10 meaningful ways to support a foster familyGO Project
Foster families play a vital role in supporting children and families during a difficult time in their lives. They open their heart and home to children in need of safe, nurturing care, and work with biological families to overcome difficult challenges.
Not everyone is called to be a foster parent, but there are so many ways that anyone can wrap around a foster family and help them succeed. So, let’s get practical: Here are 10 meaningful ways you can support foster families in your church or local community:
1. Bring food
Seriously, who doesn’t love food? Prepare dinner for a family, stock their freezer with meals, or pack a basket full of yummy snacks. Everyone’s schedule and abilities are different, so don’t feel pressure to be the next Rachel Ray – simply show up in the right moment. Even a simple coffee for a foster parent with a new placement could be just the boost they need.
2. Organize a meal train
Consider taking #1 to the next level and making sure the family has a steady stream of yummy support coming their way. This is especially important in the first couple of weeks after a new placement arrives. MealTrain.com is just one of the many websites available to make this process efficient and helpful for a family that deserves a little extra love.
3. Gather supplies
Be proactive and ask what the family needs before and after a new placement arrives. Maybe it’s diapers and a baby gate? Maybe its bunk beds and backpacks? Families can foster children of varying ages and genders over time, so the supplies they need starts to add up — both financially and space-wise. Another creative way you might be able to help is by offering to store supplies for them!
4. Welcome a new placement
When an infant, toddler, or teenager arrives to a new foster home, this time can be loaded with different kinds of emotions for everyone involved. Help the foster parents, as well as their own biological children, welcome the child into their home. Talk with the foster parents about how you can help with the transition. You could deliver a gift or activity that the family could enjoy together that first evening or week.
Oftentimes, kids in care arrive with very few belongings, so consider gathering clothing, personal hygiene items, toys, or school supplies.
5. Become a primary supporter for a family
Every foster family could benefit from a few people stepping up into their primary support circle and committing to help when it’s needed most. Two very big ways primary supporters can help are by:
- Regularly providing transportation – children in the foster care system often have a significant number of additional appointments, so providing rides for visits, after-school activities, and appointments can be a huge blessing.
- Providing respite care — whether it’s just during an afternoon full of errands, an overdue date night, or entire weekend, caring for a child is a tremendous gift to both foster parents and children. Ideally, your friends would know you’re committed to providing this support even before they get licensed to accept a placement. Laws vary state-to-state, but this may require a background check or special certification from the foster family’s licensing agency. Be proactive to find out what you need to do, and then follow through. Try to make this support regular, because your consistent presence could have a powerful stabilizing effect for both the child(ren) and the family.
6. Check in and listen
This is a big one. Foster parenthood (and parenthood in general), and the busyness and complexity that comes with it, can often leave foster parents feeling isolated or overwhelmed. Regularly and proactively check in with your friends to see how they’re doing. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Pray with them. Finally, try not to give unsolicited advice; just be with them and listen.
7. Help with the everyday stuff
You can bless a family by simply letting them know you’re available to help with day-to-day chores and errands. Most foster families feel awkward asking for specific needs but would gladly accept help with household tasks.
Say: “I’d like to mow your lawn this week. What day works best?” Then follow through.
Ask: “Could I help with your grocery shopping this week? Send me your list and I will pick up and deliver what you need.” Then follow through.
8. Invite the whole family over for dinner or a playdate
As we mentioned in #6, foster families — parents, children in temporary care, and biological children — can feel isolated. Invite the whole family over for dinner or a playdate. Warmth and hospitality, and welcoming a child into a bigger community, is a powerful way to show Christ’s love to both the child and the family.
9. Gift them a membership or day passes
Foster families and kids in care enjoy the same activities that you do! Gift them a day pass to a nearby water park or activity center. Offer them a membership to the zoo or the city pool. This could be such a fun and unexpected way to brighten up life for a family — and could be a great choice for a family in your church or neighborhood you don’t know as well but want to serve.
Finally — and firstly — pray. There are battles going on that we can’t always see. Pray for the child. Pray for their biological families. Pray for their foster parents. Pray for the biological children of the foster parents. (See Jason Johnson’s powerful post from 2015: “Foster Care is Spiritual Warfare”.)
Remember, you don’t have to do everything on this list, so choose what works best for you! It starts with just one small ‘yes.’ Even if you don’t know a foster family, you can show your support and help a child in care by responding to needs through CarePortal! Your family, church, or business can meet needs that help connect kids with foster families and strengthen and preserve those placements.
“I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.”