I love what Jason Johnson wrote here on his blog
“The opportunities to get involved in foster care are endless and full of creativity. A lot of people won’t bring kids into their homes – as a matter of fact, most people won’t. But that’s just one place of many for people to get involved. Sometimes it’s the simplest things – like bringing a meal or babysitting for a couple hours – that go the longest ways. We may not all be called to do the same things, but we’re all certainly capable of doing something.”
Here is a quick inside peak into the foster families life and the different impacts that bringing home a new child has.
Every night feeding an extra child means that your are going to need more food.
You will need a bigger table, more chairs to sit around, a bigger fridge to fit the food in, but hang on, the food you usually cook and eat isn’t going to work because the child now a part of your family won’t eat anything that isn’t yellow. So you need to cook two meals. But mealtime is such a fight that you don’t actually eat anything yourself, then of course you need to pay for all this food that you are cooking and not eating.
Now don’t forget too that a child who has come to you neglected isn’t going to trust that there will be food again tomorrow so even though they won’t eat what is on the table now, they will come and find your secret stash of chocolate in the night and take it and you will find the wrappers stashed under their pillow in the morning.
Then opening your home up to a child means an initial Inspection, and an annual one every year after that. There will be repairs beyond the usual ball through a window because kids who are hurting tend to lash out at those that are closest to them and hurt what is theirs. You won’t have time to keep up with mowing your lawn and of course, chances are within a few years you will be needing a bigger house because somehow those kids just keep coming.
While our kids aren’t is prison, they are captive in a system that they have absolutely no control over. There are court proceedings, contact visits decided by a judge and carried out by strangers, Biological family that are stuck in their own captivity of many things that need to be supported too.
And School! While a child’s life is falling apart they keep getting pushed up through school. Kids in year 4 unable to read confidently because they have gone to 5 different schools already in their life. Homework is a battle but unlike most homes, it is because a child can’t do the family history project because their family tree doesn’t fit nicely onto branches. Having help to sit down and do homework or reading is difficult because Dad is working and Mum is searching for ways to make healthy yellow food. But in the classroom a teacher, while desiring to help, has 25 other students that she has to deal with. It doesn’t matter that the fleuro lights in the classroom mean that you are unable to concentrate for long periods of time and eventually without one on one assistance you become a disruption so your foster mum has to come into the class to be with you which means her house isn’t getting cleaned, the shopping isn’t getting done and her stress levels are not going down.
But we are not even yet talking about the Trauma of a child that has witnessed things many of us can not even dream about, has lost more in their little life then is fair and whose trauma may have started before they were even earthside and the very wiring in their brain is developing in ways that we do not understand. So with that trauma is pain, loss, behaviours, appointments, inability to sleep, constant sickness, more appointments, calling to liase between departments and Drs and filling out paperwork and hours spent on the phone to Centrelink .
Taking care of a vulnerable child is overwhelming and shouldn’t be just done by one family! The saying, it takes a Village to raise a child is never more true then when you are taking care of a child with complex needs.
What does this mean?
I think it means that if you are not called to bring children into your home (and that is ok!) You still need to get into the mess of the foster care system.
1. Donate items.
If they were your’s and you are just upgrading, or perhaps you have some spare cash floating around and can buy a bigger fridge for the family who has just taken in a sibling group and become a family of 8 overnight.
Baby and kids clothes, toys and other items can be donated to Fostering Hope in Perth. They have drop off points all across the metro area.
2. Pay for a Cleaner
Every mother’s dream right? Personally, if my home is clean my mind is clearer. I have more time to invest in saying the right things to my kids and spend less time looking for necessary items. Once a fortnight, getting rid of all the grime and dust physically in the house can have the same effect emotionally.
3. Become the on call ‘handyman’ for a family.
All the repairs and the additional wear and tear on the house can get expensive. Perhaps your church/small group/ family can do regular check ins on a foster families place to help them out. If you aren’t handy, maybe you can just push a lawnmower around.
4. Car Ministry
I know that there are some churches who have car enthusiasts or a car ministry. You can help fostering families keep their cars on the road longer.
5. Child care, Babysit, Mentor.
I asked Foster Carers what support they would like offered to them by the community and this was overwhelming the top response. Being available so they can have a date night. Or watching 2 kids while the foster mum takes another to a specialist appointment. Being available to invest in a preteen’s life as and additional positive voice through mentoring. Sitting with a 10 year old and helping them learn to read.
6. Regular Meals
Feed the whole family or provide some non yellow healthy options for the parents.
A meal in the freezer or dropped at the door can be just the pick up a family needs at the end of a stressful day.
Wanslea has a program call Foster Friends. Individuals, Churches, Social Groups etc can sign up as foster friends for one off days to support families or as regular contributors.
If you have other ideas, please share them.