“Do you have a good support system?”. That is one of the biggest questions as you enter a situation involving children in foster care. It gives a new meaning to “It takes a village”. Of course, we, as foster families, think we do, but you never truly know what it is like to until you bring children from hard places into your home. You are welcoming in a level of chaos, and often family and friends distance themselves from the trauma because it can be so disruptive and often too hard to bear. For this reason, 50% of foster families quit after the first year due to lack of support.
How to Support Foster Families
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. As the church, we have many opportunities to walk alongside these families and help keep them together by praying for, encouraging, and supporting them. One of the best ways you can do that is by babysitting or providing respite care. Merely offering an hour or 2 to reset can be just the recharge needed to keep going.
The Fostering Collective exists to recruit and shepherd Christ-centered families in East Texas to help children in foster care. As we were beginning to form as a nonprofit, we struggled to engage with current foster families in our community and find out what they need. We quickly learned many of them were struggling and burnt out. They needed a break. They needed babysitters, sometimes for just a few hours, maybe for a doctor apt, and sometimes for a get-a-way for a weekend to recharge. Babysitting. I have been doing that since I was 13 years old. So why not rally the church to help with babysitters for foster families? That sounds simple. Simple, or so we thought.
I had three licensed foster families in my connect group at church that was licensed with three different agencies. I would gladly babysit for each of these families. However, to do so, I would have to go through a series of training with EACH of these three agencies. While my heart was in the right place, I did not have time to be able to do that.
For a child under Child Protective Services (CPS) care to be left alone with an adult or babysitter, there are many rules and regulations, or minimum standards, that must be followed. In addition to that, if someone is licensed with a Child Placement Agency (CPA), they have additional rules and regulations that must be followed. Babysitting just got a little complex. We reached out to our friends at Fostering Hope in Austin because we learned they could collaborate with agencies in their area to provide babysitters. They offered us a great foundation and a place to start.
Respite Care with a Twist
We brought all the child-placing agencies in our area and CPS to the table to talk about what it would take for a person to go through one training and serve families from multiple agencies as babysitters for up to 72 hours at a time. Twelve months later, with a lot of creative collaborating, planning, and praying, we were able to partner with ten agencies in East Texas to offer one application and one training to certify babysitters to serve families in need. During this process, something bigger started happening. As we gathered monthly, we began to have unity. Great friendships began to form, and true collaboration was happening.
We have served many families over the last two years because of the babysitter collaboration. Sara is one of our single foster moms that we have been able to serve. She shared,
“One of the biggest blessings has been having certified babysitters available. When I have events, need to run an errand, or need a small break, I know that there are trusted people I can call on to come to watch my kids. My oldest (boy) longs for a male role model and thrives around men in general. When I found out there was a couple that babysat together, this was a huge blessing! The first time they walked in my front door, my oldest jumped in his arms and did not want to be put down the whole time. After babysitting for us once, he kept asking for them to come back and saying, “I want Mr. Greg to come to play.” Greg and Kathy babysit to serve the foster families in East Texas, asking nothing in return. They are amazing!”
Lisa is one of our babysitters. She shared,
“I have been babysitting for foster families for almost two years and have had the chance to love on so many parents and children. One family had just moved to the area, received a newborn child in foster care, and knew no one here. Through networking, she found some of my certified babysitting friends and myself to help with her new bundle of joy while working until more permanent childcare became available. It was not only a help for the foster families but a delight for my family to show God’s love to these angels!”
How Best to Serve Foster Families
Since the babysitter collaboration began, we decided to continue to meet each month and tackle many other obstacles together. We call ourselves The Agency Collective, ten child-placing agencies, CPS, and me, just an adoptive mom called to do more for foster, adoptive, and kinship families. We meet once a month and often talk in between those meetings to figure out how to best serve our families together in East Texas. And we are all working for the same goal to help children in foster care.
God has begun to do amazing things in our community as we strive together to share Christ and give children in foster care HOPE and rest to many foster families in need. In addition to that, our community is coming together to provide many other resources, support groups, and training to shepherd families and keep them going. It is an answer to prayer and ‘Respite with a Twist’.