How You Can Help

“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.

 


Uniforms
Do you know how hard it is to find school uniforms in February? Little Bit came to my home on a Friday evening with one uniform top and two bottoms. The first few days I washed her one uniform shirt each night, and put it back on her the next day. I used my lunch breaks to go to as many stores as I could in an hour to find uniforms. Everyone was sold out- Walmart, Target, Academy, Goodwill. Everyone. Even finding uniforms online was a struggle/ extremely expensive. On Wednesday morning, that first week, I woke up to a bag of uniforms on my porch. I literally cried of joy for this bag of goodness. Seriously, any uniforms are great uniforms for kids who have none. Please consider donating the uniforms your kids grow out of, even the faded ones, or ones with small holes. They are better than none.
Toys
An empty closet is scary to a 5 year old. You wouldn’t imagine the amount of toys a kid collects after 5 birthdays and 5 Christmases. I didn’t. At least not until our next door neighbors moved in and Little Bit wanted to play at his house more than ours because, “he has the good toys.” Kid’s need toys. They need toys as much as they need clothes- but I can tell you first hand that a lump forms in your throat and and shame builds in your heart when you think about asking for toys instead of the “essentials.” I know now that toys ARE part if the essentials. Toys help kids learn, and grow, and feel like a normal healthy kid.
After Little Bit’s birthday, at the beginning of the summer, I went in her closet and just took a second to marvel at all the toys. Toys that give her a sense of normalcy. Toys that she can share and grow with. Toys that she’s proud of. Again, just like clothes, used toys are just as good as new toys. Don’t be shy to share your old Shoots and Ladders game that’s in the box with the broken corners, because really they aren’t old, just already well loved.
Day to Day Help
If you know a foster family personally, the best thing you can offer them is day to day help. Just like when a family takes a new baby home from the hospital, new foster families need help settling in. When I received Little Bit, I needed help getting on a schedule and keeping up with housework. If this is a family you’re comfortable visiting at their home, offer to help wash and sort through all the clothes that people have donated. Offer to babysit for an hour so that they can do some grocery shopping, or offer to drive their new little bit to one of the countless doctors, dentist, or family visits that have to happen in the first 30 days. Trust me, an hour of your time is the answer to a million prayers for a new parent.
Encouragement/ Prayer

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.

Stay sweet

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