Seven years ago I decided that the baby factory was officially closed. I packed all of my beloved baby items and sent them to other families who would put them to good use. Little did I know that I would need them again later on.
When I first announced that my family was going to start fostering babies, I was overwhelmed by all of the love and support that my friends and family poured out to me. I got numerous calls, texts, and emails about how they wanted to help. It was only a matter of days from the moment that we completed our foster care license to the day that we took in our first foster child. My friends dropped off baby furniture, bottles, diapers, clothes, swings, and slings. You name it … I got it.
As I reflect on that moment in time, I realize that it truly takes a village to raise a child. Each and every person that offered help was leaving his or her own mark on my foster child’s heart.
Having a foster child can be overwhelming at times. I juggle doctor’s visits, birth parent bi-monthly visits, caseworker home visits, CPS visits, guardian ad litem visits, physical/occupational therapy, and ongoing foster care training. I juggle that with work and four biological kiddos, so sometimes I’m just frazzled. But you know what – I’m able to be a foster mom because of my “village.” I was afraid to ask for help because I didn’t want to make anyone feel obligated or put anyone on the spot.
But the reality is that fostering is tough; it really is. There are more days than not that I ask myself, “Why am I doing this? What have I gotten myself into?” In those moments, I remind myself that it’s worth it and these children need me. Then I pick up the phone and rely on my support system. A family cannot foster in isolation. It’s just too tough a job to go it alone. My village gives me strength and encouragement when I need it most. The village may just be as important as the foster family themselves because without them most foster families like ours could not keep going. So even if you are not called to bring a child into your home, your support is vital in helping these vulnerable kids. They need you just as much as they need us foster families. Today, consider how you can support a foster family in your community.
If you have a friend who is fostering and you want to support them, here are 5 things that I found truly helpful and that make a world of a difference.
- Offer to become a licensed babysitter. We had to have an approved babysitter before we got our license, and we didn’t know who to ask. It does require an 8-hour training class, CPR certification, updated immunization with a TB test, finger printing, and background check. Also, a drivers education course if the babysitter will be transporting the child. One of my children’s teachers didn’t even think twice when we told her that we needed a babysitter. She had her form and half of the requirements completed that weekend. She is our angel. She watches our Sweet Pea when we have other engagements at school for our other children or when my husband and I desperately need a date night.
- Offer to send a meal. I am so tired sometimes that cooking is the last thing that I want to do. We eat plenty of pizza and breakfast for dinner. Not having to cook means I get to spend one extra hour taking care of something else. There are so many food delivery services now that make this super easy to do, and not to mention how thoughtful this gesture is.
- Offer to come over for an hour to watch the child or hang out. That means foster mom can jump into the shower, wash or fold some laundry, eat her lunch, or simply enjoy adult conversation. I sometimes catch myself talking to my husband in the same intonation and sing songy voice that I do for my foster baby. This tells me that I need to interact with adults more.
- Offer to bring some baby necessities. It could be diapers, wipes, formula, clothes, toys, etc. Many times my foster babies come to me with only the clothes that they have on, so we love it when they can leave our home with items that actually belong to them.
- Offering to listen without judgment and a shoulder to lean on. When things get tough, be there for your friend. I find comfort when my friends tell me, “I’m sorry, things will be okay.” This is especially helpful when my heart is breaking from losing a placement. Deep down I know that there will be another child waiting for me, but in that moment I’m hurting too much to realize that.
These were the few things that my village did for me that made a huge impact on my life at the times when I needed it the most. It gave me the boost I needed to continue on in my foster care journey. Go out and be a part of a foster family’s village and leave your mark on a child’s heart!