Tips from a foster mom: How to serve foster families in your community
Did you know that May is #fostercareawarenessmonth? I am so honored that Buckner International asked me to be a guest blogger today to share how to support foster families! Not everyone is called to adopt, and certainly not everyone is called to foster, but we can all love on a family that is already supporting a child!
I was a foster mom for 342 days before finalizing the adoption of our youngest son. Let me just give you a little sneak peak into the life of a foster family:
We had to fill out daily progress reports, weekly foster care notes and monthly reports. Every 30 days we had at least one visit in our home from a Child Protective Services social worker, our agency worker and our court appointed child advocate. Every visit from a social worker meant having everything picked up and in tip-top shape. Not to mention, these visits could be as fast as 30 minutes or could last as long as several hours. That alone can be difficult three or more times a month, but it’s especially difficult with multiple children and a new child.
Every bump and bruise our baby/toddler got had to be reported with an incident report, and of course, those toddler years are primetime for accidents. Can you imagine having to report every time your two-year-old fell and got a bruise? It is a little stressful. We also had multiple court dates and meetings at CPS with all the caretakers.
And this is just the surface level.
This doesn’t include the emotional rollercoaster of parents, siblings, extended family members and friends all bonding with a new child. This doesn't include any of your child’s physical or emotional needs that may need to be addressed and/or corrected.
And yet, your daily life and requirements are still there: school, work, lunches, church. Sometimes it feels like life keeps going and you are just trying to hold on and keep up.
You see, being a foster parent, while beautiful and rewarding, can also be crazy, hectic and emotional.
You know that saying “It takes a village?” I think a foster momma must have come up with this phrase because it definitely does! As foster parents, we need your support. We need your prayers and encouragement. Even just sending us a text saying you are thinking of us and praying for us can go such a long way.
One way my tribe supported me during our time as foster parents was by throwing a shower where they could meet Nathaniel once we finally had him in our home. Even though showers are not typically custom for a second child, our friends and family still came together and brought diapers and clothes.
While those items were nice and so appreciated (I am literally just now having to buy my own clothes for Nate), the shower wasn’t really about the stuff. The biggest thing I needed, that truly touched my soul, was that everyone was coming to meet Nathaniel. They were showing us they supported us, they loved us, and, most importantly, they accepted us. It was so huge for us as a family, and I still think of how much that meant to us.
Here are some practical things you can do for foster families in your area:
Bring a home cooked meal. Seriously, you have no idea how much of a difference this can make to a family. Especially on those days a social worker visit is scheduled. That would be one less thing they would have to worry about it.
Offer to clean their house or provide a one-time maid service. This would be so amazing and such a blessing to a family who is fostering. Remember those visits I mentioned? They come at you fast and often. And making sure your house is up to inspection quality with kids all the time is no easy task.
Consider becoming a respite care provider. You probably didn’t know that as foster parents we can’t have just any last minute babysitter. We are required to have either a licensed child care center or individuals approved by CPS who meet certain requirements and have taken certain classes to be able to watch our child while they are in the foster care system. Having a friend or family member who we can call when we have a last minute emergency — or even an hour to ourselves — is a luxury many of us do not have.
Pray, pray and pray some more. Know the foster family’s court dates. Know when they have social worker visits scheduled. Find out what emotional needs they have and pray for them. And let them know you are praying for them. It is nice to know you have friends and family members walking with you.
Not everyone has the call to adopt, and certainly not everyone has the call to foster a child. And that is OK. But we all can show love to a family that has answered their calling and is walking the long, hard and beautiful days of fostering.
I love these verses in the Bible, Romans 12:4-5, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
We all are different with different gifts, but we are all working together as one body of Christ. So find a foster family you can serve and encourage to help them be successful in their parenting of a foster child.
Holly James is an adoption advocate and a former foster parent. She and her husband, Jeremy, have two children, Clyde and Nate, who they adopted through foster care. You can read more about her family’s foster care and adoption journey on her blog, hollynicolejames.com.
May is National Foster Care Month. To learn more about how you can become a foster parent or support foster families in your community, visit buckner.org/nationalfostercaremonth.