If you are looking for ways to help vulnerable children during the coronavirus crisis, consider providing “wraparound” care to foster families. There are almost a half-million children in foster care in the U.S., and the parents providing temporary care, love and security to these children could use support.
“Helping those parents who have been called to be foster parents is a rewarding experience,” said Dr. Jerry T. Haag, CFP®, president and CEO of One More Child. “God is always making a new path for children facing hard circumstances, and you can be a part of the healing by helping parents who have been called to foster parenting.”
Foster parents provide physical, emotional and spiritual support for children and teens who have been separated from their families. In addition to providing for the children’s physical needs (warm clothes, hearty foods, a comfortable bed), they also provide a sense of safety and stability during what can be a tumultuous time of transition – even when the disruptions in school and work schedules that Americans are experiencing now.
Foster parenting is rewarding, but like all parenting, it also can be challenging. Foster parenting has a unique set of complicating factors, such as the need to assist with specific emotional, physical and spiritual needs, as well as logistical details such as incorporating court dates, counseling sessions, visitations and more into a household’s schedule.
Sundy Goodnight, a foster and adoptive parent who works at One More Child, has experienced the blessings of wraparound support firsthand. “Individuals and churches who donate clothing, provide meals and babysit have encouraged me as a foster parent and have set a wonderful example. I, along with the children in my care, get to feel the love of a full community.”
RJ Walters, a foster parent and director of communications at One More Child, said that babysitting and meal delivery services from friends and volunteers had been transformative for his family. “With five children, babysitting is around $15 per hour, so a three-hour date night is about $50 just to pull out of the driveway, not mentioning the expenses of the actual entertainment (or long trips to Target)! And the delivery of food is always helpful because if we can save an hour of meal prep and cleanup time, it gives us the chance to have more positive interactions with our children that evening and make more one-on-one time that is irreplaceably valuable.”
You can help foster parents and the children they care for by sharing your time, talents or resources.
Donate clothing. Many foster children arrive at their temporary home with a small bag of clothing, if anything at all. Find out the sizes of the children in the family you are supporting and provide a bag of new or gently used clothing, undergarments, socks and shoes. Consider delivering the clothing in a special bag, backpack or suitcase.
Help run errands. Time is a precious gift. You can assist a foster family by offering to pick up a few extra items at the grocery store or at the pharmacy while you are doing your own errands. This is especially crucial during this time when we are mindful of the need to stay home as much as possible.
Tap your talents. Do you have an education background? Consider providing homework help while kids are adjusting to online and distance learning. Are you trained in healthcare? Help organize medications.
Provide meals. Think about making a homemade meal once a week, providing takeout from a nearby restaurant, or donating gift cards for food for the family. Also consider making an extra meal for their freezer.
Babysit. When the nation begins to return to normal, foster parents are really going to be ready for a break. Offer to babysit for a few hours to allow foster parents time to rejuvenate.
Provide encouragement and prayer. Share with the foster family that you are praying for them. Offer words of encouragement, notes and texts to remind them they have your support.
Learn more about helping foster families care for their children here.
Katy Martin is vice president of communications for One More Child. One More Child is a faith-based organization that meets the needs of foster children, hungry children, trafficked children, single moms and struggling families in the U.S. and around the globe.