I was a foster parent for ten years and this is the list I wish someone would have passed along to the people in my life…
A listening ear:
They are going to have stories you might not relate to, listen anyway. They might be making choices you wouldn’t make in their shoes, listen anyway. They might be venting one minute and gushing another over a child in their care,listen anyway. If there was only one gift you gave them, it would be active listening. It heals the brain, strengthens connection, and models Jesus.
An invitation to dinner:
People with larger families or children who have a trauma history often don’t get invited over for a meal. It can seem overwhelming to the host. As a result, foster parents’ own social life and circles shrink as they accommodate the needs of their children. Order carry-out, put away priceless heirlooms, and be open to having a new dinner table experience.
This is an unusual calling, and connection is formed in a conversation framed by good questions:
“What prompted you to explore this?”
“What are you learning right now through your foster experience?”
“What are ways we can support you in this journey?”
These and other questions will open the door for sharing what they’ve learned- it could be about the child welfare system, it could be about race, it could be about themselves, but whatever their answers, it will be an interesting exchange.
1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
Prayer impacts the one who is praying and the one we are praying about. Think of all the ways the enemy would like to hurt the children under their care- the family will need prayers for protection and provision. The parents will need full measures of grace, joy, patience, discernment, wisdom and the list goes on. Asking for specific requests and remembering to follow up will go a long way in ministering to the family.
Real friendship doesn’t judge, or shame you, it doesn’t even have to understand you- it just believes you. It believes your stories, and in your calling. It shows up for you because presence matters. It holds you accountable and cheers you on. Every foster parent needs real friends who know when to help with laundry and when to whisk you away for a few hours of retreat or escape.
A helping hand (meal, lawn care etc.)
Maybe you don’t have the capacity or calling to foster children from your county, but could you make a meal every Monday night? Could you commit to cutting their grass? Pick up their kids on your way to soccer? Could you become certified in your county to care for them while they receive respite care? Sometimes even the slightest carrying of their load is a real game changer. Do what you can to lift some of their burden and help keep a foster parent healthy and supported.
However you enter into this story, the need to care for the vulnerable children in our county is a privilege we can all engage. Think of some foster parents in your community and offer one of the items above. The result will be a blessing for everyone!