Ten helpful ways to support foster parents without being a part of the foster care system yourself, even if you know nothing about children.
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When we were approved as foster parents, we really didn’t tell anyone. We felt there was a stigma attached to foster parenting in our community. However, when our youngest daughter was first placed with us, we realized that many people who didn’t feel equipped to foster were looking for ways to support foster parents in their community.
There are many ways, besides becoming a foster parent, to minister to children in the foster care system. Ministering to foster children can be done by supporting the foster parents. It is more than most people think to bring a new child or children into a home without months to plan and prepare.
10 Ways to Support Foster Parents
Immediately After Foster Child Placement
The first couple of weeks after a foster child is placed in a home are often the most difficult in terms of logistics. Schedules have to be shifted to account for another child or children. Routines that worked before sometime do not work with extra children. Just figuring out the new normal often consumes much of the early weeks of placement. During that early period, there are several ways to support foster parents that some people don’t think about.
Deliver a hot meal to the family in the first few days after placement.
Organize a meal train to provide meals for the family for the first week to two weeks after placement.
Deliver several freezer meals (with instructions) that can be prepared quickly and with little effort. Use disposable baking pans or labeled freezer bags for these meals to minimize clean up and eliminate the need to return dishes.
Give gift cards for pizza delivery or other restaurants with kid friendly food located close by the foster home.
Reminder: Unless you are know the family well and are aware of the details of the situation, make plans to drop the meal at the door and leave. Sometimes children who have experienced trauma are very tense in new environments. They are looking for stability and a new person in the home could cause them extreme anxiety.
2. Gather Needs for Child(ren)
Many times children are placed in foster care with almost nothing. They need clothing, toys, school supplies, diapers, and other basic needs. These items can be gathered from play groups, church groups, and school groups and delivered together at once.
Ask the foster family for a list of needs. There are often larger items that can be over looked, like car seats or strollers.
3. Run Errands
When children are first placed in a foster home, there are often many appointments for the child. Children are seen by a pediatrician, medical specialists if needed, dentist and sometimes a therapist in addition to DCS appointments, court dates and family visits if allowed. This can be huge time demand on the foster family.
Running regular errands for the foster parents can alleviate the pressures in the first weeks of placement and allow them to focus their attention on their new foster child and on the other children in their home.
4. Clean the House
Adding children to a house adds to the dishes, laundry and general clutter of a home. Someone who knows a foster family well enough could offer to do some basic cleaning and laundry while everyone gets settled in and a new routine is established. Establishing a new laundry and cleaning routine can sometimes take a while, especially when more than one child is added to the family.
Organizing is not my gift. It took me several weeks to get Phoebe’s supplies and clothing organized in our house. Organizing and storing items for a new child can be a huge help. Even donating storage bins for items that can be packed away would be a huge blessing.
Tip: Fill a storage tub with needed items donated by friends. The storage tub is the wrapping for the gift, but also useful for organizing.
6. Make Foster Kids Feel Welcome
Do what you can to make foster children feel welcome in your church, school group or play group. Encourage your children and other children to talk to them and include them if they are older. This isn’t as much of an issue with babies and toddlers, but with tweens and teens, its huge.
7. Make Phone Calls
Offer to make phone calls for the foster parents. There are so many calls to be made just after placement for medical appointments, schools, rescheduling and just passing information along. Making phone calls that do not require a parent or foster parent can be a huge help. Clearing voicemail and listing messages can also be very helpful.
Foster children can present challenges for parents that are different from those of their biological children. Dealing with trauma, fears, emotional issues, medical issues and developmental issues can take a long time. Meeting the needs of foster children can take its toll on a home and a marriage. Below are some ways to support foster parents long-term.
8. Provide Childcare (if allowed)
In some cases, childcare for foster children can only be provided by approved foster parents. This “respite care” is coordinated by case workers and can only happen at approved times. However, some foster children are allowed to spend the night or visit with friends. If it is acceptable, offer to give the foster parents a break whenever possible.
9. Arrange a Date Night
Foster parenting can be hard on a marriage. Encouraging foster parents to spend alone time with their spouse is a huge help. Arrange dinner and a movie or a night away if possible.
10. Be a Good Listener
Sometimes foster parents just need someone to listen to them. The struggles of parenting children who have lived thought trauma are difficult and heavy. Though they may not be able to disclose specific details about their foster children, parents often need an outlet to just vent. Let foster parents know that you are available to talk. Take them out for a cup of coffee and just listen. A few minutes of talking with another adult can be so valuable.
Other Items Needed in Foster Homes