May is Foster Care Awareness Month
Help a (Foster) Mama or Dad Out!
Hello Parkside Friends! May is Foster Care Awareness Month! When we talk about foster care, it can bring up a lot of different feelings and thoughts in different people. Some of us are excited and passionate about foster care and helping serve children and their families during the most trying times of their lives. Some of us get a “kick in the gut” feeling because we’ve been through foster care ourselves or have loved someone who has experienced trauma through being in the foster care system. Some of us are grieving having our children in the foster care system, and some of us are grieving as our foster children are reunited home. In our family, foster care has been both the biggest blessing and hardest thing we’ve ever done. We absolutely could not have entered into foster care without a giant village helping and supporting us along the way! Not everyone is called to be a foster parent, but we can all help in some way! With that being said, here are some suggestions on ways you can support the foster parents in your village, even if you’re not a foster parent yourself!
- Bring dinner (or lunch, or snacks, or coffee)!
- Seriously—everyone loves this! Bringing a new child into your home, whether from birth or through foster care, is a stressful and hard time of transition. Not having to worry about what to make for dinner or having lots of extra snacks at home takes a big load off the new foster parents and gives them more time and energy to pour into making sure their new foster child has the smoothest and most comfortable transition possible. Please don’t be offended if they take your amazing casserole and say goodbye at the door—the first few days (weeks, months) of a new child being in the home are difficult, and having lots of new people in and out for dinner can add to the stress for the child.
- Offer to make a Target run.
- Often, children come into a new foster home with very little of their own clothes, toys, and other necessities. It may take a day or two to figure out sizes or interests, but once a new child is home, ask your foster mama friend what you can get them at Target! I guarantee they will need some new clothes, school supplies, bath products, lovies, etc.! And believe me—taking a child who has recently entered foster care into Target for a shopping trip is NOT high on your friend’s list of things she’d love to do!
- Offer to take the foster family’s permanent children on a play date or special day.
- Again, bringing a new child into the home is always a time of transition, but this can be even harder when a child is entering the home from foster care, and the foster siblings can sometimes feel overlooked or left behind. The new foster sibling almost certainly has trauma and extra needs that need to be handled during the first few weeks (not to mention doctor’s appointments, dental appointments, mental health check-ups, DSS visits, etc.). Having close friends take my permanent children for lunch at Chick-fil-A or to the park to play for a few hours has truly saved me in the past! It gives the foster parents time to bond with the foster child, go to appointments without having to drag everyone else along, AND makes the permanent children feel special and loved. This is one of my most favorite and appreciated things other families have done for us over the years!
- After a few weeks, invite the whole family over for dinner or a play date. And hold all judgment and comments on behavior pretty please.
- I know many times, I have left places in a super-fast hurry due to one of my children having a total and LOUD meltdown– parks, grocery stores, the children’s museum, zoos, doctors’ offices (now that I’m thinking about it—is there anywhere we haven’t left in a rush?). Children in foster care (or any child with a history of trauma!) can be easily overstimulated, not understand how to behave in a certain situation, react to seemingly simple things with a “flight, fight, or freeze” response, or just be acting out of grief and confusion. Who wouldn’t react after being removed from the home and people you’ve known your whole life and asked to live with strangers? Please be patient with your friend’s foster child—they are doing the best they can. Also, please know that how your foster-parent friends’ parent their foster children will likely (ok—will) look different than the way you may parent your own children (or likely even different from how foster parents parent their permanent children!). There are extra needs here that are not visible, and because of privacy laws, your friends can’t tell you all of the child’s history or possible reasons behind behaviors. Be gracious, ask how you can help, and talk to your own children about being patient with children who may have behaviors they aren’t used to seeing on a normal basis.
- Take your friend out to coffee. Alone. And listen.
- Foster care is HARD. For everyone involved on all sides. Adults need time alone to process, decompress, vent, cry, and hear that they are not alone. Your friend is feeling all the feelings and dealing with chronic uncertainty. Will all of these kids be here tomorrow? Will I get a call from the school at any moment about a crisis? How will things go after the next parent visit? How many more doors will we need to replace because of holes kicked into them? What will happen after the next court hearing? Living with chronic uncertainty while trying to love a new child and help them heal is physically and emotionally exhausting. Pray, listen, buy coffee, and offer to help however you can. Draw close—don’t pull away. Foster parenting can feel so isolating, but I know that in our family, our friends who drew near were our saving graces. They held us up in prayer and went to the Lord for us when we didn’t have the words ourselves. And we could never have undertaken this foster care journey without them.