How to Support Foster Families in Your Community

There are over 400,000 children and youth currently in foster care.

Approximately 1,200 children enter the foster care system every day.

The statistics can be absolutely staggering—heartbreaking. And don’t go watching Instant Family either.

Called to Support Foster Families

group of volunteers at Oak Forest Foster ClosetThe truth is that not everyone is called to foster, but everyone can support foster families.

There are many families that feel called to become foster or adoptive parents. Those who are willing or able to go through the hours of training and invasive interviews and desire deeply to support broken families.

If that’s not you, totally okay. And the most important thing is, don’t allow someone to make you feel like it should be you.

May is recognized as National Foster Care Month. The campaign, initiated by the Children’s Bureau, “recognizes the important role that members from all parts of child welfare play in supporting children, youth, and families.” There are a variety of tangible ways in which you as the community can love on and care for foster and kinship families.

Prepare a Meal

Especially if you know a family is expecting a placement, those first few days can be a blur. We have exactly three days to schedule appointments with a pediatrician and a dentist (ones that accept the insurance), sign more paperwork than a house title, and somehow bond with the new children in our care.

Sure, chicken spaghetti sounds great. No, we have no idea what they eat. We just met them. Your guess is as good as ours and please don’t make us make more decisions. But please bring food that is ready to serve. Nothing will set off a child with food trauma faster than a frozen lasagna delivered at dinnertime that still needs an hour to cook.

My tribe took it a step further and showed up with some kid-friendly groceries, which was immensely appreciated because I had precisely salmon in my fridge. What do you mean the 3-year-old won’t eat roasted Brussels sprouts? {This is a time when you can fill the freezer with some backup meals.}

Send a Gift Card

Most of those first expenses are completely out-of-pocket for foster families, and there are generally quite a few initial needs. For someone who works with older children or teens, it is especially important for the children in their care to have some say over their room and belongings.

One of the best ways to support foster families is to drop them a gift card to Target, Walmart, or TJ Maxx. Then, they can pick out some of their own décor or personal care times and start to make their new home a safe space.

We also won’t turn down HEB gift cards.

Become a Babysitter

group of people working to support foster families pose in front of houseWhen our first foster loves came our world shut down for six months. We didn’t go anywhere our kids didn’t go unless the church provided childcare.

Foster parents can’t leave their kiddos with the trusty teenager everyone else uses. There are certain requirements and certifications, like CPR. One of the greatest gifts you can give to support foster families is becoming a certified babysitter so the parents can have a date night, spend quality one-on-one time with children, or just go to Home Goods alone.

Don’t know a foster family? No problem. Many agencies will certify you as a babysitter or respite care provider and contact you if they have a family in need.

Invite the Family to an Outing

young boy looks through zoo fence at giraffes and emusUnfortunately, many foster families share that they often feel isolated. The children in our care are complex and sometimes exhibit behaviors that not everyone understands—or accepts.

Invite the whole family over for dinner, a playdate, or even to the park. Warmth and hospitality, welcoming a child into a bigger community is a powerful thing. And you will do a foster mama heart a world of good.

Maybe offer to bring coffee.

Small Things Matter

teenager poses with care package to support foster familiesMany of us get lost in the sudden onslaught of therapy appointments and the constant juggling of schedules. Suddenly, there are many more people in our lives who have to see the children every month and some are more accommodating than others.

Sometimes just dropping by with a coffee, a Sonic treat, or a quick text of encouragement is all a foster parent needs to get them through.

Even if you’re going to the grocery store, ask if there’s anything you can pick up for them. A fellow foster mom recalls a time when a bottle of ketchup saved her dinner and her sanity. That one bottle was not worth loading everyone up in the car pre-curbside.

Experiences Over Gifts

young girl getting a manicureWe get it. These children often do not come from the best of circumstances, and it is tempting to shower them with every gift from the toy aisle at Target but please don’t. Not only do they tend to get overwhelmed and overstimulated easily, but we also do not have the capacity for it.

We once took our 6-year-old back-to-school shopping only to have her completely flip her lid in the dressing room. She was not used to the ritual and had never been to a department store. It wasn’t that she didn’t want the cheetah dress, the whole thing was too overwhelming. We had to span our shopping over a month or so.

What they really lack is shared experiences. If you are tempted to purchase a gift, consider something the family can do together and use to bond with their foster children. Tickets to a local event or invite them to join your crew at the zoo. We guarantee this will do more for reshaping their neuropathways than the 86 Hot Wheels. {But those are cool, too.}

Adopt a Family

group of young adults stand in groupSure, this is a popular practice during the holiday season, but consider committing for the lifetime of the foster placement (or maybe a year depending on how the case goes).

“Adopting” a family can look differently depending on your relationship with them. It might be offering to buy some school supplies when you pick up some for your kiddo. Maybe you have children the same age and you arrange regular playdates.

It could look like providing dinner once a week so mom knows she gets a “break” that day. Or maybe it means calling the day after family visits to check in and see how things are going, lend an empathetic ear.

If they don’t have family in the area, it could be offering to share your table during a holiday or helping decorate for a special celebration. Let your imagination take hold.

Volunteer at a Closet

volunteers at a foster closetNo, this is not a Marie Kondo mission. There are several foster closets in the Greater Houston area that would love to have you and your family volunteer!

You can attend a dedicated volunteer day, sign up for volunteer hours, sort clothing, or simply help families find what they need.

Foster closets are in tune with the needs of their families and can tell you what they are looking for. Gather your hood together to host a drive for pajamas, diapers, sheets, or toiletries.

Short on time? Many closets also have Amazon Wish Lists you can order from at any time.

Here are some locals you can connect with:

Moses Closet 
Oak Forest Foster Closet
Foster Village Houston

Remember, I am in no way advocating that you have to do everything. Think about what works for you and your family in your current season. Get your kids involved. Ask your church or friends if they know of foster or kinship families in your community that could use some support.

Just like with foster families, it starts with one small yes.

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Kirsten C. was born and raised in Texas Hill Country. After becoming a hopelessly devoted Bobcat and earning a degree in Mass Communications-Public Relations at Texas State University, she was wooed by the never-ending culinary options and vibrant street art of Houston and became a transplant. By day she is a marketing enthusiast for a downtown engineering firm, and by night, an over-the-top {and unashamed} dog mom. She and her husband William are licensed foster parents—advocating for children and families—who hope to one day grow their family through adoption. You can follow their unruly journey on their blog, Cornell Chaos. When she’s not trying a new restaurant, playing behind the lens of a Cannon, piddling in the yard, or scouring markets for hidden gems, Kirsten is often found teaching student ministry through Kingsland Baptist Church or escaping at a local coffee spot.

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