“We live in a world in we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” -Fred Rogers
As we get settled into our life after the military and life after graduate school, both filled with instability and unpredictable schedules, we’ve been considering our plans for the future. My husband and all of his siblings were all brought together within their family through the beautiful gift of adoption, so for years we’ve envisioned bringing a child into our family the same way! I always assumed our adoption would happen internationally, and probably from South Korea, where my husband, his brother and two sisters were adopted from.
However, as time has gone on, I’ve became acutely aware of the children in our own community, in need of stability and safety. Even if only temporary. Throughout the bible, scripture directs us to care for orphans and to protect the most vulnerable! I’ve been feeling a shift in my heart to learn more about becoming the hands and feet of the risen Christ right here where I’m at. As I get older, I come to better understand that even if we aren’t able to travel abroad and serve in the mission field or donate millions of dollars, we can truly impact the life of someone. Could I open my home for a short period of time while their family heals? Could I be open to loving a child forever? If you want to help vulnerable kids, but can’t commit to opening your home for foster care for any amount of time. Scroll down and read ways to get involved on large or small scales!
So, I’ve done extensive research to bring this to fruition. One thing I’ve learned is that the goal of community support should always be to make it easier for foster parents to confidently yes to new placements.
1) Meet their food needs. My friend said it best, she suggested thinking of the new placement as a birth of a newborn. What helps to ease the transition? Considering giving food gift cards for delivery, make a meal train, or bring over a box of pre-packaged snacks. Also, don’t forget breakfast! Muffins, egg casseroles, sand freezer burritos can make the transition a lot easier.
2) Help them round up the last minute items they need. These do not have to be brand new items! Sometimes, a fostering family may have a six year old and then several months later it may be a newborn. There is a scramble that usually happens while parents try to round up the items they need for their placement. Offer to be a “point person” so that multiple people aren’t running to the home as they try to adjust to a new normal. I try to stock up on coupon diapers and other coupon items so I can drop those off to a family whose just received a new placement. Also, I’m always looking for clothes and shoes at yard sales. If you’re short on time, but heavy on financial resources considering gifting something like an Amazon gift card or pay for grocery delivery for a year. Send them things via Amazon Prime Now, so it just arrives at their door.
3) Consider getting the necessary certifications to provide respite care. Maybe it just isn’t possible for you to foster full time right now, but consider completing the certification process (in most states this is just a background check) so you can at least provide occasional respite care for your friends who have taken on children. This varies state by state, but usually it isn’t as intensive as becoming a foster parent and can make it easier for fostering parents to say yes when a placement is available. You can provide childcare for foster parents to go on a date or offer a day each week or once a month for errands to be ran or self care time to be had.
4) Contact your local DCS office and see what tangible needs you can meet within your community. For example, our office does a program called “welcome boxes” so when a child comes into care, these boxes have special items to entertain them while they are placed with a foster family, snacks, etc. They also do “launch” boxes for children aging out of care with items like plates, laundry detergent, gift cards for food, etc. You can also gather pre-packaged snacks for the staff at these offices. Caseworkers often have to skip eating lunch while they attempt to place their children with foster families. There’s also a program where you can hang out with kids in the office while a placement is found.
5) Treat foster kids just the same as BIO kids, don’t forget to invite them to playdates and birthday celebrations.
6) Look for small ways to serve your friends who are taking this on. Can you mow their lawn? Cut their children’s hair? Consider sponsoring a child to participate in an activity (like a sport or class!)
7) Become a CASA. (Court Appointed Special Advocate)
8) Help high school age foster children complete college applications and lengthy FAFSA paperwork.
9) Call your friends, check in with them. They are probably crazy busy right now, but find time to chat with them and see how they are feeling.
10) Consider setting up a rotation of supplies program. Hilariously got this idea from the grandparents group at my mother in law’s church. They split up expenses of strollers, car seats, etc and share these things.
11) Attempt to set up a ministry at your church (if you are religious, you don’t have to be to be a foster parent) that supports foster families. I’m desperately working to set up something in my own parish. I’d love to collect donations for foster families, set up a rotating childcare list, offer church only foster training so people in the parish can go through training together. In this ministry, we’d also provide services for biological families. Classes, encouragement, mentorship, and meeting their needs with community resources. In my vision, it would be a one stop shop for supporting vulnerable children and the families that open their homes to them.
12) Get on mailing lists. Do a quick google search for your city and state and foster care support. Get on their volunteer lists, because they will send out a quick email looking for things needed in the last minute or simple opportunities to help out.