Imagine that you have fallen into deep waters, but it’s your first time to swim. Fighting just to get a breath in; & then someone hands you a screaming child, a stack of paperwork, a bunch of trainings & appointment reminders. Then imagine being expected to complete it all while keeping yourself & that terrified child above water. Oh, & you can’t get the paperwork wet because, of course, it has to be legible when you turn it in.
I often find myself feeling something similar as a foster parent. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather swim like this than not swim at all; but paperwork, trainings, appointments, behaviors, attachment—there is just so much we are trying to manage while also navigating loving these children & healing brains affected by trauma.
Sounds like a lot right?
It is—& no one can do it on their own, but I see so many foster parents become isolated on their journey. I assume that’s a large reason why the foster parent turnover rate is so high.
This year was the toughest year of foster care for us. There were literal & figurative fires. We have never experienced such extreme warfare that made us want to be a part of that turnover rate & go back to having a ‘normal’ life.
Then, in the midst of it all, they showed up with boxes of pizza & listening ears. My friends held my children to give me a break & they prayed over each one of us. I changed my mind that night. I wasn’t actually wanting to live a ‘normal’ life, I wanted more support in this abnormal life I live, & I realized that I needed it before I started to drown. I needed it the day a child came & the next & the one after that & every single day following.
So what do foster parents really need?
Babysitting – Someone willing to come In for a few hours & just give us a break. Alone time & date nights are few & far between for foster parents.
Respite – Anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks of loving on children & then they go back to their foster families. No long-term commitment necessary. I’m often asked why we continue to say yes when we already have a large crew of our own; & quite frankly, it’s because there are just not enough respite only homes, leaving foster families left to help each other out. Contact a local agency to find out how you can become a respite provider today.
Accompany to appointments – It’s hard to fully grasp the amount of appointments you will have as a foster parent: CPS, agency workers, advocates & lawyers—all on top of regular medical appointments. Years ago, I was in a season of driving over an hour each way for my foster son’s monthly medical appointment. I will never forget when someone asked if she could come, just to keep me company & make sure I wasn’t alone.
Bring meals – When I brought my biological daughter home from the hospital, a meal train was set up for our family for three whole weeks. It was magical. The same applies for new foster children. When someone brings a meal, it can allow extra time for us to adjust to our new addition, however old they may be.
Donate – I’m not necessarily talking about money, but when a child comes in to care, most of the time, they bring little to nothing with them. They often need things immediately like toys, clothing, shoes or school supplies. Things you can’t prepare ahead of time because, well, you have no clue who will be joining your family. Just make sure whatever you offer is in great condition—if you wouldn’t let your biological child wear/use it, please don’t donate it to our foster children. Invite us over, with our kids-I get it, I’ve seen my family. We’re big & loud & I’m sure that’s why we don’t get invited many places all together. But when we do, It helps me feel a little less isolated.
Check in on us – Although it is rewarding, sometimes foster care can be heavy. Send a quick message just to see how we are. Let us know you’re thinking of us & that you genuinely care.
Pray – If you’ve gone through this list & didn’t feel called to anything else, you can still make a difference. In fact, probably the most meaningful thing you can do is pray. Pray for the children, for the foster families & the broken system.
Every day I hear “I want to foster, but I just couldn’t” & I get it. Not everyone is called to foster & honestly, I don’t want everybody to be called to foster; then there would be nobody left to support my family when we find ourselves so deep in that we can’t catch our breath.
This article was written by Chelsea Zeleny Floro, the creator of “Real Life Foster Mom,” an online community committed to promoting foster care awareness. She is a mom of 5 through biology, adoption & fostering, who loves Jesus, and her kids. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram and join her following of over 60k people committed to learning about, and loving on, foster kids.