How To Support Foster Children & Families Part II! (even if you can’t be a foster parent yourself!)

April 29, 2020

This is crazy, ya’ll.
I’m updating this blog post I wrote back in 2018 when my heart began to shift to potentially becoming a foster parent SOME DAY. SOME day is this day, almost exactly four years since I read a couple blog posts on the topic. Several of my friends had opened their homes to vulnerable children a few years prior, and I had gotten a front row see to their experience. Since the timing had never felt just RIGHT, I’d gotten involved in “wrap around” care. What I learned through ALL THE PODCASTS was that one easy to support children in foster care is by simplifying the work load for foster parents. (and social workers, etc but I plan to give them a dedicated blog post in May as part of Foster Care Month!)

I’ve heard it said so often I actually don’t know whose quote it is at this point, but its something to the effect of “we may not all be able to be foster parents, but we can all help foster children. “ When I first started writing this annual post, I had listened to many podcasts on foster care and gotten some great ideas! These days, however, I have even more insight and suggestions. When I think of the goal of being a support person to foster kids and families– I try to think of it like this: how can you help more foster families say yes? I’ve read there’s something like 400,000 kids in foster care right now. So, the need is great for foster parents and support. Here are some suggestions for supporting foster children.

If you’re involved at a local church, try to get your church involved. I realize some places already have things in place, so I wanted to make this my first suggestion. I’ve seen the church provide awesome support to its community by having things like foster closets or a meal ministry. Some churches here locally partner with The Forgotten Initiative (which is an amazing example of supporting the Foster Care community.) Their podcast really opened my ways to the countless ways we can serve. I’ve seen people offer childcare, so foster parents can have a date night on occasion even.

Create or Sign up for a meal train— I think this really helps to ease the load. Keep a few meals in the freezer that you can bless others with. Make a simple baked pasta dish. Honestly, it doesn’t have to be restaurant quality. It is just the act of taking that off someone’s plate. I’ve gotten in the habit of also supplying a breakfast for the next morning. So, whether it’s store bought muffins or a breakfast casserole. Another one that would be easy, buy some pantry snacks. (Granola bars, apple sauces, mac n cheese boxes, etc.)

Before you donate things, see if a foster family can utilize them. So, I’ve heard of several foster families open to all genders and ages, keeping bins of clothing organized by size so they always had clean clothes on hand for placements! Beds you’re not using anymore? Ask a foster family! Baby items? Backyard toys!? Put them to good use.

Offer childcare or coordinate a date night at a home!

Consider covering the cost of a team or a club-– Maybe they are interested in LEGOs and the school is offering an after school program. Or a soccer team. If you’re in a position, maybe cover the cost of one season or purchase cleats, or pass down cleats!

Are you a photographer? A hair stylist? What’s your gift? Can you use that to serve a vulnerable child? I have seen some of the most creative things. People doing photos, people who love design creating non profits that redecorate fosters bedrooms to reflect their interests and individual styles. My friend supports our mutual fostering friend by cutting hair for her when applicable.

Another suggestion I read online, be the shoe person. I thought this one was really good. I can’t read if this was on a podcast or blog, but they suggest you tell a foster family next placement you’ll buy the shoes or shoes of one child. Just check that worry off. Maybe you provide a gift card for a shoe store?

I read a tip on creating a wish list before you get your first placement to share with friends, ask your fostering friends if they have one or could create one. I like the idea of it being at a Target they can do pick up from for more urgent items, but I went with Amazon since my need wasn’t immediate. I shared mine with friends and let them know hey, if you have any of these items secondhand even better!

If they have bio kids, offer carpool to school or regular activities.

Offer to bring snacks and come over after bedtime. (or have snacks delivered and coordinate a zoom call, because #covid19) Being a friend is the best free way to get involved.

Send notes or texts of encouragement.

If they are coffee people, a new placement is a perfect time to surprise them with their favorite coffee.

Donate new pajamas or host a pajama drive— This is something I want to do with my boys when the world reopens. New pajamas are so comforting.

Consider grabbing extra bottles of children’s bath stuff, toilet paper, and/or paper products for a friend. This eliminates the need for extra trips to the store or doing the dishes for a season.

Stock them up on items the whole family can enjoy together— For example, puzzles, sticker art books, play dough etc. I think this is especially true if there’s bio kids already in the home. This gives everyone a place to begin to work together.

If you’re at the grocery store, offer to pick up anything they might need so they don’t have to pop out with all the kids for one single gallon of milk.

Buy a birthday cake or a put together a special box of birthday goodies. Some states have programs to provide birthday items, but I don’t think is the norm.

There are some many innovative ways to impact the life of a vulnerable child and support the families opening their homes as foster parents. My friend Stacy says to treat it like you would a new baby being born! Shower them with love and meals and support. Check in in a few months too when the honeymoon phase is wearing off, and the meals have stopped. Sit with them at church, invite them to birthday parties and play dates. Drop off underwear, socks or a box of diapers. Sit with them. Consider getting certified for free to provide respite. Tag them in things on social media like free events or events for foster families, like back to school backpack events. Use your gifts! Look at your own family

Recognize they might not feel comfortable asking for specifics, so try to fill the void where you can.

In my experience, I’ve found people want to be helpers! So, I’ve tried to make it easy by saying food is wonderful and here’s my amazon wish list. That frees me up to use my resources elsewhere, and that is a major blessing!!! I hope this helps you guys come alongside your foster family friends and family members.

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This Messy Season is a blog serving families through practical tips for nurturing their families, emphasizing quality time and adventure. Helping young families bloom where they're planted, embrace their mess, and thrive through a series of honest, blog posts highlighting realistic travel tips, favorite products that simplify the work load of families, and family entertainment.