Our family was led to fostering around a year and a half ago and to say this ministry is not for the faint of heart is the understatement of the year. We recently took in another group of two sibling brothers, which put us at 6 littles- all under 7 years old- 5 boys, 1 girl, 2 with Down Syndrome, and 1 with Noonan Syndrome. (Feel free to read about the craziness of that world in another blog I posted a few weeks ago.) But I digress- as we were desperately trying to keep our head above water with these new kiddos (and I do mean keeping everyone alive… seriously, read that blog!), our church and friends came around in a big way. I’m not generally a person who reaches out for help, and truth be known I should’ve asked for more help earlier on with this current situation, but it became clear to me as people came around us that there are some especially helpful things our friends did that helped keep us sane.
The following is a brief list of ways to bless the socks off the foster families in your life. It’s by no means complete, and it very much veers towards families with a lot of littles in particular. But the basics of blessing are certainly there and I can personally attest that they will be most welcome!
If you’re a foster family, please feel free to add to this list in the comments. The more ideas the better!
Pray for us. Let me put it a different way… PRAY! The A, number 1, most important thing that I ask for on a daily (sometimes hourly!) basis is prayer coverage. We need it over our marriages, our sanity, our bio children, the house, the cars, the kid’s schools, the kid’s teachers, the foster kids, the foster’s bio parents, the case workers… you get the idea. None of this is possible in any way shape or form without a whole lotta grace, mercy, protection, and patience. If there’s nothing you feel you can offer in tangible ways… prayer is always something we can all do. It’s not a ‘throwaway’ gift, it’s not something to be taken lightly. I know from experience that I covet the prayers of those who love us and our family. Don’t take that huge way to support us for granted.
Babysit- maybe not <all> the kids, but however many you can handle. We currently have six ourselves, and believe me we’d never push those numbers on anyone. But to have someone take a couple just to relieve the pressure for a few hours is always a God-send. Date nights for couples, an hour or two for a single parent, these precious minutes you can give us are invaluable to our sanity and often give us that extra bit of energy that we need to push on for another day. Better yet, become an official respite provider and get paid to do it! Ask your foster families for info about taking a class for respite. They are often quite short and easy to get licensed with (depending on your state). It’s always so much easier to know that we have family and friends watching our kiddos versus complete strangers. You can imagine how much easier a transition back and forth in caretakers it is on the fosters too!
Bring on the food- even with state aid, let me just say ain’t nobody in this fostering thing for the money. Kids are expensive! Of our six kiddos right now, five are boys- and though they are young these little guys can quickly eat us out of house and home. When we took in the latest fosters, a sib group of two, several of our friends and neighbors brought over meals. Not unlike a meal-train for an invalid or new baby. These meals, especially on the onset of new placements were life-savers for this momma! Not only did they save us a but of money for food but they saved me an entire evening of cooking. That’s huge! Don’t have time to cook (after all, who <really> does)? Order us some pizza. Send some gift cards our way. Eating out with a large family is at a premium these days- it’s a luxury that most can’t afford regularly- a restaurant gift certificate is a treasure!!
.Keep an eye and ear out for physical needs- often new placements create necessary logistics that foster families have to meet in a very short timeframe. Whether it be a set of bunkbeds, more linens, a full set of seasonal clothing or shoes, a car seat, extra dishes, or a simple toothbrush- bringing an entire new person (or people!) is no small thing to do. Thankfully there are usually many fostering resources to help with these needs, but it’s highly dependent on the location. Being on the lookout for good company sales, yard sales, or maybe what you’ve got stored in your attic can be a lifesaver for these families.
Offer to run errands- depending on the number and ages of the kids in the foster home, running even the simplest of errands can become a small circus (or in our house, feels like its nothing short of the Secret Service planning an overseas mission for the President- the logistics can be insane!) Pick up their groceries, take the car to get it’s oil changed, grab the dry-cleaning, or offer to drop off the kids for soccer practice. Often I’ve found myself desperately needing just a loaf of bread and gallon of milk but the sheer logistics of getting all the kids in and out of the car to the store is just not worth the effort. What should be a quick 15 minute trip to the store becomes an hour+ ordeal- with varying levels of crying, fights, and momma exasperation. Taking 30 minutes to run an errand for us is golden and we’ll be forever in your debt.
Use your gifts and talents- I probably don’t know you personally, so I’m not sure what particular giftings you have- maybe you’re a wiz with the lawn mower, you just love to walk dogs, you’re coffee lover who has a knack for knowing when that mom or dad needs some joe, you’re a thrift store connoisseur who can’t away from a great deal, you have a special relationship with laundry and you understand each other well, maybe you’ve blessed with extra tickets to that show or game, perhaps God’s given you an abundance of finances and you have a heart to give… whatever it is, be keen to use the gifts and talents God’s given you to bless others. You just never know what small or simple thing God can mightily use you in the lives of these families and kids.
(For those of you in the SW MO area, the following are a list of sites and services that are fantastic resources for foster families. Donating time, money, resources, and even just stuff to these organizations is tremendously helpful to many, many foster kids and families all over the region)
For the Kids- Aurora, MO
Sammy’s Window- Springfield, MO
The Cleaning Closet- Mount Vernon, MO
The Walk-In Closet- Pierce City, MO