Written by Washington Foster Team
Imagine how it would feel to be taken away from your family. Moving from one home — one family — to another every few months. Not being able to stay connected to your siblings. Having your entire life uprooted and torn apart with every new family, every new school, and every new bed.
This causes an emotional trauma that takes years to overcome, if you can overcome it at all.
These are the kinds of challenges that children in foster care deal with every single day. With all of this turmoil going on, it’s understandable to want to do everything you can to help.
But we know not everyone is ready to become a foster parent. It’s a life-altering commitment that has the power to save lives — and yet, it’s one of the most challenging things to go through.
Fortunately, there’s another way to help. Even if you’re unable to foster a child, there are still plenty of ways you can support children by helping out the families that are caring for them.
By supporting a foster family, you’re making life for them and their child easier. And when children and their families are well-supported, everyone thrives.
Keep in mind, not all foster families are comfortable asking for help. If you want to help, all you have to do is offer, or simply start lending a hand however you can.
Get started by checking out these seven practices that foster support for Washington families.
1) Spread The Word
There’s a lot of misinformation about the foster care system out there. From rumors to false information, foster care has garnered a reputation that makes the idea of foster parenting seem out of reach for many families.
Help squash myths and connect potential families with credible organizations and resources. By spreading the word about what foster care is really like, you’re helping families get the answers they need to make informed decisions about becoming, or supporting, a foster family.
2) Provide Respite Care
When foster parents need a break from providing care to a child, volunteers step in to provide respite care during the parents’ absence. Respite care allows foster parents to take time off for simple things like appointments or work conflicts, or for weekends away to relax.
Just like parents need to hire a babysitter once in a while to recharge, respite care volunteers provide critical support — for a few hours or a few days — when parents need it the most.
Note that depending on the type of respite you provide, you will still need to go through the licensing process to provide this type of care for foster children.
3) Help With Transportation
Experienced parents know just how much of their day is spent driving their children to and from school, activities, and appointments. The same is true for foster parents.
Free up their day and give them the break they deserve by getting approved to help out with transportation, even if it’s just a ride to school a few days a week.
Please note that approval is not guaranteed. Contact your local private agency to learn more about what to expect if this option appeals to you.
4) Provide Services
Beyond transportation, there are many services you can provide to foster families to provide the help they need. Think about your own skills and how they might be of use to a family who could use a helping hand.
A few examples include:
- Make a meal
- Offer to help fix or maintain something around the house
- Mow the lawn, rake leaves, or shovel a snowy sidewalk
- Do the laundry
5) Host An Event
Consider throwing a shower for a new kid to help welcome them to their new foster family and the supportive community that surrounds them. Guests can bring useful gifts appropriate for the child’s age and interests, including diapers, toys, or school supplies.
Hosting an event is also a great opportunity to show a foster parent that you’re engaged and ready to help, whenever they need it.
6) Give A Gift
Sometimes, a simple gift card for ordering dinner in can make all the difference in the life of a foster family. Think of basic family-friendly gifts you can give that make an ordinary day a bit easier or more fun for everyone.
One of the best ways you can support a foster family is to simply listen. It’s free and it takes nothing more than your time, but it can make a world of difference.
When foster parents have someone to connect with, they can vent about a bad day, celebrate a big success, or just talk through what it’s like to be a foster parent.
Of course, one of the most powerful ways to support a foster parent is to become a part of the foster parent community. Find out if you’re ready by downloading our free resource: Is Foster Parenting Right For You?