How to Get Involved with Foster Care, And Support Those Who Serve in This Way
The hope in Foster Care is to heal families, to give birth families a chance to get back on their feet. In the very first training every educator cannot stress this enough. At times it can feel as if potential families are being pushed away! That is not the intent, the intent is to teach and inform.
If that primary goal cannot be accomplished, the hope is to find families with open hearts willing to take a chance on a child, willing to re create their family and make room for a child who deserves the chance to grow with stability and unconditional love.
Loose statistics in our area say about 60% of kids will not reunify with birth families. It is painful to live in limbo and not know if a child you are loving might leave! Having spoken to many Foster families I am finding that everyone agrees that pouring love into a child helps them no matter what. If a family is placed with a scared and traumatized 3 year old, creating stability for that little person will change them forever. If the child stays, they will have healed and grown in a place that becomes home. If the child goes, they feel open and able to create new patterns with a primary care giver who may have gotten sober, gotten a better living situation or a grandmother who can better bond with the child. It is never wasted energy.
It is not easy to be part of the system, but the best way to create change is to work hard from the center. One difficulty is the impulse to expect gratitude from the child in need. It can be paradoxical that a community response might be "way to go you!" vs a child might be angry and act out. A Foster child's lifes has been turned upside down! Our advice is to use the community support to find energy. Energy for compassion working with the birth family, energy for late nights and new routines. This is truly a way to serve, the rewards from doing Foster Care might take a long time to be clear, be patient and humble on the walk. I have to remind myself of this advice often!
Supporting those who provide Foster Care is a great thing to do if it isn't a good fit to be providers yourselves! We have had friends offer hand me downs, this is a real need especially for younger children. Families get a clothing allowance but even with a thrifty mind set, kids need a lot of stuff! When a Foster child leaves the hope is to set them up well for the next placement or for going home. I was able to send clothing in the next two sizes, winter gear, favorite toys and more, tubs of things! So please don't expect things back if you give to a family serving in this way. Also somethings might end up in a garage sale or given to another family, it is a quilt to make finances work providing for extra kids.
A new placement can happen in hours, if a police removal happens or a last minute call, families have very little time to be ready. Meals are heavenly and such a kind way to support a busy family. We had one of our Grandmas run out for formula and diapers as well, a grocery run for basics is a fabulous way to help.
Your time is such a gift. We had a friend go get finger printed so she could be a child care option. The state needs to have clearance for those helping with Foster Kids for more than a set amount of time. Another mom helped for a few hours here and there, giving us time to run an errand or tidy up. As we talk more to Foster Care providers it is clear, the support these families receive from their neighborhood, church and family keeps their engines running even on steep climbs and tricky turns.
Prayers and basic kindness, are such a support to Foster families. Sending notes, checking in, praying for the kids in our care, our other children, these are such supports. I spoke with one family who said a Sunday school class prayed for Foster Children for an entire month, the kids really focused on the prayer, that family felt like others in their community were aware and supportive.
To get involved each county (if you google the county you live in) has a home page, from the county homepage search for Foster Care Training. This will get you to step one, an info session. It might take me a few days but I will respond to questions, and yes you can share my info with those discerning this calling. I can't promise you will end up with a new born, or a sibling group that fits into your family, but I do know the need is always there. If you jump in and start serving in this way, what is meant to be will find a way to reach you.