My husband and I have been foster parents for about a year and a half, and in that time have had 14 different children come through our house. Some stayed only a night or two, some stayed for months. Each of them has impacted our family in a profound way.
There are over 6,000 children in foster care in Kansas, and over 1,200 of them are in Sedgwick County. Those numbers seems overwhelming at times, but there is an easy way to help. All you have to do is think of just one kid (or two!). Here are some incredibly simple (low-committment! easy!) ways to help make a difference in the life of a foster child, and for the family caring for that child.
Clothing. When a child comes into care, they often come to a strange new home with nothing but the clothes on their backs. We, like many other foster families, keep bins of clothes in our storage room with hand-me-downs sorted by size and gender. However, we have also gotten kids that are different age/gender than what we have readily available. On more than one occasion, family and friends have made a quick run to Target or a local consignment store for an outfit or two to help get us through until we can make the outing ourselves.
Meals. No one thinks twice about taking a meal to the parents of a newborn. It isn’t as common to think of taking a meal to a family with a new placement. Honestly, even someone ordering a pizza delivery for me so it it one less detail I have to worry about in the midst of one or two kids adjusting to a place, our family adjusting to them, social worker and doctor appointments, makes a huge difference. Offer to bring a foster family a meal during the first week of a new placement, and I guarantee you will be hailed as a hero!
Appointments. As I alluded to above, these kids have a lot more appointments than the average kiddo! In one week I may be taking them to the doctor, have a home visit from my family’s support worker, their support worker, take them to a visit with one or both parents, and have a court hearing. There are people who volunteer with their local agency to pick kids up and drive them to some of these appointments when their foster parents can’t, usually because of work obligations. Contact a local social work agency and see if you could volunteer one morning or afternoon a week.
Babysitting. All babysitters for foster kids have to pass a background check with the foster family’s licensing agency. This means one additional hurdle for the parents to plan anything like a date night or girls’ night out. Tell your friends who are foster parents that you would be glad to submit to the background check and keep the kids once a month for a couple of hours. Believe me, having a night out, even just for dinner or a movie, can really recharge the parents spending all their time and energy pouring into these kids.
Groceries. During one of our longer placements, we had four kids under four. It was a lot, but totally manageable. Until we ran out of milk. Hauling four tiny children to Dillon’s to buy a gallon of milk is basically a nightmare. Occasionally my mom or a friend would text, “Hey, I’m at the store. Need anything?” Sometimes, we were fine. Sometimes, however, those texts were lifesavers, especially in the dead of winter with a sick baby and a one-year old that didn’t walk yet and two grumpy preschoolers that skipped a nap.
There are many other ways you can directly and indirectly help foster kids and foster families. Use your imagination! Talk to your friends who are foster parents and ask them what specific things they need. Connect with foster families through your church or other social organizations. Chances are, you could easily meet a need and make a huge difference!