I hope you don’t have to recruit a support system. I hope you already have one ready and willing to support you. But I also know it isn’t that easy. For most families, even when they believe their family and friends will be supportive, it’s a different story when children are actually placed in your home. Family and friends often offer platitudes and let you know they think what you’re doing is awesome, but as far as offering help or giving you help, suddenly all those people are scarce.
Furthermore, we all already struggle asking for help in general. Most of us are not practiced in being vulnerable, especially when it comes to issues of family. Even within close knit church circles, we are scared to be vulnerable, terrified that if we are, we will be judged, gossiped about, or misunderstood. It is even harder to let people from our community into our homes to see the messy parts of our lives, to see us not always at our best. If you want to last long in foster parenting at all, you will need to ask for help. You will need to ask for and seek out additional training, as well as ask for day-to-day help with chores and childcare.
Why You Will Need Help
The reason for this great need is that when you accept a child into your home, you don’t just accept them, you accept their case. This means visitations, court hearings, case managers, doctors appointments and paperwork, all of which you are partly responsible for coordinating and participating in. You have to make space in your day for these additional home visits, counseling appointments, medical appointments, and any general unexpected needs that come up. Especially with emergency placements, you never know what supplies a child will/will not come with, or what injuries or health issues they may/may not have. You have to be practiced in humbling your self to realize 1) You won’t have all the answers, 2) You can’t do this by yourself, and 3) The fact that #1 and #2 are true means no poor reflection on you as a parent.
We as a community and as a society should not let foster parents do this alone. There needs to be a general acknowledgment in American society that we all have to do our part to keep foster children stable and safe in their placements, and we all have to do our part to make sure foster parents receive the help they ask for. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a well organized multi disciplinary army to raise a child who has been through abuse/neglect. While this societal role is a far reaching one, having a goal of our local churches supporting families is much more attainable.
Having The Important Conversations
You are going to need your church as a foster parent. You will need spiritual, emotional, educational and physical support. I encourage you to assemble this team of supporters throughout every stage of the approval process, and I encourage you to make these conversations special. This should not be a casual conversation at church. For some of your close friends and family, perhaps they already understand what is needed because of other experiences with the system, and a casual conversation is all that is needed. But I think for most people, having them over for dinner and helping them understand the realities of foster care and the amount of help you are going to need will be important. Allow them to even have time to think about what level of support they can really commit to. A great time to do this is at the same time you are going through training class. Chances are if you have children, you’ll need to ask someone to watch your kids while you go through the training classes. Start with that person. You can educate your natural support system as you get educated and as a result I think you will find people in your circle that become just as passionate about helping children as you are.
And PLEASE if as I am talking about this NO ONE comes to mind that you could talk to about supporting you, get plugged into a local church!! If you are already a part of a church but there is no foster care ministry, partner with someone else who can help you start it. Below I suggest a great ministry that can help you with this. You may think that you don’t know anyone that would be willing to help you, but please, if you’re unsure at least ask the people in your life and give them a chance to say yes.
What Your Support System Can Do
There are definitely going to be things related to the direct care for the foster children in your home that only you can do: contacting parents, attending court hearings, attending counseling sessions, etc. But there are MANY things that your support system can still help you with. Off of the top of my head, here is a small list: Cooking for your family, cleaning your home, doing your laundry, babysitting all of the kids in your home, helping all of the children with homework, taking children to extra curricular activities, mowing your lawn, covering costs for any activities, providing mentorship, etc. There is a wonderful federal law called the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. This law created the Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard, which allows more freedom for foster caregivers to make day-to-day decisions for children in their homes about age appropriate activities. I’m not sure if this particular guideline is the same in all states, but in Georgia, one component of this is that any person over the age of 18 that the foster parent trusts can watch foster children for up to 48 hours without having to report it to the DFCS case worker. This is why the approval process is vital, because when the state approves you, they are also approving your judgment, and therefore your support system.
A word about respite: I encourage every couple fostering to take a weekend trip at least 3 times a year. No kids. And you have to leave town. Take time to talk about your marriage, your dreams, your goals, and reconnect!
There is an agency we have here in Georgia that trains churches how to create support systems around the foster parents called Promise686. Here is their website: https://promise686.org/
Promise686 teaches churches the importance of care teams and how to form care teams around foster parents. One or two people will be designated as the care team leader, and assign people to jobs like bringing meals, babysitting, and mentoring. The great thing about this model is it largely takes the foster parent out of the awkward position that constantly asking for help can sometimes create. Two meals a month are coming, whether the foster parent asks for it or not. A babysitter will be made available to the family every third Friday night, whether they use it or not. It also creates a level of simplicity for the family as they can communicate directly with the care team leader about their needs, who then can delegate tasks to everyone else. If you are a part of a church that you know has a heart for helping foster children, I strongly encourage you to look into look into this ministry!
Thats all on this one folks. If you have any comments or questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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