Recently, I asked my daughter to clean her room. Within seconds, I started hearing heavy sighing, then moaning, and finally, “Mom, I can’t do it!”
The foster care system can seem like a messy room that no one wants to tackle.
1 Corinthians 12 discusses the importance of each person doing a task and that no one task is more important than the other. Although this passage is talking about the church, the principles can be applied to the foster care system.
Not everyone can or should be a foster parent, but everyone can do something to help kids in foster care.
Learn About Trauma
You can help kids in foster care by learning about trauma. The first step to helping anyone is to try to understand them better. Kids in foster care have experienced trauma. Every. Single. One. So learn about it!
Read books addressing how childhood trauma affects the brain, what issues arise when a child does not learn safe attachment, and behaviors that scream “I’m hurting” but are often used to label kids as “bad.”
During a playdate many years ago, a parent I had recently met yelled at my child who was in foster care for something the child did wrong. I scooped up my child and immediately walked out, shaking. At first, I swore never to speak to that parent again but was quickly convicted: “What good will that do?”
The next day, I called the person and explained how a child in foster care does not have a foundation of believing that adults are safe and trustworthy like her biological child does. I explained the damage her tone had done.
That parent was gracious and open to learning, and it never happened again. Because of that parent’s willingness to learn about trauma, she has now probably helped kids in foster care. She is now better equipped to show love and safety to a child in foster care.
Care for Those Who Care for Them
You can also help kids in foster care by caring for those who care for them. Give a social worker you know a gift card, write a thank you note to a child therapist, or bring a meal to a foster family.
There are so many team players when a child enters foster care: judges, attorneys, social workers, therapists, visit supervisors, foster parents, and CASA volunteers to name just a few. If you are not in any of these roles, you still have a vital part to play. Supporting those who support the child ultimately makes the chances of success for that child greater.
Just today, I was at church when a mom came up to me and said, “Okay, what Saturday can I watch your kiddos this month so you can have a break?” I will get a few hours to rest and regroup, and my kids will get the opportunity to see that there are other safe adults that care about them.
Pray today for God to bring a foster family into your life that you can pour into. Look up the family court judges in your county, and pray for them by name as they decide whether families should reunify or remain separated. Get together with your small group and make self-care baskets for social workers in your area.
When the people who care for children in foster care feel their best, the child gets the best care.
Work in Prevention
I would be remiss if I did not mention the important work of prevention. One way to help kids in foster care is to volunteer in ways that keep kids from going into the system in the first place.
Maybe that is working with a local domestic violence shelter or working in a ministry that helps families struggling with housing or food insecurity. Look up churches in your area with strong single-parent ministries, and ask what donations would be the most helpful. Find a single mom in your neighborhood, and become her friend.
Every child that enters foster care has experienced trauma, but so has that child’s entire family. Addressing a parent’s past trauma first can reduce the risk of their child experiencing trauma.
God designed families to stay together. He gave that child to certain parents for a reason. As Christians, we need to support families as much as possible. I see many churches raising money for families to adopt, which is wonderful and should continue. But I do not see many churches raising money for the single mom who just had a baby. Both should be happening in churches.
Everyone Can Do Something
“Okay, first, we will tackle all the dress-up clothes,” I said to my daughter. “Next, make your bed.” A few steps later, her room was cleaned in fifteen minutes.
Cleaning her room seemed like a monumental task until I broke up the jobs, and we did it one step at a time. The foster care system seems like too big of a mess to step into. And it is. You will never clean up the system yourself. But you can sign up to focus on one area.
Decide today to help a child in foster care by reading a book on trauma. Decide today to help a child in foster care by praying for the CASAs/GALs that are representing the kids in court.
Decide today to care for a foster family in the trenches of trauma. Decide today to text that new single mom that you know, “Hey, can I bring you some ice cream and chat once your kids go to sleep?”
Everyone can do something to help a child in foster care.