Over the past couple years the number of Montana children in foster care has risen from over 2,500 to now nearly 4,000. The concern of having enough foster families to care for the number of children who are looking for homes has been documented in the media, including local newspapers, television spots, and social media outlets. Becoming a foster parent is not something that everyone has the time or resources for. Reaching out does not always have to be a grand gesture, but often it is the small simple acts of kindness to foster parents that help them feel better equipped to attend to the needs of their foster child. It also models care and love to a foster child. Below are a few of the many ways that people can support foster parents and the children they care for.
Become a Mentor
Mentors work with children behaviorally, helping them develop the skills to thrive in the community. They work with children on developing healthy coping skills, practicing effective social skills, learning constructive behaviors, and much more. Mentors can work with children in the community, at school, and at home. At Youth Dynamics, mentors are also called Family Support Assistants.
Become a Respite Provider
Respite providers provide a break for foster parents so that they can take care of their own well-being. It can be challenging and rewarding to support children with special needs. It is important that foster parents take care of their own needs so that they can better take care of the needs of others.
Offer to Run Errands for a Foster Family You Know
Children in foster care are often not able to stay at home on their own. This means that if a foster parent needs to run to the store or go to an appointment they are loading the children in the car. Offering to help run errands can be an effective way to help out foster parents.
Drop Off a Meal or Offer to Clean the House
Adjusting to a new child in the home can be a stressful time due to so many changes happening at once. Having one thing off a new foster parent’s plate, such as meal planning, can make such a difference. This practice is often put into place when a newborn enters the home. Friends and family come together and drop off pre-made meals. If cooking is not your thing, you could also be a big help to foster parents by offering to help them with the dishes, vacuuming, or even mopping their floors
Make a Donation
Did you know that Youth Dynamics regularly uses donations to help buy clothes and other supplies for children in foster care? It is not uncommon for foster children to move around from placement to placement. Many children entering foster care placements are in need of basic supplies, such as clothes and personal hygiene items. Donations
are used to help foster parents purchase items to meet children’s basic needs, especially at the beginning of placement.
Plan a Play Date
Socialization is an important component to having a sense of belonging. Be willing to have a play date, especially if your children are in the same grade at school, play sports or are in music together. Having other adults for support is important to any child, but most specifically to a foster child that is new to the area, or has limited adults they feel safe with and can trust.
Consider Putting on a “Shower” for the Arrival of New Child
Often children in the foster care system have limited clothing and possessions. Find out what the size and type of clothes the child would like, along with toys and other possessions to help them feel welcome and part of the community. Even providing gift cards for specific gear, such as car seats, cribs, game systems, and bedding items are a big help when adding to your household.
Provide Grace to the Family
Having a new child in the home takes time to adjust to new schedules, routines and behaviors. Children in the foster care system who have experienced trauma will often display behaviors that require time and patience. So if your new foster parent friends or family are not as available as they once were, or they are not good at returning phone calls – provide grace to the family, they will benefit from knowing you are there for them when they reach out.
Gerre Maillet, a Missoula native, holds a Master of Social Work degree, and a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from the University of Montana. While completing her master’s degree she was part of the Child Welfare Partnership, and has for the past 5 years worked in adolescent therapeutic group homes. She enjoys being outdoors, particularly near water and in the mountains. Gerre draws inspiration from art forms; namely theatre, dance, music and visual art.