Even if you’re not in a place to foster children or youth yourself, there are so many ways to support those who are foster families.
We’ve had the experience of being a “Safe Family”, providing respite care for foster families such as being an occasional babysitter for friends of ours, the Davis family. While our support was usually very brief and short, it gave us a deep appreciation for the foster families out there. They really are changing lives.
You can be a part of it, too! Here are 10 ways you can support foster families in your church or community. Start with one for this month and feel the difference you make.
Motivated to do more? Plan ahead and put reminders on your calendar for holiday months and events like Easter, Summer Break, Back-to-School, Thanksgiving, Christmas and even birthdays. Sprinkling care throughout the year makes it manageable for you and them.
This is an easy way to start. A hot meal can bring a whole lot of comfort, even in the midst of a whole lot of chaos. You can serve a family by delivering a hot meal, assembling a few freezer meals or dropping off a basket full of yummy snacks. Everyone’s schedule and abilities are different, so don’t feel pressure to be a gourmet chef— show up in the right moment with a latte or iced tea for a foster parent with a new infant placement, and they just might do a happy dance!
One meal is good, several meals is even better. Consider making sure the family has a steady stream of yummy support coming their way. This is especially important in the first couple of weeks after a new placement arrives. Also, you can set up a reoccurring schedule that spreads meals out; such as just Mondays for a couple months. This would give them something to look forward to, which could be a lifeline for a foster family. Creating a FoodTidings schedule makes this process efficient and convenient to rally others and is especially helpful for a family that is stepping up to welcome new kiddos into their home.
Be proactive and ask what the family needs, before and after a new placement arrives, Maybe it’s diapers and a baby gate? Maybe it’s bunk beds and blankets? Maybe it’s backpacks and school supplies? Especially if a family fosters children of varying ages and genders over time, the supplies they need start to add up — both financially and space-wise. Another idea is to offer to store supplies for them; extra space could be just the gift they need!
When a child arrives to a new foster home, this time can be loaded with different kinds of emotions for everyone involved. Help the parents, and possibly their own biological children, welcome the child into their home. Talk with the foster parents about how to help with the transition. You could deliver a gift or activity that the family could enjoy together that first evening or week. Depending on your relationship, you might bring over some dessert and initiate a game night. Maybe you could help create a new tradition by joining them for a monthly neighbor and family night!
Every foster family needs at least a few people to step up into their primary support circle. Two key ways you can help in this way is by regularly providing transportation and/or respite care.
Children in the foster care system often have a significant number of additional appointments, so providing rides for visits, after-school activities and appointments can be a huge blessing. Providing respite care — whether it’s just during an afternoon of errands, letting a couple get a date night, or caring for a child for several days — is a tremendous gift to foster parents and children.
Laws vary state-to-state, but this may require a background check or special certification from the foster family’s licensing agency. For example, in Arizona, the Christian Family Care Center (https://cfcare.org/) does a fantastic job of coordinating Foster care, licensing, training, Safe Family programs and much more. Be proactive to find out what you need to do, and then follow through. Try to make this support regular, because your consistent presence could have a powerful stabilizing effect for both the child(ren) and the family.
This is a big one. Foster parenthood (and parenthood in general), and the busyness and complexity that comes with it, can often leave foster parents feeling isolated or overwhelmed. Regularly and proactively check in with your friends to see how they’re doing. Grieve with them. Laugh with them. Pray with them. Finally, try not to give unsolicited advice; just be with them and listen.
You can bless a family by simply letting them know you’re available to help with day-to-day chores and errands. Then follow through! Most foster families feel awkward asking for specific needs but would gladly accept help with household tasks.
Say: “I’d like to mow your lawn this week. What day works best?” Then follow through.
Ask: “Could I help with your laundry this week? I will pick it up on Thursday and bring it back clean and folded on Friday.” Again, following through is the important part.
Other ideas: Offer to grab their week’s grocery list and deliver their groceries, provide transportation for foster and/or biological kids, or just ask them what errands you can help with.
As mentioned above, foster families — parents, children in temporary care and biological children — can feel isolated. Invite the whole family over for dinner or a playdate. Welcoming a child into a bigger community, offering warmth and hospitality, is a powerful way to show love to both the child and the family.
Sometimes you need to get out of the house! Gift the family a day pass to a nearby water park or activity center. Offer them a membership to the zoo or a local pool. This could be such a fun and unexpected way to brighten up life for a family — and could be a great choice for a family in your church or neighborhood you don’t know as well but want to serve.
Finally — and probably most importantly — pray. There are battles going on that we can’t always see. Pray for the child. Pray for their biological families. Pray for their foster parents. Pray for the biological children of the foster parents. Pray for court dates. Pray wisdom for the authority figures and decision makers. Don’t just say you’ll do it. Actually pause, and pray – set a reminder. Perhaps text the prayer to the family. Let them know you already did it, and will continue too. It’s a priceless gift.
Remember, you don’t have to do everything. Start with one small yes.
You can do it.
(References: Numerous foster family friends, Christian Family Care, goproject.org, and personal experiences.)
FoodTiding meals do more than just feed them!
I loved FoodTidings.com at first sight. My husband and I had the opportunity to join the Food Tidings team in 2011 as Partners, after meeting the original co-founders at our church. I have a Bachelors in Public Administration from the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!) and a Masters in Health Services Administration/Strategic Planning & Marketing from The George Washington University. We planned my early retirement from the market 3 kids in and was blessed with a 4th to complete us; finishing with 2 boys & 2 girls. Our oldest is now launched, happily married and proudly serving in the Air Force, while the three at home keep us on our toes, amazed and inspired. As a full-time Wife and Mom, this website is my side-gig that serves as a personal ministry for our family. Seeing caring communities created, hope spread and generosity in action continues to be a motivator for all of us. Matt 5:16