Fresh on the heels of May’s Foster Care Awareness Month, I know that some of you may be wrestling with whether or not to throw your hat in the foster parenting ring. So I want to pause and put a little something out there: not everyone should be a foster parent.
Yes, in an ideal world, it’s a calling for anyone and everyone and tra-la-la isn’t it great? But we aren’t living in an ideal world (and as an aside, if the world was ideal, there would be no need for foster care…am I right?)
Sometimes people can’t foster (for a variety of reasons, honestly too many to name, many of which may be very specific to a certain circumstance), or shouldn’t foster (for another variety of reasons, which I will also not list). Or maybe you simply do not want to be a foster parent…and let me just say that if you really don’t want to be a foster parent, then it’s probably not for you.
That said, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to foster if you can’t/shouldn’t/don’t want to; I give you permission (whether or not you were looking for it).
But where does that leave us? It brings us to this trite, but true, phrase: not everyone can foster, but everyone can do something.
What, prey tell, can we do then if we aren’t foster parents? Well, thank you for asking!
First of all, if you have some foster parent friends, reach out to them and tell them you’d like to help. DO NOT ASK “What can I do to help?” because they will lie and tell you “Nothing!”
Instead, consider your gifts…what are you good at? What resources do you have? Tap into that and it will guide you on how you can help.
Are you a cook? Tell your friends that you will bring a meal once a month (or twice, or whatever you’re comfortable doing). Unless there’s a dietary reason that makes it difficult, of course, understand that if they take a hard pass.
Are you good with babies? Toddlers? Preschoolers? Tell your friends you’ll come over once a week for a couple hours so they can get things done around the house while you help wrangle the child/children.
Are you good in one (or multiple) school subject(s)? Tell your friends you’ll come over and do homework with their foster children once a week, or twice a month, or what works in your (and their) schedule.
Are you good at yard work? Go over to their house and pull weeds & mow the grass.
Are you mechanically inclined? Offer to fix things around their house that need repair, or offer to finish a “do it yourself” project they haven’t had time to do or finish because, you know, foster parenting.
Be creative, consider what you’re good at, and do it! And most importantly: don’t accept a “no” from them. They will assure you that they don’t need the help, but I guarantee that they do…even if they don’t realize it at the time. Foster parents who have support are much more likely to continue fostering than those who do not have a village.
Now if you don’t know any foster parents, reach out to a local agency or DCS office and ask how you can get involved without taking children into your home. I guarantee that DCS or an agency (such as Children’s Bureau) will gladly accept the help.