Ask any foster parent the phrase they hear the most and it will likely be “I could never do what you do” or “I’d love to foster, but I could never give the kids back.” While it is true that not everyone is equipped to be a foster parent there are so many other ways you can serve this group of kids and the families who take care of them.
1. Become a CASA volunteer
I can tell you from personal experience that CASA volunteers can make a huge difference in the outcome for kids in foster care. They are sometimes the only voice that speaks for the children in court. Visit this website for more info.
2. Become a respite provider or approved babysitter
This requires background checks and fingerprinting and training, so it is often hard to find people who are willing to go through all of this. If you know a foster family, ask them how to become a babysitter/respite provider for them. If you don’t know anyone who fosters, contact a local foster care agency or foster care ministry and find out if there is a family you could support in this way.
3. Donate gently used items
Too often placements come with little or no worldly possessions so this is always a need for families. If you have an extra room in your home you could go one step further and dedicate space to store donated items for families to come and shop from (or even find volunteers to deliver items to a family with a new placement).
4. Provide a meal
When someone has a baby, family and friends gather together to provide meals for the family as the new mom recovers and the family adjusts to the new addition. While a foster mom may not be physically recovering from childbirth, this is very much the same situation. When new placements arrive the kids may not sleep through the night (even if they are not newborns), they may not like the food they are being offered, or the new school they have to attend. Yes these kids may not be babies, but their needs are great and it certainly takes some adjustment time. Meals would be a huge blessing. Check out this website for creating a “meal train.”
5. Become a prayer warrior for a foster family
Commit to praying for a foster family on a regular basis. While confidentiality may require the family to be vague with requests, find out important dates that are coming up or specific situation that may need prayer. Fostering can be hard on everyone. Kids are adjusting to a new home with uncertainty of what the future will hold. Biological and adopted kids already in the home may have difficulty accepting the new child or sharing their home and family. Foster parents may find a strain on their marriage as they learn to parent a child from a hard place who often has so many needs. Call, text, or email regularly to see how you can pray.
6. Donate school supplies
When August rolls around there is always a push for donated school supplies for underprivileged kids and low income schools. When foster kids are placed in a home in the middle of November or the end of April they still need to go to school and they may not have come with any supplies. Offer to load up a backpack full of supplies for that child.
7. Mentor a foster kid
This will likely require the same training as a babysitter or respite provider, but this is so much more than that. There are many single parent foster homes or homes with many kids that could really use another role model. This is particularly true for older kids who may be a bit more challenging. These kids need all the supportive adults in their life they can get. Offer to take a foster kid out for dinner, ice cream, to a ball game on a regular basis and really pour into their life for however long they are in their foster home.
8. Volunteer to run errands
As a foster parent there are many little things that could be done that would make a huge difference (especially in those first couple weeks after a new placement, but anytime would be appreciated!). Offering to stop at the store, take one of their forever kids to a soccer practice or dance class, or even take a fire extinguisher to be weighed (did you realize they had to do that?) So many possibilities…
9. Household chores
There is paperwork and numerous appointments that come with foster care (doctor, dentist, psychologist, play therapist, OT,PT, ST) in addition to all the visitors that come see the kids each month (CASA, lawyer, caseworker, agency worker)… So while foster families may seem like the average family, there are so many household tasks that can easily slip through the cracks in the chaos. An offer to come help clean out a garage, repair a fence, organize a closet, or even fold laundry would be such a blessing for a foster family.
10. Prayerfully consider becoming a foster parent
Not everyone is equipped to be a foster parent, but if you find yourself being drawn to foster families and foster kids then maybe God is working on your heart to help in more than just a support role. Prayerfully consider if this might be something your family could do. Yes, goodbyes are hard, behaviors are challenging, hugs may not come freely, and rewards may not be easily seen, but these children need loving homes who are willing to look past their own needs and do what is best for these hurting kids and families.