A few weeks back I wrote a list answering some frequently asked questions about foster care. In that post, I promised I would write another one that focused on ways you can help children in foster care(and all the adults involved!) without actually becoming a foster parent.
I’m not going to try and convince anyone to become a foster parent if they don’t believe they can. I’m a firm believer that while we are not special people for doing it, it’s not something that every person out there can do. It’s a hard, heartbreaking road to take. If you don’t believe you are able to care for a child in your home, for whatever reason, you are making that choice for yourself based on your needs and abilities and I respect that. However, you can totally help those involved in foster care in other ways!
1. Become a respite care giver/certified baby sitter. I cannot stress this enough; if you have family or friends or even a person you just met in church, offer get yourself CORI’d. I know for those who have not been involved in foster care before that the concept of having your social security run to see if you have a criminal record, but I promise…it helps us foster parents immensely. Most states insist the people who watch children in foster care at any point be CORI checked. Nothing is more heartbreaking than having to deny a six year old a sleepover because her best friends mom isn’t approved. Foster parents also need breaks. I know all parents do, but there’s an extra level of heart ache and pain involved in fostering. Sometimes there are also extenuating circumstances. Instead of sending a foster child to a respite home with people they don’t know, please consider getting licensed to provide that care. My grandmother came and stayed with our kids when I had Waterbug and it was wonderful that she could keep them in our home and they didn’t have to stay with another family they had never met.
2. Become a mentor for the children. There are many programs that can connect you with a child in care who could use a stable mentor in their lives. I was a big sister with Big Brother, Big Sister program when I was 18 and it was a wonderful experience for me. Kids in care sometimes have to move between foster families, adoptive families, kinship placements, and back to their biological parents. Having an adult in their life who is there through these transitions provides a stability they could be lacking.
3. Become a biological parent aide. “But, Lauren Jane, I want to help the KIDS.” Then help the biological parents. After being a foster parent for 2 years and now an adoptive for the rest of my life, I hope to move into a parent aide position in the future. How does this help the kids? A good parent aide can help the biological parents with transportation, education, and provide them their own mentor. I have the utmost respect for the one I worked with and I know that she helped our kids bio mom in ways the workers and myself couldn’t begin to attempt to. Biological parents are not the enemy. I say this quite often, I will continue to repeat it until I am blue in the face. Helping them become better parents, encouraging them to learn and grow-it will help children in reunification. It can also help them have a support if a foster placement becomes an adoptive placement.
4. Donate to any one of the groups or charities that help children in need. Sometimes we have monetary abilities but not time. Or honestly, we don’t think our hearts can handle it. That’s okay! There are plenty of programs out there like the Dave Thomas Foundation, that help children in foster care.(This is one of my favorites because it focuses on older children in need of adoption. Personal passion here!) There are also shops that you can buy things and part of the proceeds go towards foster care/adoption. You can look into programs that help provide children in care right now with Christmas presents as well!
5. Help a foster family with the “simple things”. Cook for us, guys. Offer to baby-sit. Come over and sit with us the way you would if we added a newborn. Mourn with us when children leave our homes and celebrate the good times with us as well. Newborns are super cute, but as a woman who has added many kids into her house…(healthy)newborn biological children are a world easier those first few days/weeks than a new placement. New placements are hard on both the parents and children. We could use support and love. We could use a nice little casserole, especially when we have placements who are high needs and high risk. I’m not trying to whine-we chose this life. But I promise, if you think you can’t do a lot to help foster children…offer support to a foster family you know.
(BONUS) 6. Educate yourselves. Please. Watch your language around children who are adopted or in foster care. Learn some of the developmental and emotional traumas that can affect these kids. Be patient with new parents, try to bite your tongue if you find behaviors to be acting out(but always tell them about inappropriate behaviors!), and realize there’s a very good chance you don’t know the whole story of a child’s life. Learn about foster care and respect boundaries and those it touches.