by Shelly Coulter Daigle
You parents know that becoming a parent is a life-altering experience. As I mentioned in a previous blog, my husband and I did not take the traditional route to parenthood. We became parents when we welcomed our first foster child into our home. Since that transformational moment four years ago, we have welcomed three more children into our home, and each time we have been blessed by dear ones who support our parenting journey as foster parents in some pretty amazing ways. We could not continue to be foster parents without the support of so many generous and kind people in our lives. Their support has enabled me to focus on the children in my care as well as building a relationship with the family of the child.
Maybe you are reading this and are certain that you are unable to be a foster parent but you are interested in supporting foster parents in your church or in your community. I am going to offer six ways that regular people can support the work of foster parents on their own or with the support of Circle of Care. See if there is a way you can support the hard work foster parents do:
- Meals– My husband loves to make a lasagna for all new parents and bring it to their home within the first couple weeks of the child’s birth. I cannot keep count of the number of lasagnas he has made for his coworkers, our friends and church members. It is a cultural tradition to bring food to families when they have a new baby. Why wouldn’t or couldn’t we extend that tradition to foster parents welcoming a new placement?
- Household tasks– Basic household tasks can be challenging with a new child in the home. We have often resorted to paper plates when we have a new child in the home. Offering to wash the dishes, mow the lawn or do laundry can be helpful for foster parents with a new child.
- Babysitting/Alternate Caregiver/Respite The first weekend that our son joined our home, a friend came over to play with him while we slept. After several days of no sleep, it was such a gift to close my eyes and sleep for a couple of hours. Foster children can be informally babysat on a non-regular basis by an adult trusted by the foster family.
But let’s say you know a foster family and would like to offer to babysit their foster children on a more regular basis. Then you can an alternate caregiver,” which is someone the foster family knows who is willing to get background checked, have a house assessment completed on their home, and submit copies of their driver’s license, car insurance as well as some other documentation. Or maybe you have a flexible schedule and would like to help out foster families by caring for their foster children while they take work trips or take a much needed break. You can become a “Respite Foster Home.” A Respite Foster Home has to go through the entire foster care process, including home assessment and training. Each of these options can bring much needed break to foster families.
- Donate- Circle of Care keeps a warehouse of items that families might need when providing care for foster children. Since the car seat laws changed in November, we are in need of new car seats. Dressers, cribs and beds are also needs that several of our families have requested in recent months. Gift cards would also be a well-received gift for foster families who may need a last minute item when a new child enters their home.
- Honor the privacy of the child– The foster child’s story is their story to tell or not tell. Do not ask probing questions or make assumptions about their story. Foster parents are required to keep the details of their foster child’s case confidential. Please don’t press them for information.
- Honor the grief of the foster family when a child leaves: Just because a family signs on to be a foster parent does (comma not needed) not mean they check their emotions at the door. Each time a little one left my home, I mourned their leaving, even if I had been happy with the outcome. One of my friends brought flowers and candy when one of our little ones left our home. It was such a kind gesture that touched me deeply.
If you, your church, small group, or organization is interested in supporting foster families but unsure where to start, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 918-453-3503. Feel free to visit at one of our upcoming events: Sunday, April 10th at 12:15 p.m. at First Methodist Tulsa, Thursday April 14th at 6:30 p.m. at Panera at 15th and Utica, and Wednesday May 18th at 6:30 p.m. at First Methodist Broken Arrow.
Rev. Shelly Coulter Daigle is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church who began serving as a Family Specialist with Circle of Care in 2015. Shelly spent 11 years serving local churches where she heard the stories and saw the impact of Circle of Care. Shelly is passionate about advocating for the most vulnerable and marginalized in our society, especially foster children and their families.