So you want to support your friends or family members who have just gotten a new foster care placement.
Firstly, realize that every new kid is a big deal to a foster family. Even those who have been doing this for years know how much one new child changes things. Remember, they said yes when they could have said no to this child coming to them.
So, follow their lead, but in general, be excited with them. Ask about the child and respect any vagueness about the details. In foster care, confidentiality about a child’s story and history is key, but just like anyone who knows a kiddo, foster parents like to brag on kids. Ask about your friend’s thoughts, feelings, worries, and excitement – both before when the child is a possibility and after the child is a reality.
And then LISTEN, listen a lot. What people need most is simply a listening ear for all of the ups and downs of a new kid. Listen and remember they are a foster parent on purpose and knew what they were getting into. At this moment, they do not need, your insight into what all 4-year-olds are like, advice on what to do when they misbehave, etc, etc. Wait until asked to share your wisdom, what they need is a friend.
So what can you do to help?
I say bring groceries and not a meal, because while making a meal is great, many kids in foster care are coming out of chaos where meals were the easiest, fastest thing available (think McDonalds), so a delicious healthy, organic, midwest casserole might not be up their alley. So buy and drop off groceries. Stick to easy, basic kid food – milk, bread, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, fruit snacks, apples, bananas, grapes, etc.
Run an errand.
Ask if they need to to run any errands for them: running to the post office, picking up something specific at the store, a pack of diapers, etc. There are a lot of “things” that are needed while you are getting a new kiddo settled, either that they didn’t bring them with (like a tooth brush) or your friends don’t have at their house already (like a specific size of clothes).
Come to the door and ask if NOW is a good time to wash some dishes or fold (and put away) the laundry, if you call ahead, chances are, they won’t know when a good time will be, because they don’t yet know the kids schedule. And if they’re not home, call and ask if they will share where the hide a key is and do it while they are out.
Come say hi.
Stop by after bedtime just to say hi. Your friends are still your friends, they just have more kids in their lives now, they still need socializing and friends – especially if they feel stuck at home until the kids get comfortable. When kids are getting settled, a lot of extra faces can be overwhelming, so keep come by yourself, but come (and bring chocolate, at least if you’re coming to visit me).
Keep Siblings In Mind.
Ask if there is something the other kids in the home need (transportation to/from school events, church functions, etc). Most likely they will want to keep the newest kiddos the closest for a time, so help with the other, more settled members of the family might be more readily accepted.
Help with Outdoor Chores.
If your friends own a house, and/or is single, think about what might be hard doing with a child literally attached to your hip, or running away at mock ten (both possibilities in those first few weeks), and offer to help with that. Shoveling in winter, mowing the grass in summer, cleaning out the car, weeding the garden all come to mind, but I am sure there are others.
Learn about Foster Care.
One of the biggest things my friends did to support me was to be interested about fostering and what the experience was like for me. So if you are here reading this blog, kudos. In the links there are more ways to learn about how to support foster parents. You can also read about the experience of The First Night in Foster Care and also Foster Parent Grief and Debriefing, to support your friends when the kiddos that are new now – eventually move on.
**More ideas from my readers in the comments below. Add your own.**
- How to be Friends with a Foster Mom
- No One Is An Island: The Power of Community Support for A Single Foster Mom
- In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You To Know About Adoption. A Guide for Relatives and Friends
- 9 Practical and Powerful Ways You Can Support Foster Parents
- Open Letter To Friends and Family of Foster Parents
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Tips for the friends, family, and community of foster parents, for new placements and when kids leave. Help support your friends and family who foster.Tweet