Friday, May 27, 2016

6 Ways to Support Foster Families

I didn't want to end foster care awareness month without talking about the families who are taking care of those sweet kiddos! It can be a very hard, tiring and trying job! There are so many families out there doing amazing things and I think because foster care is so unknown and foreign to so many people, many of them don't get very much support. We have been very blessed to have so many people actively involved in our foster care journey, and we are very grateful for the support we have received! Not everyone should foster. Yes, there is a HUGE need for more families, but it's not for everyone! However, many people can help support these kiddos and families in other ways! Here are a few ideas, in case you want to help a foster family you know, but aren't sure what foster families need!
1. Bring meals
Much like having a newborn baby, having foster kiddos come to live with you can mean sleepless nights and lots of emotions in the beginning. It is often done with little to no planning or preparation, which can make it even more stressful! As foster families are trying to get to know the kiddos and vice versa, they are usually focusing all of their attention on loving them, making them feel at home and safe & secure. Meals are very helpful during this time! It is just one less thing that the foster parents have to think about. And let's face it-everyone's got to eat! 
2. Donate items
We were lucky to have a few days to prepare for our foster kids, but many people get as little as a 30 minute notice before kids are dropped off at their home. You can be somewhat prepared ahead of time, but you don't always know what age and gender of child you will be taking into your home. Many times these calls come in the middle of the night where you can't just run out and grab things, and the next day you are too exhausted to do so after pulling an all nighter with your new little love! If you hear about a family adding new children to their home, it is SO helpful to offer items you might have sitting around that they might need! Some examples would be cribs/beds, car seats, clothes, baby items, toys, books, etc. Not all necessities, but for many families, they've never had children in their home before and have none of this! Many children are brought to foster homes with little to no items. The foster family then has to find time to run out and get all of these things while taking care of the child(ren) during this huge trauma for them. It can also be a large expense for them. Many first time parents have 9 or more months to prepare for many of these items, and many times much of the items are gifted to them! Foster parents often go from having nothing one night to needing diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, an entire wardrobe, some toys, a crib, car seats, etc. the next night. That is a huge expense up front! 
3. Bring lunch/coffee/reinforcements
Asking your friends if you can stop by with lunch or coffee, or heck, even bagels, is so helpful during those sleep deprived nights. Even if they are fostering older children, the first few weeks/months can be very rough for everyone while they are getting adjusted. Coming over to entertain the kids or take the parents' mind off things with some mindless conversation + coffee is always helpful! Shout out to Raylene and Jenna for bringing me coffee and reinforcements a few weeks ago!! 
4. Become a respite provider
I am not sure if every state has respite, but in our state, if you are going to leave your foster children overnight, it must be with a licensed family/person. There is HUGE need for this! It is terribly hard to find people to do respite. We have found it especially hard to find it during the week because most respite families seem to work and since I stay home, our foster kids don't have child care for during the week. In our state, the process to become a respite provider is the same as becoming a foster or adoptive family. You do the background checks, take the classes and do the home study. Yes, it is a lot of work to go through to provide respite, but it is so needed and appreciated! If you have a heart for foster care, but can't become a foster family for whatever reason, consider providing respite! This is also a great way to get a feel for foster care on a temporary basis and see if it would be a good fit for you. 
5. Don't forget about foster families
Again, very similarly to having a new baby, foster families receive support in the beginning, but it quickly tapers off after the dust settles. Foster care is still very trying and emotionally and physically draining and the families continue to need support throughout the months/years depending on their situation. This could be offering to take the kiddos so they can go on a date or just get some housework done, this could be becoming a respite family, this could be bringing an unexpected meal or ice cream or coffee! Even just checking in with the family to see how things are going is so appreciated! Foster families cannot share many details about the case, but it is nice to know that people are thinking and praying for the situation and children. 

6. Help with childcare/appointments/transportation
If you are able to transport or help out with foster kiddos for childcare or other kiddos in the home, it is super helpful! It seems like often times foster kids have a lot of different appointments for a lot of different things and it can be very time consuming for the foster family. At one point, my husband and I figured out we were averaging about one appointment every week for our foster kids, and I actually think that will be increasing soon! Often times, those appointments will be for one at a time and depending what it is, sometimes we can't take the other 3. I know this is very common in foster care, so it is helpful to have people who are willing to help out in those ways! 
If you are a foster family or have supported one, what other things would you add?! 
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