Saturday, September 1, 2012

How to Help: Support for a New Foster Placement

So you want to support your friends who have just gotten a new foster care placement ~

Firstly, realize that every new kid is a big deal to a foster family.  Even those who have been doing this for years know how much one new child changes things.  Remember, they said yes when they could have said no to this child coming to them.  So, follow their lead, but in general, be excited with them.  Ask about the child (the foster family will filter out things for confidentiality - but ask about who the kids is).  Ask about your friends thoughts, feelings, worries and excitement - both before when the child is a possibility and after the child is a reality.  

And then LISTEN, listen a lot.  What people need most is simply a listening ear for all of the ups and downs of a new kid.  Listen and remember they are a foster parent on purpose and knew what they were getting into.  At this moment, they do not need, your insight into what all 4-year-olds are like, advice on what do when they misbehave etc, etc.  Wait until asked to share your wisdom, what they really need is a friend.  Bonus: if you are a close friend, they will ask you for all sorts of advice later on.

On the more practical side:
  1. Buy groceries.  I say groceries because while making a meal is great, many kids in foster care are coming out of chaos where meals were the easiest, fastest thing available (think McDonalds), so a delicious  healthy, organic, midwest casserole might not be up their alley - and if they don't like it the family will have to cook another meal anyway, so it ends up not helping as much.  So buy and drop off groceries.  No need to ask on this one.  Stick to easy, basic kid food - milk, bread, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, fruit snacks, apples, bananas, grapes, etc. 
  2. Ask if they need to to run any errands for them: running to the post office, picking up something specific at the store, a pack of diapers, etc.
  3. Come to the door and ask if NOW is a good time to wash some dishes or fold (and put away) the laundry.  Don't call, because chances are, they won't know the kids schedule or when a good time will be and most likely their brain will be so fried they couldn't remember even if they did.  And if they're not home, call and ask where the hide a key is and do it while they are out.  Because, if you know where they live and are coming to serve them, they most likely trust you.
  4. Stop by after bedtime just to say hi.  When kids are getting settled, a lot of extra faces can be overwhelming, but the parents still need socializing and friends - especially if they feel stuck at home until the kids get comfortable.  So come to them (and bring chocolate, at least if you're coming to visit me).
  5. Ask if there is something the other kids in the home need (transportation to/from school events, church functions, etc).  Most likely they will want to keep the newest kiddos the closest for a time, so help with the other, more settled members of the family might be more readily accepted.
  6. If your friends own a house, and/or is single, think about what might be hard doing with a child literally attached to your hip, or running away at mock ten (both possibilities in those first few weeks), and ofter to help with that.  Shoveling in winter, mowing the grass in summer, cleaning out the car, weeding the garden all come to mind, but I am sure there are others.
That is all I can think of for now.  What did I miss?  Put it in the comment section below.

Now, go bless your friends!  Whether this is their first placement or 200th, lives are changing, one little person at a time.  Show them with your actions and your listening ear just how much you care.


  1. My kids always came without any clothing, so I think it's helpful to buy a few outfits, pj's, pair of shoes to help them get through the first few days with a new child.

  2. I found your blog after following links from a few others, and have since spent a while reading backwards through your posts. I would like to link to this on my blog... such a straight forward helpful list! Thanks for thinking it through!

  3. The children always need socks, underpants, brush & comb, toothbrush, pillow and blanket, not so much generic but ones that fit the child, like a race car or princess theme depending on that child's specific taste.

  4. Whenever foster children left my care, I sent almost everything with them (toys, puzzles, books, etc) so, if you have or know a child of similar age, some toys that child no longer wants would be helpful. Coming over at homework time to help would be AWESOME! Going with the foster parent to the grocery store to help with the kids or staying with the kids and the foster dad while mom goes grocery shopping would be appreciated.

  5. For older kids in foster care, it's great to have people who will just come by and take them to get a soda, or to a movie, or whatever... We have a few people who do this with our teen girls. They - and we - love it!

  6. We would love to be foster parents, unfortunately the process is long and timing consuming. I wish they made the process a little faster. They required so much in a home and courses and...

  7. Having someone experienced with ethnic hair help us was hugely appreciated.

    Also, if a kid has an interest or talent the foster family doesn't necessarily share, finding someone who had that on common who can be a good influence or mentor is priceless, especially if that child is struggling to feel he/she "fits".

    Meals that have been prepared are immensely helpful to me, whether delivered hot or something we can freeze for later.

    And most of all is attempting to understand that foster care, while parenting, just isn't the same in a lot of ways, due to the repercussions stemming from the trauma in the child's life. Implying that what the kid is going through is normal or that typical child rearing practices will work (when they often won't) just makes the foster family feel more alone and less supported, even if that isn't the intent.


It'll be a pleasure hearing your thoughts. Alisa