TEN WAYS YOU CAN HELP CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE
May is Foster Care Awareness Month. From making a meal to babysitting to donating, praying to mentoring to becoming a foster parent, EVERYONE CAN DO SOMETHING. Here are 10 ways you can stand for children in foster care:
BECOME A BACK-UP OR RESPITE PROVIDER
If you have a heart to provide hands on care to foster children but don’t have the ability to do it full time, you can become licensed to be a respite provider. I have a friend who is a licensed foster parent but only provides respite care. She’s cared for a number of children for short periods of time when a placement couldn’t be found or a foster family had other commitments. Right now she has a newborn baby who needs the care of a stay at home mom for a short period until she’s old enough to be in day care. As a respite provider, you give a great gift to foster parents and foster children, but only when you’re able for as long as you’re able.
START A SUPPORT GROUP OR WRAP AROUND MINISTRY IN YOUR COMMUNITY OR CHURCH
For some reason most of the support given to foster and adoptive parents comes from other foster and adoptive parents. This shouldn’t be the case! If you are not able to take children into your home, you can take an active role in enabling and encouraging those who are. Consider starting a support group (check All In Family for great resources), organizing a Bible study, coordinating meals, planning a night to honor foster parents, organizing babysitting, etc. Try asking the foster families you know what sort of ministry would serve them and get something started!
DONATE TO FOSTER CARE CAUSES
From journey bags to Christmas presents, from care packages for college students to sibling reunification trips at Disney, you can help provide the “extras” for a foster child. Some organizations to consider giving to:
Foster the Family - Within 24 hours of a new foster placement, the Foster the Family Community Foster Response delivers practical necessities and comforting support to the doorstep of a foster family. Each family will be paired with a trained staff member and receive a meal; information about resources and support; a note of encouragement and contact information of a mentor foster parent; clothing, hygiene items, supplies, and comfort items for the child. Donate now.
One Simple Wish - One Simple Wish connects individuals who want to bring joy to the life of a foster child with foster children who could use a little joy. The children share their simple wishes and needs, One Simple Wish posts them and fills them using their online platform, and a foster child receives their wish-come-true. From a tennis racket for a budding athlete to a laptop for a college freshman to medical bills for a young adult on dialysis, One Simple Wish brings joy and support to children impacted by foster care. Fill a wish now.
BABYSIT FOR A FOSTER FAMILY
I wouldn’t be able to have five children in my home if I didn’t have consistent support from people willing to babysit for me. My current foster son has seven appointments scheduled within a six week period. That means that seven times I’m looking for help with my other children. I have people in my life who will babysit my foster children before and after visits, when I go grocery shopping, for date nights, and any other time the reality of five kids collides with life. People who are willing to care for foster children for small periods of time make it possible for people who are able to care for them full time.
SERVE A FOSTER FAMILY
Pick up a prescription. Clean a house. Mow a lawn. Drop off coffee. Chauffer kids. Fold laundry. Pick up milk. Make a meal. Buy diapers. Collect furniture. Share baby gear. Drive to visits. Ask the foster families in your life how they specifically and practically need help and volunteer to help!
MENTOR FOSTER YOUTH
Look for opportunities through the state, local organizations, or even Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to connect with foster youth, former foster youth, or at risk children. Mentoring is such a meaningful way to affect the life of a current or former foster child. The relationship can be an opportunity to show love and care to someone who’s maybe never experienced it, tell of the great sacrifice of Jesus with someone who’s maybe never heard it, share wisdom and life skills with someone who’s maybe never been taught them, and possibly even be a stand-in family member to someone who's maybe never had anyone.
This isn’t as trite as it sounds. When you access the God of the universe on behalf of another, it is the most loving and powerful thing you can do. Pray for foster parents. Pray for adoptive parents. Pray for the children in their care. Pray for children who are waiting for families. Pray for the judges and the workers and the lawyers and the therapists. Pray.
BECOME A “CUDDLER”
It’s always heartbreaking when I pick up a baby from the NICU and learn that the he’s had no visits from family for weeks or months. NICU nurses are the best of the best, but they can’t just sit around and hold babies all day. You can, though, if you volunteer as a NICU cuddler. Many hospitals have a program where you hold and comfort NICU babies. The babies are, of course, not all foster children, but some of them are and are usually the ones most in need of some good cuddling. As the mama of babies who’ve gone through the pain of detoxing alone in the NICU, I think this is such a precious way to care for foster children.
VOLUNTEER WITH YOUR LOCAL AGENCY OR STATE DIVISION
Most agencies have many different needs for volunteers. You can spruce up a visitation room with new toys and supplies. You can provide childcare for support group meetings. You can get involved with clothing or gift drives. In some states, you can even transport or supervise visits with biological parents. Contact your local agency and ask what the needs are.
BECOME A FOSTER PARENT
Last, but certainly not least: you can welcome foster children into your home. When I started to learn more about the plight of foster children, I became compelled to do something. I was compelled by the stories of children, just like mine, living right across town from me who were hurt, starved, raped, ignored. I was compelled by the statistics that predict these kids' futures: jail, pregnancy, homelessness, further abuse. I was compelled by admitting what is true: God created them, loves them, values them, and died for them, just like He did for me and my own children.