Chances are, if a family in your circle begins fostering they are doing so because they feel their faith beckons a responsibility to participate in restorative justice. They don’t want polish. They know faith, like life, is gritty and nuanced.
Chances are, they slay dragons before breakfast.
Chances are, that family is standing on the toes-edge-abyss of dealing with trauma, big behaviors, big feelings from foster and bio children, marital tension, and begging God for help each morning as they stay in bed just a fraction of a second longer than necessary before beginning it all over again.
Chances are, that family needs less spiritual platitudes and more actual, practical help. Spiritualized one-liners fall flat. Unless your Christianese comes with a casserole, it means nothing here.
Chances are, they are so zoned into daily survival they cannot communicate their needs or even assess what those needs are.
Whether you live in the same zip code or several states away, here are ten tangible ways to support foster families.
1. Deliver dinner.
There’s a reason this is a classic. Making dinner is the worst on the best of days. Who doesn’t want dinner to magically appear? Or postmates dinner. Or leave a reusable bag of kid-friendly snacks plus hearty snacks for the parents.
2. Bring an icy beverage.
Iced coffee, tea, boba – anything. Showing up with a jangling iced drink when your kids’ afternoon activities overlap will be like Christmas morning to the foster mama or papa’s spirit!
3. Take their bio kids for the day.
Going to the park, beach, museum, mini-golf, library? Take their established children (bio or previously adopted) along for fun outings with your family. Most likely their new normal is a lot more staying home and a lot more chaos than usual with a whole new set of social worker visits and other appointments scheduled into their parents’ day. The kids deserve some fun!
4. Come facilitate a special play time.
Children in foster care are sponges for attention. Children of foster families are sponges for attention. Bottom line: children = attention. Come give relentless attention and peppy energy for an hour so foster parents who try to maintain this high level of energy, attentiveness, positivity, and intentionality can have a moment to breathe and release into a relaxed mental and physical state.
5. Come clean something.
You already know how hard it is to do housework with littles around. Multiply that exponentially with a new placement of kids. Parental supervision is constant eyes-on for safety. Parental touch is constant for attachment. Environmental chaos is probably making a hard situation harder. Enter the chaos and help organize bedrooms, fold laundry, sanitize toys, get dirty. Or, watch the kids while foster parents enjoy the alone time and anger-management of going to town on their countertops.
6. Drop off sensory-driven activities for the kids.
Fresh playdough might be the saving grace needed to get through a long afternoon.
7. Shop for essentials.
Headed to Target or Costco? Check in if they are on the last diaper or have been washing their hands with the third tap-water refill in the soap dispenser because it felt like a better choice than braving a shopping trip.
8. Gift foster parents a special night out.
Incredible concert in town? Amazing speaker on tour? Fantastic or slightly-above-mediocre movie in theaters with full-recline seats? Gift tickets to foster parents. I guarantee you they are maxed stressed because they are battling spiritual battles for their kids and sometimes actual battles in the courtroom and they need the wind of life to blow through their soul in the form of art, music, time, and connection.
9. Mail a family-friendly game, movie, or art supplies.
Mail from friends is always fun. Unexpected packages are the absolute best!
10. Use social media to remind them you are thinking of them.
Tag them in a funny meme. Send them a text. Forward a great YouTube. Light cussing probably a bonus. Sincerity a must. Fewer platitudes, more reaching out. Just, don’t take it personally if they never respond. They are doing their best for their kids. Know your gift was gratefully received and let that be enough.
When it comes down to it, ANY of these would bless a foster family with boots-on-the-ground help. Some take more energy or planning than others so know your lane and choose what fits your life.
But here’s the thing: all families need help. Mine. Yours. We are both the givers and the receivers and until you have deeply needed you haven’t experienced the knowing joy of receiving and in turn giving.
So, please, choose one way listed to support a foster family. But also consider remembering a family with special needs children, or single parents, or those you know are living high-stress days, or are sick, or hurting, or simply because it’s Thursday and the week is relentlessly long.
A little less platitude, church. A little more helping each other.