When we got the call from CYFD for an infant in need of care and attention in the NICU with no certainty of her release date, we talked it over and immediately called back, “Of course, we’ll be right there.”
She had been in the NICU for a few weeks before we got there, and it was another three months before she ever stepped foot outside of the hospital. We held her, sang to her, read to her, comforted her, sat by her crib every single day for four months, advocated for her, fought for her, and met with teams of doctors, social workers, and early intervention therapists. My husband and I had no idea what her future held, but we were committed to being there for her. Interestingly enough, all of this happened before she was released into our care as her official foster parents.
It’s Not About Us
It’s been almost two years now since she came home with us, and we are learning as we go. I would have to say that one of the most difficult things I have had to deal with as a foster mom, aside from the chronic uncertainty and the constant delay in the legal processes, is the amount of negativity and insensitive comments from people who don’t know much about foster care.
“We thought of throwing you a baby shower, but since she’s a foster baby, we thought we’d wait to see how long you had her before doing all that.”
“It’s such a shame what these kids have to go through. I could never deal with the messed up system. It always fails these kids.”
“I could never foster. I’d get too attached. I just couldn’t handle the heartbreak.”
We get it. It’s really scary. We get that the temporary is hard for people. We understand that attachment is a huge concern. But, these kids need attachment. They need love, and they need to know they are loved. These kids need something in their life that isn’t messed up. We know that it’s not about us. It’s about them. We also know that it’s better to not do this alone. You have to have a support system.
Support Is Crucial
The amount of support we have received from our immediate family has been nothing but life saving! We have had two of the best case workers a foster parent could ask for. And at our last hospital stay for our baby’s pneumonia, a friend from church showed up at the ER with coffee and cake pops! A few hours later, my niece showed up with lunch! Another foster mom, whose schedule was already insane, texted me and told me to let her know what she could do. It blew me away that people were willing to take time out of their day to come and brighten our weary 16-hour ER stay. It’s that kind of support that makes all the difference.
Your Encouragement Matters
My encouragement to you, the next time you talk to a foster parent, is to remember the weight they carry, the chaos they deal with, the uncertainty they face, the pain and sorrow they deal with. Offer them words that bring joy, healing, and comfort. Take the time to see if they have a need, even if it’s temporary. Love is everlasting, no matter how short the child’s stay is. By actively supporting the foster parents, you are actively serving the children in their care. So find out how they’re doing!
“How’s it going? Is there anything you need? Is there anything I can do for you? How can I pray for you this week?”
They may refuse and say they have it all together, but I promise, most of us don’t. We could use a smile, a hug, maybe even a good nap. A card in the mail. A word of encouragement. A cup of coffee. Okay, maybe like five cups of coffee. Let’s be honest.
The Hope of Foster Parents
After a year of fostering our little one, a co-worker reached over to tap me on the shoulder during a meeting. She leaned in and whispered, “I was thinking about what you and your husband are doing with fostering, and I just wanted you to know that I think it is really great. You are doing something for this child that will change her life forever. That is such a good thing! I just wanted you to know that.”
I could not hold back the tears. She was right! That’s the hope and goal of foster care: to change the trajectory of these kid’s lives, to offer hope, to show love, to support families that are struggling! It was a very nice thing to hear. It honestly gave me some much-needed strength to continue on.
Do you know a foster parent? Share some love and encouragement with them today. It just may be the one thing that’s going to lighten their load and give them the strength to carry on. Here are seven ways to actively support foster parents:
Diapers, clothing, toys, books, bottles, pacifiers, blankets, crib sheets, wipes, baby food, bouncy seats, booster seats, crayons, coloring books, games, sandbox toys, water play toys. Find out the age of their kid(s) and bless them with a basket!
Send a Card or Gift Card
A word of encouragement is always needed. Maybe inspirational quotes or Bible verses with a reminder that they are valued and loved. A gift card for coffee is always nice.
Get licensed to be a Respite Provider! This allows you to provide temporary relief for foster parents by taking in the kids while parents go out for a date night or weekend getaway. If possible, I suggest taking the time to get to know the kids ahead of time so they feel safe coming to stay with you.
Be Understanding and Stay Positive
Foster parents spend a lot of time running to visits, therapist appointments, doctor’s appointments, and counseling sessions. Sleep is often interrupted. Foster parents are often running on fumes. Be understanding if they miss out on social events, can’t attend neighborhood barbeques, or happen to miss church a lot.
Bring a Meal
If you know they just got a new placement, offer to bring by a meal, order pizza, or send over some gift cards to restaurants near their home.
Sometimes support comes in the way of a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Other times it’s showing up at the hospital with a cup of coffee or stopping by after the foster parent took in a sibling set of five. Sometimes it’s offering to come by and pull weeds or fix a car. Think of ways you can use your gifts/talents/skills to provide relief.
Set Up a “Go Team”
Have a “Go Team” amongst your community or church that addresses one of the above-mentioned areas. Have a contact person that the foster parent can go to when they have a need. Be proactive in reaching out to foster parents who may be shy in asking for help.
Originally published May 2019.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.