Foster Parents are Rad. Here’s 99 Ways You Can Support Them and the Kids They Care For

foster parents and kids happy family

Foster Parent Burn Out Happens a lot Less When There is Community Support

Parenting is a hard gig for all of us, with the constant runny noses, boundary pushing and emotional needs of our kids.

But do we notice that the foster parents around us are doing the same gig? Sometimes it can seem like they’re in another world, because foster parenting appears temporary and different from what other parents face.

But foster parents share the same joys and struggles as the rest of us. The children they care for are just like our children, and both children in foster care and foster parents covet support from friends and neighbors.

Kent County is Full of Loving Foster Families to Cheer On

There are around 700 children in Kent County alone who need foster care. Foster parents are a loving safety net for these sweet, resilient  children, but over half of these parents burn out after just one year of fostering.

Foster Kent Kids aims to provide the support that foster parents need in order to continue beyond their first year.

West Michigan Partnership for Children (WMPC), the five private foster agencies in Kent County, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) work together to retain and recruit foster parents in Kent County.

Here’s how you can help these foster parents and the kids in their care.

Foster Kent Kids Project 99

  SUPPORT FOSTER PARENTS 

Simple Things Mean a Lot to Foster Parents

Supporting foster parents is more than giving them a pat on the back or saying, “Let me know if you need anything.”

They’re parents just like us, and their children in foster care are just like yours – they flourish with love and inclusion, they love to have fun, and they need caring adults throughout their childhood.

Often when I see a friend struggling with the day-to-day strain of raising kids, I offer to take them off her hands for a few hours. I mean, a break is the biggest gift you can give, right? But that’s often not an option for children in foster care.

Each situation is so different. While some children would enjoy going on an adventure with you and your kids, other children may not be ready to go with yet another stranger.

So what other ways can we support our foster parent friends?

Foster parents need real, meaningful support from their friends, family and community.

Be a person who practices inclusion, advocacy, understanding, and compassion. Treat all children the same, whether or not they are in foster care – and learn the right way to say their names.

Local foster parents worked with Foster Kent Kids to create a list of 99 ways you can support them.

What to Say Besides “Let Me Know if You Need Anything”

And instead of asking if they need anything (they need ALL the things and wouldn’t even know where to start with that vague question), be specific.

The next time you head to the grocery store, text your friend and ask them what kind of milk you can grab for them or if they’re missing an ingredient or two for dinner.

It can be tough for all of us to stay on top of our essential needs, but it’s especially difficult for foster parents who may only have a few hours notice before a child’s arrival. Be a blessing to them and provide some essentials.

Take fresh fruits and vegetables to a foster family or deliver a freezer meal. Bring gently-used clothing in the correct sizes.

The goal here is to come up with ideas on your own of how to help your friend, and then offer these specific items. They may not always need them, but more often than not, you may be just the lifesaver they were looking for.

Perform an Act of Kindness

We all need kindness angels in our lives, but these little acts of kindness mean even more to foster families.

Mail encouraging notes and give thoughtful gifts to foster parents. Bring a cup of coffee the day after a placement. Offer free-babysitting and feed the kids dinner. Check in with your friend and ask how the placement is going.

Get your kids involved and have them draw pictures for the children you know who are in foster care.

Create Entertainment and Education Opportunities

Bouncing through the foster care system means these kids may not have the same experiences as other kids. Don’t forget that they are just kids, too. 

Drop off games, puzzles, or art supplies to keep the kids busy. Invite kids in foster care to a game or craft night.

Have a local museum or zoo membership that allows you to bring an extra kid or two? Invite kids in foster care to explore these places with you!

Think of what you would have loved as a kid and offer it to the kids you know who are in foster care.

Give a Monetary Gift

Foster families may not have the extra funds to provide some of the extras that make life easier. If it’s in your budget, consider helping a foster family.

Gift a streaming or Shipt membership or give gift cards to restaurants or activities. Hire teenagers in foster care to do a job and pay them for it.

  LEARN MORE 

None of us were meant to do this alone. All parents and kids need a village and this includes foster parents and kids in foster care.

Inviting foster families to participate in activities with you and encouraging your kids to be friends with foster kids is a huge support to our community.

And if you’re more of a one-on-one person, consider mentoring a child in foster care. Having a steady adult in their life is important for all children, including kids in foster care.

Take a look at the full list of 99 ways to help.

You can also watch the Project 99 video to get insight from foster families about the impact of community support.

 PARTNER INFO  

Foster Kent Kids logo

213 Sheldon Ave
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

FACEBOOK | (616) 419-2505

LEARN MORE

3 thoughts on “Foster Parents are Rad. Here’s 99 Ways You Can Support Them and the Kids They Care For”

  1. I like your suggestion to be specific instead of just vaguely asking if they need anything. My friend and her husband want to become licensed foster parents to provide a safe and stable environment for children in need. Thanks for sharing this advice I can use to provide support and encouragement to them as they transition to fostering!

  2. My husband and I have trouble conceiving a child, and my sister suggested foster parenting as one of the options we could do. I appreciate your tips on how to be a supportive foster parent, and it was especially helpful for me to learn that it helps a lot to ask the child-specific questions instead of using general terms regarding the things they may need. I’m going to research about the licensed foster care agency that can help us make the transition easier in case we decide to do it.

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