“What do you need?”
This is the question I was asked 5 times a day in the first few weeks. I was overwhelmed and incredibly thankful for the amount of support around me, but in that moment, I couldn’t find the courage to say what we needed most. It’s so easy to tell people that you need clothes and books, it’s a lot harder to tell them that you need toys and encouragement. While I was thankful, to the point of tears, for all of the clothes and books we received, I couldn’t figure out how to ask those around me for things that felt more secondary, without feeling like a burden.
Throughout this journey, I have met hundreds of people who have expressed their care for foster families and asked how they could make a difference in this organization. Now that the dust has settled, I wanted to take a second to tell you how you can help the foster families around you best.
Day to Day Help
It’s not cliche, and it’s not just fluff on top. Foster parents need your encouragement. They need to be asked, “how are you doing?”, “what are you struggling with?”, or “how’s Little Bit’s ______ going.” Please don’t tell us we are saints, or the best parents ever- because we are not, and we are not trying to be. Tell foster parents things like, “I know this is hard, but I’m proud of you for how hard you are working”, “I can see the difference you are making in this child’s life”, or simply “I’m here to listen if you need.” Know that the trials of foster parenting often come in waves. Often times, families have court dates every three months. Those times can be extremely taxing and encouragement is especially needed then. Don’t stop praying for, or encouraging the foster families around you because they seem to be “settled in and good.” I promise, they are experiencing new trials every day.
I am forever grateful for the people who have surrounded my little tiny family through this adventure. There’s such a need for good foster families, and an even bigger need for good people around those families to help build them up even more.
If you don’t know any foster families personally, I would recommend donating to organizations like “The Foster Village” in Walker, Louisiana- or to DCFS directly. Most schools also accept donations for uniforms to give to kids in need, and most foster families are told to check with the schools first for uniform needs.