This past summer, at our evening services at the park, our church has been discussing all types of relevant-to-our-day matters.
We finished off the summer series talking about children and then specifically focusing on foster care and adoption. For me, it was a rich discussion and I was so delighted by all the questions that were asked. Sometimes it feels like we are alone on this journey and many people are tempted to step back and just watch. I think most of it is intimidation, surrounded by the sense of “I could never do that”. We tend to think that since someone has stepped up to adopt or foster, that they are fully equipped for the job and are superheroes who get a full night’s sleep every night after patting themselves on the back for earning their reward in heaven.
And there is always the issue of simply not knowing. I didn’t know anything about the foster world or what the needs were until I actually started the process. In fact, I still haven’t had any foster children in my care, so I’m a total newbie at this as well. But I thought I would share a list that my friend Hannah and I came up with. Hannah has been a foster Mom for 7 months and after reading through my list, she contributed a lot of her own ideas from experience.
Since becoming a Mom, I have needed my church body more than ever before. I have needed them for babysitting, and for advice and even for borrowing thermometers and O2 monitors at midnight.
And it’s not different as foster parents. In fact, I think that we need our church even more as foster parents. So I’m hoping that if you go to Grace Covenant Church, you will read this and understand that I’m not complaining or begging, I’m honestly laying out what you could do for us (and the Stedges!). We NEED you guys. We NEED the body. We can’t be foster parents without you.
Every.single.person in church (our church and the church in general) has been commanded to care for the orphans. That does NOT mean that you have to foster or adopt. Instead, you could become a support person to someone who is fostering/adopting, therefore they can be fully able to do what God has called them to do. Don’t minimize your role in the church if all you do is ___________ (bring a casserole, pray for a foster Mom).That is important. And so, so needed.
I hope that you will prayerfully consider this list, and ask yourself what you could do on that list. I’m positive that there is something here for everybody.
- Respite care. This is probably the most in-depth thing you could do for a foster parent. Every foster family can take a weekend off every month. During this time, the children will go to respite care. It’s like long-term babysitting, or going to Grandma’s for the weekend. If you become respite providers, you can also host children from around the County, not just the specific foster children of the one family in your church. This one takes the same amount of training as actual foster parents, but the commitment is far less as you only take kids whose foster parents need a break or are going to a conference or something along those lines.
- Alternative Caregivers. This is HUGE. WE NEED YOU. An Alternative Caregiver is fancy foster term for a babysitter. With Tera, I can just call five friends and say “Hey! I need a babysitter…tonight!” But with foster children, I can’t leave them with anyone who is not on the Alternative Caregiver list. All it takes to become an Alternative Caregiver is to fill out a small packet of paperwork. And if you ever want to babysit in your home, you have to have a homestudy (a caseworker will come to your home and make sure that you have working fire alarms, baby gates and all those types of things that your home would be safe without). But if you do it in our home, you don’t need to have a homestudy. Please, please, please….let me know if you can be Alternative Caregiver for us. We will need you.
- Visitation Help. A foster child will usually have visitation days with their biological family. These days are reportedly the hardest days to be a foster parent and a foster kid, as they often have to face the people they are angry with, or that they miss greatly. Some children are filled with anxiety and fear on those days, sometimes it’s hard to eat and function and use good manners when the emotions are so overwhelming. This in turn spills over into the foster parents laps, as they are often dealing with misbehavior, not to mention their own schedule change and the hours that it might take to facilitate visitation. Help from the church family on weekly visitation days would be INCREDIBLE. Babysitting bio children (Tera), or children that don’t have to attend the visit would be one less hoop to jump through (note: you would have to be an alternative caregiver to babysit foster children!! See above for details).
- Tutor a foster child who may be struggling in school (new flash: that is most foster children). This might require once a week (or however often you decide) time with the foster child in their foster home going over their homework, reading with them, answering questions, doing catch-up work. Not to mention the fact that you would be building a relationship with that child, letting them know that you care.
- Meals. When a new baby comes into a family, we provide several meals for them. Having a new foster child is very similar. A meal would be BEYOND helpful on the days that a new foster child enters the home. Maybe not even the day of…but having someone bring a meal sometime that week would significantly lesson the stress on foster Mom. Also, foster children are often taken from your home to be adopted by someone else or reunited with their birth families. This is often a time of grief for the foster parents, and a new adjustment as that foster child is gone from their lives. A meal or two in that time would also be incredibly helpful. Along with meals, it can be very nice to have a family invitation to dinner at your house. It is helpful for the foster children when they are treated like members of the Hines family. Inviting our whole family over to your house for dinner will speak volumes to the foster children. Gifts cards to restaurants can also be an incredibly helpful gift when it comes to meal times in the home!
- A “runner” or someone to delegate “emergency” errands. Sometimes when a foster child is placed in a home, they have one shirt that is two sizes too small and a pair of shorts that is three sizes too big. They often need several outfits of clothing that actually fit, shoes, backpacks and school supplies. Sometimes they need hair care products ASAP or lice shampoo or new shoes or a special pillowcase or GOSH DARN IT JUST SOME THINGS THAT MAKE THEM FEEL CARED FOR!!! Sometimes as a foster Mom it’s hard, really hard, to go to the store to get all those things. You have a several hour warning that they are coming, then you have all the pressure of introducing them to your home, and the poor kid needs a shower and a clean pair of clothes or diapers ASAP, not to mention that already difficult task of dragging carseats and babies through the store while missing nap time. If the foster Mom can stay at home that day, and somebody else can go to the store and bring the needed items right to the door, that would be a huge blessing. Less upheaval in the foster home. More help from the members of the church. All items would be fully reimbursed, of course. OR…like I said, I wouldn’t expect one person to be able to drop everything when I suddenly get a placement (although…welcome to my life! 😉 ), so maybe just having a person delegate the task out. You know, text several people to see if they are available and making sure that the needed emergency items show up. That would be INCREDIBLY helpful.
- Donations. You may happen to have several items that are needed (clothing, shampoo, an extra baby crib, etc.). Maybe your child is not in that stage or they have just outgrown some jeans or shoes that you JUST bought and they got worn once. Perfect. Those donations would be more than welcome. Especially if they are delivered.
- Play Dates. If you have children of a similar age to the new foster children, throwing together a play date would be awesome! This applies to children of ALL ages. Most foster children have been moved from a different school district and don’t have any friends or any activities outside of school…yet. Initiating a hang out or inviting a foster child to youth group or laser tag or anything that your teen is interested in would be incredibly helpful!
- Moral Support. What if each foster Mom in the church had one person who called/texted or emailed them on a weekly basis to send a verse, say they were praying and ask how things are going. Really going, not just shallow going. That would be incredible. What if each foster Dad had a man that would do the same? Body of Christ, here. Body of Christ.
- Prayer Support. What if each foster Mom and foster Dad had a person that picked them to pray for them, specifically them, that day or week? What if they asked on a weekly basis for specific prayer requests? In fact, it could be a mutual prayer support person. I pray for you, you pray for me. Here are our specific requests. And even more important, what if each foster kid got a person to pray for them daily, drop them notes in the mailbox, send them texts (via the parents if needed). Now that would be cool, and I bet it would make that kid feel so.incredibly.special.
So lets face it…we need ALL the help we can get!
This is not just limited to Grace Covenant Church. Maybe you have foster parents in your church, and you weren’t quite sure how to help them out. Maybe your church as absolutely no association with any foster parents. I can gaurentee you that if you call a local agency and ask if you can do any of the above things….they will be MORE than happy to help you do that.