It’s a leap of faith and a labor of love. It’s tough, it’s beautiful and life giving all at the same time. It reminds us of Acts 20:35, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Fostering asks for plenty of courage, and sharing God’s love with foster children is more than a full-time job. It’s a calling.
So, how do you show encouragement and support for foster families? What do they really need to know that they’re not alone in this journey? Here are 20 of our favorite ideas.
Organize a Parents’ Night Out. Try caring for kiddos once a month to give parents free childcare. Make the event something that children want to attend. Share the fun at your church. Various Sunday school classes or small groups could sponsor a PNO event, planning and participating in the evening.
Provide membership or day passes. Do you have a season pass or annual membership to local museums, ballparks, or other sites? Share a day with your local foster family. Activities like this are a great chance for foster families to bond with their new addition.
Launch a Resource Room. Provide supplies to foster families and, if possible, have volunteers deliver supplies to families when they get a new placement. Offer consignment sales or scholarships to help foster families provide for the children in their care.
Provide an at-home date or help. They don’t need licensed or approved respite providers if at least one parent is at home the whole time. Having an adult or dependable teen entertain the kids can be a nice break, especially if the person occupying the kids brought along a movie or game that works for everyone.
Plan a Gift Card Drive. It’s hard sometimes to perfectly predict what a foster family will need. But (foster) Mom and Dad know best, so instead of collecting things, collect gift cards to big box stores. They can be even stockpiled so when a family receives a placement, they’re ready to use.
Support by offering your church’s facilities for training. If your church works with a local foster care organization, or has families fostering through the state, contact those folks and invite them to use your building for training. Consider asking some of your children’s ministry volunteers (who are already cleared with background checks) to babysit for parents and have your church sponsor snacks and beverages for the actual event.
Help kids with homework. Homework time can be a crazy time, but it’s a great chance to share your gifts. Offer your area of expertise to help tutor or support foster children. It’s also a great opportunity for your church’s high school or college students to get involved (and may meet requirements for community service hours).
Offer program scholarships. Does your church have any children, youth or adult programs that require a fee to attend? Offer to waive that fee for foster children and parents. Many of these families struggle financially with the additional responsibility of caring for an extra child or children. Before making these promises, though, simply check with someone in charge and ask if they could budget in a few scholarships for foster families in your congregation.
Ask how you can pray specifically. They may need you to pray for wisdom with a particular child, for help with toilet training, or for a visit with the biological mom. Follow up. Tell them when and how you are specifically praying for them. Share a Bible verse you are claiming for them.
Plan Playdates. Are you kids hitting the playground today? Text your foster family. Chances are they’d love to get out and spend time in the fresh air and sunshine.
Open your eyes to tangible and logistical needs. Foster parents are usually beyond busy adjusting to new family members and to the normal chaos of life. Pause and take a look at their day-to-day needs. They’ll more than appreciate friends who hire a student to rake their leaves or who stop by with Starbucks and a smile. It may not be glamorous to help load their dishwasher, but chances are it will really make their day.
Fold laundry. Yep. You read that right. We’ve all got mountains of it. And every single bit of it needs to be folded. They’ll love you forever if you help tackle that tower of towels.
Don’t accept “no” for an answer (within reason, of course). Try asking when you can help, not if you can help. It is so much easier to accept a blessing when the person on the other end of the phone has decided it is going to happen and the foster mom just has to figure out when it would be helpful.
Schedule lawn care or house cleaning. Keeping up with lawn care and house cleaning is another area that can be harder to juggle as they work through the new demands of fostering. Scheduling help in these areas isn’t just practical, it’s major encouragement.
Don’t forget them. After a while, things start to settle and life looks like it’s getting back to normal. But life doesn’t feel “normal” anymore for foster families. So check in. Call. Send a quick text. Follow up after that appointment, court date, or tough day. It means more than you know.
Organize meals. Getting supper ready is crazy enough during a regular family schedule. Adding fostering into the mix? Well, you get the idea. Round up a crew of volunteers who would be willing to drop off a meal for a week or so.
Respect their story. Sometimes it’s easy to put a nice, shiny gloss over a situation. But those walking through fostering know it can be messy and difficult and hopeful and beautiful all at once. It always helps to have a friend who will show unwavering acceptance and love.
Deliver care packages. What could show your foster family you’re thinking of them and praying for them? A tray of sweets? A basket of small treats and toys? Some games for the whole family? Whatever it is you’d think they like, a care package can be a great way to let them know they’re not forgotten.
Listen. Don’t give advice. Don’t get judgemental. Don’t interrupt. Do what so many people have such a hard time doing — just listen. Plenty of foster parents need someone to give them space to talk through everything they’re thinking and feeling.
Celebrate. Life includes plenty of tough times. So, when the good moments happen we should definitely celebrate. This especially true for foster families. Their work is a labor of love. Help them celebrate the milestones, big and small, they achieve with their foster children.