as have the proper training to understand the behavior challenges these children may exhibit.
These are the real day-to-day struggles of what many foster parents are going through, and it only scratches the surface. We walk with these children and their families daily, never giving up hope, and celebrating every small victory towards healing. We do this out of love and a servants’ heart. We have faith that lives will be positively impacted by what we do day in and day out, but we can’t do it without your help. So, will you help?