After taking the foster care courses and having our first placement, we’ve realized more than ever the need for this amazing (and sometimes flawed) system. But how can we all help these kiddos more? What can we do that will make a difference? We asked our case worker at Camelot, Rachel, what she thinks the biggest needs are for the foster care system and how we can all help, and here are her seven suggestions…
1. “The best way to serve in foster care is to be a foster parent—there is a HUGE need just because people are not stepping up (often as a result of fear). If you’re interested, reach out to someone & have an honest conversation about what fostering looks like, the rewarding & hard parts, all while knowing no two fostering journeys are the same. Do not let fear dictate decisions—fostering is not a lifelong commitment, that’s adoption.”
We know firsthand how rewarding (for you and the kids) foster care can be. Saying our lives are forever changed is an understatement and we would 100% go back and do it all over again.
2. “SERVE a foster family (or a few). This can go so many different ways. When a family gets a new placement or is going through a rough patch, take them dinner or coffee, write a kind note, get a gift card for groceries or a restaurant, be a listening ear when they need one, offer to watch the kids so the parents can have a date night, etc. (most states do not require background checks or paperwork on short term babysitters). If you aren’t sure what a family needs, ASK & just make them feel seen in the midst of an important, yet hard (and sometimes lonely) journey.”
When we got our first placement, we were amazed and speechless at just how many people stepped up to help us out. We don’t think we could ever say thank you enough for all of the kindness that we were shown when we didn’t even know we needed it. From the gift cards that were dropped off by complete strangers, to our friends making us dinner and bringing it over, to PJ’s mom moving in with us for a week and helping us with the kids, we can’t stress enough how important this is for new foster parents.
3. “Every behavior communicates a need & often for kids in foster care, that need is for positive attention that makes them know they matter, are valued, wanted, & loved, so offer to keep the other kids, allowing foster parents to give that direct, pointed attention to that sweet kiddo.”
We saw how positive reinforcement, constant love and attention, and showing affection towards our foster kids completely changed their temperaments and made them feel safe, loved, and at home with us. We don’t have kids of our own, but we can imagine how important this step is for the foster children to feel important in an extremely stressful time in their lives.
4. “Be an advocate! There are so many ways to volunteer & advocate for kids who don’t have a consistent parental figure to do so. Being an educational surrogate is a particularly special way to serve these kids—they so desperately need & deserve a consistent person to stand in the gap for them to make sure they are getting what they need in the classroom to succeed, presently & long term.”
We’re looking forward to volunteering more within the foster care system and are actively looking for different opportunities to do so. We’ll keep you updated on the progress of that in the coming months!
5. “Love on social workers! This is huge. They have HARD jobs. They’re always on call, always pouring out, care so deeply, are overworked & under paid, see & hear heavy stuff daily, yet most of it goes unnoticed & you rarely ever hear them complain. Show them you care any way you think would bless them. Coffee & chocolate & wine are good places to start!”
Completely love that last sentence ;). But in all seriousness, we’ve seen how hard social workers work and how much stress comes with their job, a job that is vital to these children having successful futures. They go above and beyond for the well-being of these kids in need and are the backbones of the whole system. Definitely important to show them some love!
6. “Research what your own community offers—there are probably things already happening that you can be apart of & just don’t know yet.”
This goes on back to volunteer opportunities that communities offer and are so easy to be a part of. No matter the size of the community you live in, organizations like private foster care agencies will almost never turn down free help and a chance to spread the word. Ask around, do some research, and if all else fails, turn to apps like Facebook and Instagram and ask your friends ways to get involved.
7. ”Just show you care. This can look so many ways, but show the foster parents, bio kids to those parents, & the foster kids that you care about them.”
Call them by their name, compliment them, encourage them, build them up, show empathy, sympathy, and understanding towards all parties in the situation. Words and actions go such a long way and are extremely powerful. Write them a card, send them a message, a text, a phone call, etc. All of the above go a long way and can completely turn someone’s day around. You’d be surprised by how much power you have by what you communicate to others.
There you have it! Thank you for your interest in foster care.We hope this helps those of you who are looking to get involved, and thank you Rachel for these suggestions!