Foster and adoptive parents need you. It’s no secret that foster and adoptive parents are often called to do hard things. They enter into hard stories and hard places to do hard things, but they can’t do it alone. They need a village to come alongside them. They need you.
About a year and a half ago, I found myself burdened for some foster and adoptive families in my circle. These families had been called to do hard things, and many days, they faced overwhelming circumstances. This particular night, I found myself full of ideas on how to serve these families and encourage them. There was only one problem: I lived in Guatemala and they lived in the United States. Sure, there were ways that I could encourage them from afar, but it was impossible to “be the village” for someone on another continent. Instead, I prayed for God to send someone else, not realizing that God was instead going to send me. I didn’t know if yet, but the baby boy growing in my belly would have health needs that would result in our family moving back to the States. God had planted the vision to help these families months before He would call me to act.
Almost a year passed before God reminded me of that night and the needs of those families. Our family was trying to redefine normal and find our place in ministry back in our home state. Around this same time, our state’s foster care system reached its record high for children and teens in care. This led our governor to plead with Christ-followers to find their place and serve vulnerable children. With a newborn baby, we were not in the position to bring foster children into our home at the time, but we knew we had to do something to support the families that could. It was clear that God was calling us to be the village for those on the frontlines.
When I look at scripture, God’s heart for the vulnerable is clear. In James 1:27 believers are told that to draw near to the broken is “pure and undefiled” (ESV), and it is exactly what Jesus did for us. We were broken in our sin, and instead of pushing us away, He came near and lived among us. He entered into our problems, taking the price for them upon Himself. If we want to be like Christ then we too should step into the brokenness of those on the frontlines of foster care and adoption.
Not everyone can foster, and not all are called to adoption, but there is a place for everyone to do something for children and teens from hard places. Every family that has answered the call to foster or adopt needs help. Even more so than we need a village to raise our own children, they need a village as they daily face the realities of trauma and often navigate frustrating governmental systems. How can you be the village for these families?
Offer Your Resources
Children require a lot. They need beds to sleep in, clothes to wear, food to eat, supplies for school, toys to play with, and so much more. Many times, when foster parents take emergency placements or adoptive families get an unexpected phone call they do not have the resources they need to take the child at that time. This need is amplified even more when they agree to meet the huge task of taking a sibling set. Foster parents often spend the first-week attending meetings and doctors appointments, picking lice nits out of hair, and trying to bond with a child that has just gone through the worst day of his or her life. This leaves little time for WalMart runs, and even less time to cook meals.
There are so many ways you can step in the gap with your resources. Bring dinner, or start a Meal Train and get their first week of meals covered. Find out the child’s clothing size and run to the store to pick up some basics. Donate your crib and baby gear to a friend that is taking a foster placement when you no longer need it. You can also find non-profits that support foster and adoptive families and become a monthly donor.
Offer Your Friendship and Prayers
Our ministry had foster and adoptive parents take a survey last year. The top need of foster families was unanimous. Every single parent said they needed connection. Many of them discussed how lonely their journey had been. Your foster and adoptive friends need you to stick around. Just as friendships change when couples have babies, friendships often get more challenging when families take on the task of fostering or adopting. The life of a foster or adoptive parent is typically full of visitations and therapy, making schedules tight. Not only that, but the children that come into their homes often have extreme behaviors because of the way that trauma has altered their brains. All of these reasons tend to result in fewer invitations with the friends they were once close with. While it may be harder to stay close with friends that foster or adopt, they need you now more than ever. Sticking with them as a friend is one of the greatest ministries that you can offer.
One of the best things you can do to stand in the gap for your foster and adoptive friends is making the habit of picking up the phone each week and calling to ask how you can pray. There are so many things on a foster or adoptive parent’s heart: the court cases, their relationship with the biological parents, behaviors, needs at school, and so much more. A willingness to listen and then pray on their behalf will mean more than you know. Also, I beg you to continue inviting and including them. So many foster and adoptive parents report being left out because of the needs of their children. Please continue to be a friend. They need a village.
Offer Your Time
Time is a luxury to foster and adoptive families. Schedules are usually full of therapy appointments, court dates, and visits with biological parents. Add in a large family which is often common for foster and adoptive families, and you have mountains of laundry, large meals to cook, and the corresponding large piles of dishes to wash after. As a result of all of the demands on their time, many foster and adoptive families rarely take time for themselves.One of the greatest gifts you can give to a foster or adoptive family is your time. Offer to watch their children once a month so that they can go on a date night. Run their big kids to practice (especially if you have a child on the same team). Even just showing up to birthday parties and the child’s games will be so encouraging.
Offer Your Talents
Everyone has a talent that they can use to be the village for the foster and adoptive families in their lives. Are you a photographer? Offer free photo sessions to foster families so that they can have pictures to scrapbook for the children to have if they reunify. Do you own a farm? Offer to host a family fun day for foster and adoptive families on your farm. Do you quilt? You could sew quilts for children entering foster care. What gifts do you have? We all have gifts and talents that we can use to serve the foster and adoptive community.
Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but we all can do something. Will you be the village for the foster and adoptive families in your circle? You may be the encouragement that a family has been praying for. Will you step into the brokenness just like Jesus stepped into your brokenness?