When we decided to become foster parents with the intention of adopting we realized that we had never been through the foster care and adoption journey with anyone around us. While we knew friends who had adopted or were adopting and others who had fostered children before, they were all out of state. We were happy for them. Excited for them. But not really able to be there for them except thru Facebook, text messages, and a phone call or two.
We had no idea what we were getting into. Honestly, I had to figure out what the first steps were to even becoming a foster parent was on my own. The only thing I knew for certain was that we wanted to open our home to children who needed love. The rest of the journey was a huge learning curve!
Not everyone is called to be a Foster Parent or an Adoptive Parent. There are many reasons to be a Foster Parent and to Adopt, but adoption and foster care is not right for every family. And that my friend, is totally okay. No one should be guilted into embarking on the journey of foster care and adoption.
That being said, you can absolutely take part in supporting those who are Foster Parents or adopting!!!! In fact, I believe that it is quite essential for the success of these families who are opening themselves up in one of the most vulnerable ways.
When we started our journey, no one around me really knew what to do to help. I didn’t know what to ask for. And when I did know what to ask for, I felt guilty asking for it.
There were quite a few obnoxious people who gave us a piece of their mind about the horrors of foster care and adoption and felt let to tell us all of the nightmare stories they heard third-hand from their friends-uncles-sister-by-marriage. Good Jesus! Please, shut your mouth! Unless you have experienced the story FIRST hand…I don’t want to hear it! Ahem!
I found an amazing support group on Facebook with several hundred active foster parents and veteran adoptive parents. They have been an amazing resource for me through this journey. I asked them what they needed most from friends and family during the Foster Care and Adoptive Journey. These are their responses…
This is what Foster Parents and Adoptive Parents need the most:
1. Treat every child that comes into my home like a new baby being born.
Whether I knew they were coming to our home for months or I got the call at midnight last night, I need support the same as a new mom with a new baby. Regardless of the age of the child, I just became a mom again and my whole world has been changed. This applies to both temporary placements and those that are going to be permanent in our family.
We need a break sometimes. Offer to babysit. We can’t afford a lot of extra babysitting. Offer to come over and play with the kids so we can run some errands, take a nap, or catch up on some cleaning. If our agency requires it, take time to get a police clearance and fill out a short application to become an approved alternate caregiver. You have no idea what 2 hours of no kids can do to rejuvenate us!
**Bonus points for taking the kids overnight!
3. Call and Listen
This journey of foster care and adoption is crazy. CRAZY and RIDICULOUS at times! It may not make a lot of sense to you. But would you call and just listen to us vent? I really don’t need you to solve the problems. Just listen and tell me that the system is ridiculous and that it’s okay to be frustrated.
**You don’t have to have gone thru the exact same situation to give a listening ear or to call and check on someone.
Absolutely NEVER tell a foster parent or adoptive parent, “Well…You chose this.” (I will kick you in the butt for that one!)
4. PRAY for me!
Good old fashioned prayer. It is a big deal. We need it. We need supernatural strength when opening our hearts to these little people who have experienced trauma that we may never truly understand. Prayer is a powerful thing. It’s also free.
5. Be a Big Brother or Grandma to our child
This little person who is new in our lives most likely has lost all family connections. Even if you are not blood related to me, I would love for you to step in and be an aunt or uncle to our foster child. Dote on my new adoptive little guy as if you were his grandma. Build a friendship and camaraderie that would rival any brother/sister relationship and help me rebuild his family that he lost.
6. Be Understanding
Trauma is a real thing. And these children who have witnessed and experienced unimaginable horrors sometimes need special care and can express themselves in ways that may not make sense to you. Understand that my plans may change due to the kids and that doesn’t mean that they are bad or that I don’t care about our friendship. It just means that these kids are healing and sometimes I have to make the hard decision to put them first.
Respect us as parents who are learning to parent kids who have had trauma. Don’t judge. You don’t know the whole story. Don’t judge me or my parenting or my childs behavior.
**Don’t just be understanding when things don’t necessarily make sense to you…be encouraging and gracious too!
7. Don’t wait to be asked for help.
Personally, I find it hard to ask for help. I want to be the super-mom all the time. I can handle it. But honestly, I often don’t realize how close to the edge of exhaustion and emotional breakdown I am. Don’t wait for me to ask you for help. Volunteer! You are my friend. Look at my life and find something you know I need and DO IT! No one wants to beg for help. I don’t want to look like a failure because I need help.
IDEAS of ways to help:
- clean my house
- bring coffee
- pick up groceries
- bring a meal or two
- drop off diapers and other essentials
- mow the lawn
- show up with a tool kit and fix any minor repairs (that I haven’t had time for)
- organize the playroom
- take the kids to the park
- refill the emergency chocolate stash
8. Donate supplies to your local Foster Closet or Adoption Agency
Here in Michigan we have Foster Closets. These are non-profit organizations closets which are run out of peoples garages and basements. Everything in the closet is FREE to foster children in need. There is ZERO cost to foster parents who come and shop. They collect clothes of every size, carseats, cribs, winter clothes, school supplies, shoes, personal care items, diapers, formula, toys, books, and anything else that is needed for raising children.
Often, when a child comes into foster care, they come with just the clothes on their backs and maybe one or two more items. We obviously have no idea the size of the child who will be needing a home, so these Foster Closets are a HUGE blessing! Your donations are tax exempt and your items are guaranteed to be used to bless a child in need.
Ask your local foster care agency for information on organizations like the Foster Closet in your state.
9. Don’t ask for details.
We can’t always share with you everything about our child and what they have been through. Even if we can share, we want to protect our children and keep their story safe and private. Think about your own background. You don’t want the whole world to know the trauma you have experienced. Don’t put me in a position to have to tell you to “Mind your own business!”
10. Keep checking on me.
Not every day is a hard day, but I will need you when those days come. One day we won’t be ok. That is the day we need you. Be there to support for us during the hard parts. Example: loss of placement, disrupted adoption, delays upon delays upon delays….
This journey is hard. And we need our friends and family.
We have a burning desire to love these kids and to protect them.
Often the journey is completely out of our control.
We are on the ride of a broken system that is doing it’s best to protect these children from being harmed again.
It’s worth it.
We want to be here.
We want to keep going.
We just need support.
We need your love.
Thank you for wanting to help. Even when we fail to say thank you…we appreciate you!
And if you think you may be ready to open your heart and home to adopt or foster find out the First Steps to Becoming a Foster/Adoptive Parent!
You can also DOWNLOAD our FREE Foster Care & Adoption Resource Collection! Full of printables, checklists, and resources.