The desire people have to help foster families and foster kids is BEAUTIFUL. I will never not love it and appreciate it. However, I think there are some misconceptions about what is actually helpful and what is kind of overwhelming.
With every attempt to be humble and thankful, I must explain that there’s a difference between 1) wanting to be supportive to foster families because you can’t be foster parents yourselves, and 2) feeling guilty about not being able to foster children and subsequently giving foster families trash bags full of your old stuff to soften your guilt.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO FEEL GUILTY FOR NOT FOSTERING. But if you do, please work through that in your own heart instead of giving us your unwanted donation items.
That being said, there are some people who have come alongside us (or other foster families) and made our jobs much, much easier. They’ve either comforted us, eased our financial burdens, or shown us sweet appreciation.
Here are the most helpful moments I’ve either seen, felt, or heard about:
1. Food. Food. Food. And food, again.
We’ve had people deliver groceries to our front door without telling us. We’ve had people send us gift cards to restaurants. We’ve had people donate boxes of canned goods to us. We’ve even had a woman who committed to cooking us dinner once a week, EVERY SINGLE WEEK, for the forseeable future.
People have been so good to us when it comes to feeding our family, and it has been helpful in ways that they probably don’t even know.
We are paid by the state to take care of our foster children, but all of the expenses go toward groceries, toiletries, added costs in utilities, school supplies, haircuts, etc.
Whenever someone provides us with a meal or groceries, we have a little bit more money freed up to spend money on our foster kids for FUN things! And if you know anything about the trauma in their lives, fun is often hard to come by.
With the gifts we’ve been given, we’ve been able to enroll our foster daughter in gymnastics, and that’s HUGE for her!
2. Becoming licensed respite care providers.
Respite care is what foster families use to have safe, temporary care for their foster children. Sometimes, we need respite care because we’re going out of state and our foster kids don’t have permission to come with us. Sometimes we just need a break.
Sometimes our foster kids need a break from us.
Whatever the reason is, respite care is a godsend. You can become licensed to do it fairly easily, and it helps us feel safe about who is keeping our kiddos.
Plus, you get paid for it! WOO HOO!
3. Pray for us.
If you’re a person who has a relationship with Jesus, seriously, please pray for our families. Pray for our foster kids to feel peace, pray for our biological kids to find a new balance in their lives, pray for us parents to be patient, and pray for biological parents to get healthy.
4. Come alongside us in community.
If you have kids, you know how hard it is to maintain your old friendships once you have kids. It’s pretty similar with foster care, but I’d dare to say even harder.
A lot of people don’t want their kids around “dangerous” children of trauma. I understand the concerns about what foster kids have been exposed to and what they’ll subsequently expose your children to. However, most of these kids just want someone to play with.
They’re willing to play out in the open where you can see them, and they’re really working hard to overcome their situations. Be more careful than usual, but allow your own family to be an example of healthiness to them.
Don’t care so much about your own children not being “tainted” that you stop caring about the children who have been through trauma at the hands of their own family members.
5. Offer to babysit our kids for the evening so we can rest.
You don’t have to be licensed respite care workers to babysit foster children. However, if you do it without being licensed, the state won’t pay you.
If you genuinely want to help foster families, offering to babysit is one of the sweetest things on Earth. Sometimes, we can afford to pay you. Sometimes, we can only afford to feed you.
Either way, your time and energy is a gift to our families.
6. Give us adult conversation.
Whether we stay at home with our kids or go to a job outside of the home, we’re constantly busy and not really spending time in conversation.
For many of us, our tanks are empty and we feel like we haven’t been SEEN by another adult in weeks. Ask us how we’re doing and really listen. Listen to us vent. Sit next to us while we cry.
You don’t have to understand what we’re going through to be able to sit down and listen.
Some of the most precious conversations I’ve had have involved someone saying, “I see how hard you’re working, and I’m thankful that our community has you.”
7. Ask us if we are in need of clothes, toys, etc., but please don’t just drop them off without asking.
I don’t know many foster parents that would deny a gift to their family or be rude about being given something they didn’t need.
However, when we’re given lots of items that can’t be put to use in our homes, we have to spend valuable time and energy going through it and donating it. When we need to be running to three appointments or filling out mountains of paperwork, we’re instead hunting down donation bins and trying to sort through the garbage bags in our trunks.
Some of us aren’t brave enough to ask around for things we need (because of fear of being judged as greedy) so it is very sweet for you to ask if we need anything. Just know that if we say no, we probably mean it!
8. Know that we are only doing what we’ve felt called to do.
We’re not saints. We’re not martyrs. Our foster kids aren’t demons. We love them very much. This is hard. This is fun. This is miserable. This is wonderful.
We’re completely and utterly normal.
Just as you’ve been called to teach, heal people, serve people, or administrate, we have been called to foster children. We all have our cogs in the machine of life, and ours is no more valuable than yours.