I will be the very first to tell you that not every single person should foster or adopt. Would I encourage you to look into it? Well....of course. Would I encourage you by telling you that if God can use us in this way - he could use anyone in this way? Yes. I also realize that God doesn't call us all to the same things, and that is part of the beautiful story that God has crafted.
With that said, I pretty frequently hear from people who would love to help out the families who are in the foster care system but who can't foster or adopt (right now anyway ;) ).
So, you can't foster, you can't adopt....what can you do?
So many things.
1. Love on foster parents.
You know that foster family in your neighborhood who just took two kids in addition to
the four they already had? The family that has a smile on their face all the time when
you see them? The ones that you told, "I just don't know how you do it??" Neither do
they. They are tired. They are probably struggling with the behaviors of their kids.
They are frequently feeling defeated and overwhelmed. You could be the answer to
their prayers. Make them a meal once a week. Offer to pick up some laundry.
Surprise them with a care package. Take them out for coffee.
Several years ago when we were in a super hard place people did this for us. They did
our laundry, they watched our kids, they cleaned my house while I was gone, they
listened to the hard stuff - and I can completely honestly say - that is why Bella is my
daughter right now. That is what got us through.
2. Provide short term respite.
So maybe you can't have kids placed with you full time. You travel. You are super
busy. That seems scary. That circus and those monkeys - they can't belong belong
to you. But - maybe sometimes, just once or twice a year, you could have a couple
of kids come stay with you just for a weekend. Maybe you could give a foster parent
just a couple of days to get their feet back under them. By providing that respite, you
could be the difference between a placement disrupting, or the foster parents having
the breather they need to make just a little bit longer. And also, can I just say that
when we did respite we loovvveedd it. You get to be the cool aunt or uncle. It's all
fun (I mean...mostly).
Similar to providing respite - offering to be a mentor for a kiddo can provide a little
break for the foster family, while also providing that child with another stable, healthy
relationship. Tutor them, take them out for ice cream, go to the park, just hang out
and be an ear that isn't foster mom and dad. This can be so huge for a kid. So huge.
4. Become a CASA.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. In some states CASA serves as the
child's guardian ad litem (their attorney) and in some states they are simply an extra
advocate - but in both situations I have found them extremely helpful. If I could have
CASA on every case that we take, I would. As a CASA volunteer you visit the kids in
their foster home, serve as part of the team that advocates for the child, and report
your thoughts to the court at hearings as part of what determines where the case
5. Safe Families.
Ok, I realize this doesn't seem wholly different from fostering, but bear with me. Safe
Families works with families that are at risk for having children removed and put in
foster care. However, all families that are involved are self referred. There are a lot
of ways to serve these families that Safe Families is helping. One way is to become a
host family. While this might not seem soooo different from fostering, there are a
couple of things to note. When you take a child through Safe Families you sign a
contract for how long you will have the children. This is wildly different from
fostering where you have no idea if you will have the children for a week or three
years. Safe Families also has a built in support system that can help the host family.
This is done via Resource Families and Family Friends. Both of these are also
volunteer opportunities. Resource families provide physical necessities for the host
family and/or birth family. Beds, clothes, meals, etc. Family friends are more of a
support to the birth family, and provide relationship and assistance. Take them out to
coffee, give them a ride to an interview, call and check in about how things are going.
I love this organization, and I'd be happy to answer questions about it. I'll stop,
because I could go on forever.
Find a foster and adoptive ministry near you - in your church, in a nearby church,
through a not for profit - and ask how you can help out. I can guarantee you they will
have things for you to do. :) Support the kids by helping the ministry run events,
support groups, and trainings.
I could probably keep coming up with this stuff all day. In the interest of your time I'll stop - but seriously, if you have any questions, please let me know - I would be super happy to help - because we are not all called to foster, but we are all called to serving, advocating for, and loving the vulnerable.