My parents are about as predictable as Missouri weather. They are the best parents a girl could ask for. They love me well. My home was a good place to grow up. But if I told you stories of my childhood, you probably wouldn’t believe me and would definitely find it stranger than fiction (in the very best way).
There was a time my mom, sister, and I flew on a whim to Las Vegas without a hotel booked. This was before cell phones and computers. We arrived to find every hotel in the city booked. Approximately three hours of going hotel to hotel landed us at the last available room in the entire city. You would, if you’re like my mom, assume that Vegas has too many hotel rooms to ever sell out. You would have assumed wrong. The kicker, however, is that my mom was unphased. Driving around Vegas with too little girls did not stress her out at all. It was all part of the adventure, she assured us.
The day of one of my big high school events, my parents decided to buy a farm without ever seeing it. They were too preoccupied with my event to be able to go, so they asked their friend to go purchase it on their behalf.
In their mid-50’s, my parents adopted my little sister. Their friends thought they were crazy, but she is the best part of my family.
They will call me on a Thursday to tell me they’re flying down to see me on a Friday.
I say all of this to explain why it was no surprise that I came home for Christmas during my freshman year of college to find my parents had become foster parents, and I now had six (SIX!) new foster brothers under the age of ten.
Apparently, my parents did not take well to my departure.
I’m kidding. I was their fourth kid. They barely noticed.
This was my first experience with foster care. And boy, was it memorable!
Each college break, I would come home to a different combination of kids. It was always an adventure, to be sure!
Even though I myself have never been a foster parent, it has continued to play a prominent role in my life. Many of my friends foster children. Several of my friends work as social workers to advocate on their behalf.
Involvement in the foster care system is one of the most noble callings in life. To represent and care for children whose parents are unable to properly parent is incredibly sacrificial and amazing. The horrifying realities some children experience would be too unbearable to say in this space, and foster parents and social workers must face these tragedies daily.
I think we can all agree they are the unsung heroes among us.
As I said, I do not have first hand experience with being a foster parent. I have done my best to understand, but forgive me if I am errant in any way.
That being said, I could talk all day about my frustrations with our culture losing the village that it takes to raise a child, but perhaps the place it’s most prevalent is among foster parents.
Fostering children is beautiful and amazing…but it can be exhausting and challenging and lonely. Raising a child who has experienced deep trauma is hard. While it is obviously never the fault of the child, these precious kids don’t necessarily behave in normative ways and figuring it all out takes time and patience.
You may not feel called to foster children (I don’t, at this moment), but everyone can rally around foster families to encourage and help them.
Giving to the vulnerable, in any capacity, is one of the best ways to spend your money.
And every foster family could use some financial assistance. The foster families I talked to said how much they appreciate gift cards. That way, the foster parent can determine exactly what each child needs and wants. Gift cards to Target, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, etc. are all welcomed and appreciated.
On the flip side, giving your crap away isn’t helpful. Children who’ve been previously raised in unfit homes don’t necessarily know how to play with toys properly. Or maybe they need a new pair of shoes more than they need a board game. Older children want to be in style and have current clothes just like their peers and take great pride in picking them out, possibly for the first time ever. I would implore you to give cash and gift cards and let the foster parents decide the appropriate way to spend it.
I know economic times are tough. There are ways to give to foster families that do not involve money. Train to become a respite care provider to give the foster families you know a break. To protect the dear foster children, not just anyone can babysit them. Investing your time to become a respite provider is a beautiful way to assist foster families.
If that is not an option, help with the children already in the family in whatever capacity is beneficial. Bring the family a meal. Pick up kids from school.
Did I mention giving gift cards?? Send flowers. Write a note of encouragement. Just do something.
The Stand Up Foundation is a place to find helpful resources that go well beyond my scope of understanding.
I promise anything you do will be very much appreciated by the foster family (unloading your crap, notwithstanding), and as with all of life, giving is always better than receiving.
I experienced this first hand just a few weeks ago. I had the privilege of attending the coolest birthday party at my church (Salt Church).
Foster care and adoption are important to my church. We take the call to love and take care of widows and orphans seriously. One of our families currently fosters the most precious boys. The oldest boy has never had his birthday celebrated, and he is old enough for that to be beyond disheartening. What started as the foster mom simply bringing a cake to celebrate turned into the sweetest act of love.
The entire congregation dressed up as super heroes to celebrate a boy who so deserved it. We had to find the balance between celebrating his birthday well but not overwhelm him by going overboard. Because too much of a good thing is too much, especially in this situation. I am proud to say (because I cannot take any credit; I was merely an observer), it was amazing.
This grand celebration was a blast, and it would be easy to replicate with the foster children you know.
More than ever, the foster care crisis is rampant. It is the unfortunate reality that some children must be removed from their homes for their safety and well-being. I am so grateful for the foster families who provide loving, nurturing homes for these sweet kids facing indescribable situations.
Let’s be the village that rallies around these families who give so much and expect nothing in return. Consider how you can be the solution to the problem. Perhaps becoming a foster parent is your call. But if not, you can still do something.
Think of the foster families you know. Choose one and do something awesome for them today.
Call your local Department of Children and Families and ask what needs they have.
4 Kids South Florida is a ministry in my area that is doing tremendous work. Perhaps a similar program exists in your city.