Encouragement for Foster Families
God makes a home for the lonely. Psalm 68:6a
More than fifty children graced my home throughout the seven years I was a foster mom in North Carolina. Some for just a few hours, or a weekend, and others for extended periods of time. Two of them became permanent members of the family.
“Why would you and your family do such a thing?” People have asked over the years.
Good question. The answer—
I was a foster child.
From the age of three until seven I lived in six different foster homes until I was placed with my adoptive parents. Each of these families had different rules I was expected to know without being told. It was as if there was a secret family code I didn’t receive. Many times I frustrated my foster moms because I’d forget what was expected of me.
I wished things were explained to me—not just the rules of the foster home, but why my mom didn’t want me. Why she didn’t love me. I was in my twenties before I learned my biological mother was plagued with mental health issues, which weren’t understood like they are today. So, throughout my childhood and into adulthood, I believed I was unlovable.
I’ve learned many foster children struggle with feeling unwanted and unloved. Often believing the family situation is their fault. Knowing this, I would like to share some ideas on how you can help your foster feel wanted and loved.
· One way to help is to tell your foster children their mom loves them the best she knows how, but isn’t able to take care of herself right now, much less another person. This helped many of our children feel more at ease.
· Pray with them for God to help them be strong and feel safe, and for peace if things didn’t turn out as the child wanted.
Maybe if someone had taken time to say these things to me, my heart would have ached less. I know not all things are good, but there is comfort in God's promises.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASB)
Foster Mom, here are seven tips to help make the first few days and weeks of fostering go a little smoother. I base these on my experience from both ends of the fostering—the child and the mom.
1. Ask God to make clear His plan for you to foster. You’ve said yes to God but has your family? It is super important that your family is on board. Satan doesn’t like you to influence these children or their parents in God’s ways, especially believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. You will need a support system outside your family. Being a foster mom is a challenge and requires you take time to recharge and refresh, physically and spiritually, so you’ll avoid burnout. This might be a friend who offers to take you to lunch, or a weekly Bible study, or out shopping.
3. If possible, find out ahead of time some of your new foster child’s favorite foods and cook these the first night or two. If you can’t, pick something most kids enjoy—chicken nuggets/tenders, pizza, or hot dogs. Even if you don’t usually eat this way, you might consider making some allowances for the child’s sake.
4. Post a list of family rules where they can be seen (like on the fridge). Keep the wording to a minimum and go over the list a few times for the first several days. This will help the child not be fussed at unnecessarily or feel guilty for breaking a rule they’re unfamiliar with.
5. Foster children may not be social at first. Talk about your family and goofy things that have happened. Assure them of their parents love. Let the child know you’re happy to have them in your home.
6. Show compassion and understanding, but be careful not to allow them to use your kindness or their challenging situation to manipulate in order to excuse a wrongdoing or shirk responsibilities.
7 Your honesty, kindness, and genuine love make the child feel safe and opens the door for you to share God’s love.
Support for foster families. According to www.adoptuskids.org there are more than 400,000 children in foster care in America today. There’s a great need for more foster homes, especially Christian homes. Not everyone is called or equipped to be a foster parent but you can support these families.
We can so as Isaiah 1:17 says, Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Here are a few ideas for those who want to help:
· Pray for the foster mom you know.
· Send notes or cards of encouragement.
· If possible, plan a girls’ weekend or help take care of children while the parents get away.
· Offer to do chores, run errands, or while you’re shopping call to see if she needs anything.
Children in foster care need to experience a stable family and see how they love each other, but more important is how a mom loves her child. That’s why God chose you—you’re exactly what your foster child needs.