The number of kids entering foster care is increasing! Every single county in the US desperately needs good foster parents. Not everyone is cut out to be a foster parent, but everyone can help the foster care crisis in some way.
Children enter foster care for many reasons—most often because their parents are not able to safely care for them. They come to their foster parent with often no more than the clothes on their backs and a heart full of hurt. Foster parents are trained to care for these kids, but they could use some help.
You may not be ready – now or ever – to be a foster parent. I would encourage you before making up your mind to learn more about what it takes to be a foster parent (and we can help with this really GREAT introduction to foster parenting), but in the meantime, you can still help our foster care crisis by helping those who are caring for foster children.
All new families need help. Sure, we more often think of new in terms of a new baby, but a family with a new foster child (or children) needs many of the same things as a family with a new baby, plus a little more.
7 “Easy” Things You Can Do To Help a Foster Parent
1. Gather age-appropriate supplies.
Foster families often have little warning of a new foster child arriving. They may need baby equipment, twin beds or dressers, or tennis racquets and soccer cleats for a budding athlete. Ask first what they need for this specific foster child or children.
2. Give a gift certificate to Old Navy or Target.
This is particularly relevant for families fostering children in 5th through 12th grade. Children most often come with only the clothes they are wearing and older kids and teens want to fit in, which often means not wearing clothes from discount stores. Old Navy and Target have stylish affordable clothes.
3. Bring a meal to a foster family.
Better yet, set up a meal-bringing plan where friends or church members bring a meal once or twice a week for the first couple of months. Call first to find out what the family likes to eat or if there are food allergies to consider.
4. Organize playdates.
This is especially helpful if you have kids of a similar age. The foster family may not know other families with kids the same age as their new foster child and playdates are good for kids and parents alike.
5. Volunteer to do a chore.
The nitty-gritty everyday tasks of running a family are easy to overlook in the hecticness of new parenting–especially foster parenting. It helps to set a specific frequency (once a week on Saturday, twice a month, etc) so the family knows when to count on you. One woman I know volunteered to come to the foster family’s house twice a week to fold and put away laundry while she watched her favorite morning talk show. She sat in the TV room out of the way and did her thing not disturbing the mom while she did her own thing. The list of chores that need doing is endless:
- Mow the lawn.
- Deep clean the kitchen.
- Help with homework every day for an hour after school.
6. Offer to babysit.
Not all foster care agencies will allow foster parents to use someone who is not approved to babysit but ask. Be specific with your offer–“We’d like to keep the kids this Saturday so you can do whatever you need to do.” If this is not allowed, offer to be an extra pair of hands to accompany the family on a trip to the playground, amusement park, doctor’s appointment, or Costco.
7. Give them a gift of an annual family membership/pass.
- Local swim club
- Nearby amusement center or water park
- Children’s Museum
- Costco or Sam’s
Foster families are much like all families and need many of the same types of support and caring, but there are differences. Children who enter foster care are great kids, but they have experienced the trauma of abuse and neglect, and the added trauma of being removed from everything they know. The families who step up to care for them during this time of upheaval need extra love and support.
And if you pray, please include a prayer each day for the foster families in your community.
Other CreatingaFamily.org Resources You Will Enjoy
- Best Foster Care Books for Kids and Adults
- Becoming a Foster Parent: What You Really Need to Know
- Keeping Your Marriage Solid When Adopting or Fostering
If you are a foster family, can you suggest other ways we can help?
Image credit: Randen Pederson; Vicente Freitas; cgb.