Friday, October 24, 2008
You can't be a foster parent, but you can ...
You've thought and prayed and considered, but the answer is still firmly "no." You are not meant to be a foster parent. It simply isn't your calling--for a season, forever ... who knows?
But still, the notions clings to you. You should be doing something, your heart says.
If you're not parenting foster children, can you still be a blessing? Oh my goodness, yes. If you are praying for your spouse's change of heart, biding your time until a bigger house comes you way, or just plain wanting to participate in the ministry of keeping hurt kids safe, here's a list of some ways you can help.
1. Pass on your gently used items to foster parents in your area. Most foster parents maintain a stash of items for use on an as-needed basis. Your outgrown car seat, infant swing or skateboard could come in very handy for a foster family with a revolving cast of characters. Contact your local licensing office--or an agency--and ask them to pass on the list of items you have available.
2. Offer foster parents a night out. You know that amazing foster family at your church? The ones who never come to service without two infant carriers, a smile a big as Texas, and a gaggle of toddlers? I bet they'd love to have a break. You don't have to undergo a background check to take charge of a foster child for the amount of time it would take a couple to go to dinner and a movie. Offer. Follow up on it. Maybe even make it a regular thing.
3. Volunteer as a CASA or Guardian Ad Litem. You don't have to be a social worker to have a voice in a courtroom. Specially-appointed volunteers spend time with children in care and speak to the court on their behalf. This is a powerful way to be a part of "the system."
4. Participate in an foster care Angel Tree. Do you remember what it feels like to unwrap a Christmas gift and have it be exactly what you wanted? You can make that happen for a foster child. Most foster parents go out of their way to secretly ferret out the details of their foster child's wish list and make them happen. A few extras provided by folks who want to share in blessing these children makes it a lot easier for hurting children to feel like they truly matter.
5. Collect some friends and some money, and head to Dream Dinners. You can actually make a party out of blessing a family who serves in the field of fostering! Ask a local agency for the name of a family that could use a freezer full of meals. Contact your friends, set the date, head out for an evening and come home with a stack of dinners that will truly save the day on nights when a foster family bypasses a home cooked meal so mom can drive an hour each way and pick up a little one with nothing to her name but the clothes on her back.
6. Open your home for appointment-time child care. Dragging a gaggle of kiddos (or even just one who is having a really bad day) through the wringer that is a doctor or dentist's waiting room is something no parent relishes. Offer to host a movie afternoon at your place and spare a foster parent that anxiety as they start to decode what a medically fragile child might need. Keep in mind that new placements equal lots of appointments. That's the best time to offer!
7. Look into becoming a respite provider. Different counties have different rules about this; often, they are far less restrictive than full foster licensing. Check into your local program and see if you can offer a child a temporary getaway for a weekend.