Being a foster parent isn’t for everyone, but everyone can help support kids in care. A lot of people I know aren’t in a position to become foster parents for whatever reason, but they are in a position to be a support person. Here are nine practical ways you can help, even if taking children into your home isn’t for you!
1.) Donating your gently used (or new) clothes and toys. Sometimes kids come into care with nothing but the clothes on their backs. You can reach out to your local office or a specific family you know who fosters and see if they’re in need of your gently used children’s and even adult sized clothing or toys. Also, check in around holidays and back to school time to see if there are any specific needs you can fill.
2.) Don’t ask stupid questions. Now, I know this might be obvious, but honestly, we get so many intrusive and offensive questions. If people just didn’t ask them, that would be a huge support! You don’t need to know the child’s story. It’s not ours to tell, and you just make it awkward by asking. The worst I’ve gotten was when someone came up to me and a child old enough to understand the question and asked, “Yours or adopted?” I was floored. Please don’t do that! And encourage others not to as well.
3.) Contact your legislatures. Ask any foster parent or social worker in just about any county and any state and more than likely they’ll tell you that there’s a whole lot more we could be doing to protect kids in care. When new legislation comes up that impacts kids in care, ask those around you who do foster how it will impact the kids in their care, and make calls and write letters in support of those children.
4.) Bring tea. Or coffee, but just be there. When you know someone who does foster care and suddenly they look hollow and worn, understand that they can’t tell you about it and that you can’t fix it. But be there. Don’t turn your back on them because they’ve changed, bring them a large cup of tea and an understanding companion.
5.) Include the children. Even if it’s Christmas day and your sister who fosters texts you saying to expect one more child, run out and buy them a gift. Usually the situation will be less extreme, just make sure they’re included in whatever you’re doing. Remember that family get-togethers, holidays, and birthday celebrations are already difficult for kids in care, don’t make it worse for them by making them feel even more left out.
6.) Remember that our parenting may need to look different, and respect that. Different children have different needs, and the way we need to parent looks different. To you we may look like we’re being too lax or too strict, please trust that we know this particular child and their needs better than you do.
7.) Ask what you can do. Adjusting to life with a new family member can be overwhelming, see what you can do to be of assistance. Can you mow the grass? Can you do a load of laundry? Can bring over a hot meal? Do what you can to be a support.
8.) Donate your time and talents. Together We Rise is an amazing program to get involved with. You can host an event to pack sweet cases or birthday boxes, build bikes or skateboards, or even volunteer your photography skills to new forever families. You could go through an organization like this, or contact your local office to learn what similar needs you could fill in your area.
10.) Donate your old luggage to foster families instead of dropping it off at your local massive resale shop. Too many kids have to travel from home to home with nothing more than a trash bag, the message this sends is chilling: your things are garbage and so are you, you don’t deserve any better than the rubbish we toss out does. Our children deserve better than this, and the answer is such a simple fix.