Fostering is made possible not only by the families who choose to care for these children, but also by the community that rallies around them to provide help and support in a number of ways. You may not be ready to foster a child right now, but there is plenty you can do to make their journey as a new family smoother and more enriching.
No matter how strong the foster family is, or how they’ve got everything under control, they still need a trusted group of people to be there for them in this journey of fostering.
Be a listener. There will be days when the parents feel overwhelmed or discouraged. Be there to listen to their anxieties, longings and frustrations, allowing them a safe space to share any pent-up emotions.
Be an encourager. Drop a note of encouragement via a phone call, message, or handwritten card. Let them know that they are doing a wonderful job simply by giving a child a loving and secure home.
Be a companion. Sometimes all the family needs is the presence of friends who care. Offer to accompany them while they look after the child at home or when they have to go for checkups or appointments.
Celebrate milestones and successes. A proud parent will naturally want to boast about the child’s accomplishments, be it when he starts to walk, wins a competition or graduates from school. Rejoice with them and congratulate them on these achievements, no matter how small.
Taking care of a new addition to the family round the clock can take a toll on the parents, so giving them an opportunity to take a well-deserved break every now and then can be much appreciated.
Be a stay-in babysitter. Offer to stay over for a few days so the family can take a short holiday. This would invariably mean you should already have a good relationship with the child, where he feels safe and comfortable with you.
Babysit for the day. You could also volunteer to look after the child during the day. Taking over typical parenting responsibilities like feeding the child, putting him to sleep or helping with his homework can make a big difference.
Take the child for outings. You don’t necessarily have to babysit at home – occasionally taking the child out would be fun and beneficial too. Be it to the zoo, the park or just the playground, children of any age usually enjoy exploring new places and getting out of the house. This way, the parents will get some downtime for themselves, too.
Acts of Service
Families who decide to foster are usually mentally prepared for the added responsibility, but the daily grind of household activities and child-minding duties can still overwhelm. Serving the family in small, practical ways can go a long way.
Bake or cook for them. Though buying food from the nearby coffee shop doesn’t take a lot of time, nothing beats a home-cooked meal made with love. Cook a meal (or meals) for them to enjoy in the comfort of their own home, or bake some cookies for the child’s birthday party or simply to brighten up their day.
Help around the house. Does the family need help with washing the never-ending pile of clothes, cleaning the toilet, or mopping the floor? Offer to do these daily household chores for them so that they have one less concern to think about.
Provide tuition for free. Tuition is an additional expense that some families struggle to afford, so offering to tutor the child free-of-charge would be much appreciated. This will also allow you to build a relationship with the child, opening the door for you to provide help in other ways.
Family expenses will definitely increase, especially if the child has existing medical conditions or special needs. Other than offering physical help, you can also provide for the families’ material needs.
Support them financially. If accepting cash may raise several questions for the foster family as to the reason for the gift, giving vouchers for the purchase of specific items like groceries, books or stationary might be a better option. Alternatively, offer to sponsor certain needs, like the installation of window grilles for their home.
Donate required items. Help obtain items that you know the family needs for their new child, such as a baby crib or school bag. Brand-new purchases aren’t always a must – you could source them second-hand or even pass them your hand-me-downs, so long as they are of acceptable condition.
Shop for them. With an additional child to look after, time to do even simple grocery shopping can be scarce. Ask them for a list of household items and foodstuff they require and make the trip to the supermarket to get those items on their behalf.
These are just some of the little ways you can play your part to care and support the many children in need of foster care. Every little act of kindness matters, as we collectively become the “village” that raises a child.