If other foster families are anything like I am, it can be hard to ask for help. Even when we desperately need it. If someone does ask me how they can help, I typically either blank and cannot think of anything in the moment, or feel bad asking and end up just saying “we’re good!” But that isn’t always the case. Not for me, and not for anyone else on this daily roller coaster that is foster care. So, as we close out Foster Care Awareness Month, I’ve decided to sit down and write out an actual list of how you can help families involved in foster care, whether they ask for it or not.
- BABYSIT. This is a consistent need, especially for single foster parents (but let’s be honest, everyone loves and needs a good babysitter). Become an approved volunteer and just force yourself on families. Tell them you are coming to pick up their kiddos for the day/evening. Give them a few hours every week to go grocery shopping, take another kid to the doctor, or catch up on
laundryNetflix. Or just come over and be another set of hands for them in their home so they can get some work done while their kiddos are distracted. Bonus:: this is a great way to get your feet wet if you’re interested in becoming a foster parent.
- LAWN CARE. Offer to mow a foster family’s lawn every now and then, or regularly. It’s one of those things that, whether they do it themselves or have to pay for it regularly, it’s really nice to have taken care of.
- CAR MAINTENANCE. Take a foster family’s car to get an oil change or just to the car wash or the gas station to fill it up. It might not seem like a lot, but I’d kill for a clean, gassed up, vacuumed car right about now.
- RUN ERRANDS. Many new foster placements happen with very little notice—typically 2 hours or less. The children often only arrive with the clothes on their backs. If you know a family is receiving a placement, ask them if you can go to the store and get them anything while they’re waiting or after the child has gone to sleep (car seat, clothes, pajamas, toothbrush, etc). Ask them if they have an Amazon Wish List, and any time you’re at a store and are able, send them a text and just say “Hey, I’m at Target/Kroger/_____, what do you need?”
- PROVIDE MEALS. Ask them their favorite foods/restaurants and set up a Meal Train for them for their first month of a placement, or once a week for the next 6 months. Another easy option is to give them restaurant gift cards.
- LAUNDRY. Offer to pick up a load or two of laundry and drop it off, clean and folded.
- CLEAN THEIR HOUSE. Offer to clean their house while they’re at work or running errands. If you don’t have time but have a little extra money, hire someone to clean their house just once, or every few months.
- TRANSPORTATION. Get certified to provide transportation and offer to pick their kid up from school/day care once a week so they have more time at home or to run errands after work.
- JUST BE PRESENT. Ask them if they want you to sit with them in the waiting room at their next court date, or if you can come over while the kids are asleep and just chat or watch a movie (but try to chip in and help fold laundry or do the dishes or hold a baby while you’re there).
- PRAY. Most importantly, pray for them, and let them know you’re praying. Pray for the biological parents to break any chains of abuse or neglect. Pray for the social workers and case managers to not be stressed or overwhelmed, but focused on the child’s best interest. Pray for the judges making major life decisions on the child’s behalf. Pray for patience, endurance and unconditional love for the foster parents.
So that’s my list for now. But what skills do you have that you think could benefit a foster family? Are you a mechanic? Lawyer? Photographer? Financial planner? Do you have horses they could ride? Teach Piano? Coach baseball? Ask foster families what they need and offer to use your gifts to help them out. I know someone will take you up on it.