We are licensed for 2 children ages 8 and under, boys or girls. That's a pretty wide developmental range where kid stuff is concerned. Add to that the fact that we live in a small apartment (seriously, 770 sq ft). We don't have space to stock pile clothes, toys and get ready for every age possibility in that range. Even if everything inside me screams to be fully prepared when I pass the children's/baby section at our local Target.
Therefore, it is hard to say what "stuff" we might need, because in reality we don't have room for "stuff". We also want to leave plenty of space to accommodate any belongings that a child may bring to our home. Here are some ideas I've thought of ways that a person CAN show support to a foster parent to be with and without "stuff". These are things that have meant a lot to us.
Probably not the first thing you would expect on this list is it? This is HUGE though. I am assuming that if you are looking for a way to support a foster parent to be, you are probably interested in supporting them once they have kids too. There are strict requirements regarding the care of children in foster care, and one of them is the qualifications of babysitters. A babysitter who will care for a child in the foster care system must be 21 years old and have completed the county background check and this includes being fingerprinted (in the state of Minnesota).
Most parents would understand why having potential babysitters lined up is important, and with these additional requirements it is especially crucial.
If David and I need a break, we can't just call up a friendly teenage girl from youth group, or even take up on an offer to drop the kids at another parent's house. If there is a conflict with work, a court hearing or any other unforeseen circumstance we need to have our potential babysitting "network" ready and background checked.
From the beginning we have had 2 people who have showed incredible support and enthusiasm about our journey into foster care, and it means so much to me that they have asked for the paperwork to in essence become "official supporters".
If you want to take this a huge step further, go through the foster care licensing process so that you could potentially provide respite care if the foster parent needed a few nights away for some reason.
Prayers go a long way, and the decision and process of becoming foster parents for those who follow Jesus is sure to be one bathed in loads and loads of prayer. There is so much to weigh and consider. Prayer support is probably one of the biggest ways you can support a foster parent to be. Go ahead and ask them frequently how you can be praying.
If you are praying, let the foster parent know! If you think what they are doing is neat, let them know. Verbal affirmation and encouragement helps a lot as you are considering a pretty big life change. It also lets a foster parent to be get a feel for who is supportive of their decision to foster kids, and who they might be able to go to for further support once kids are placed in their home.
A placement can happen at the drop of a hat. It is hard to be prepared, and it will probably turn most people's lives upside down. Be ready to jump in with support once a placement is made, and don't just give support in the first few weeks, keep it up.
In our foster training meetings we were informed that there is often a "honeymoon" period with a newly placed child. A time where they are fairly well behaved whether it is because they are in shock, relieved to be out of a dangerous situation or any other myriad reasons. There will come the time however, when that will be over and the child will test limits, test love, and start to act out. While the first few days will be hectic even with or without behavior problems, the long haul may get really intense. Be there to offer support as needed along the way. Check in and ask how they are doing and if there are any ways you can help. In the beginning the new foster parent may be in just as much shock as the kids, and may need some time to figure out what it is they really do need.
I know that stuff can be a huge blessing, and if you have kids who have outgrown said stuff, it is an easy way to pitch in.
Here is my idea of how you can support with stuff without overtaking a foster parent to be's home:
Fill a bin with a few things that you think are essential to the age group/gender that the foster parent-to-be may be providing care for. Label it, and store it somewhere safe that you will remember at your place. Let the foster parent-to-be know that you have stuff for such and such age and gender if the need arises. Below are a few ideas for such a bin. If you are a parent, you would know what items might help any specific age:
- Age appropriate toys
- Age appropriate school supplies
- Age appropriate books
- Please, oh please only clean items in good condition.
While you are thinking along this vein listen to this podcast that I ran across the other day. It goes through some ideas of what to give or not give foster or adoptive parents as they prepare for kids. I think the presenters bring up some really good points.