Not everyone is cut out for or capable of being a foster parent, and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean any one of us can’t have a positive impact. We can. And probably so much more than we think. Small acts can have big impacts!
While there are many incredible programs dedicated to empowering foster youth, there is very little support available to the foster parents and families themselves. On top of building a strong connection and bond with their foster children, foster parents are tireless advocates for their child’s needs – at school, healthcare appointments, the state’s foster care agency, and in the community. This 24/7 dedication can take a toll on their mental, emotional, and physical health, often leading to burnout – in fact, the latest data suggests that half of all foster parents quit within the first year. With more than 400,000 children in the US foster system, foster parents everywhere could use extra support and resources to continue providing for children in their care. It truly takes a village – and there are a number of ways you can help.
Here are 13 simple ways to support foster families in your community.
#1 Get A Background Check.
Just like any family, foster families need occasional support with childcare, overnight care, and transportation. But most states require a criminal background check in order to provide any type of care for a foster child–meaning help is hard to find! Consider getting a background check from your state’s agency so you can be available to foster parents in a pinch.
Foster children often have endless appointments and complicated schedules, so it’s a big deal to have someone ready and willing to carpool for after-school activities and other commitments. Getting a background check does not commit you to anything, it just opens the door to be of service to the foster parents, kids, and families in your area.
#2 Run Errands.
Most foster families have a mile-long “to do” list and not enough time in the day. When running your own errands, ask how you can help! Whether it’s grocery shopping, bringing a package to the post office, delivering takeout, picking up a prescription (kids in foster care get free medical care, so you won’t have to pay for anything), dropping off diapers and wipes, or placing an online order for doorstep delivery, it’s all needed and appreciated!
#3 Share Your Things.
Babies require stuff, stuff, and more stuff. And families who foster little ones and don’t always have enough time or bandwidth to gather the essentials before their placement joins the household. If you have any to spare, offer up your baby gear, clothing, bottles, formula, or any other equipment. These families can use it ALL. Want to go above and beyond? Offer to store your donated items until the family actually needs them so they’re not taking up space in their home.
#4 Become a Mentor.
You can absolutely make a difference in a foster child’s life (and the time you spend with them can positively impact their foster family dynamic, too!). Consider becoming a volunteer mentor or tutor to help provide a sense of belonging, permanency, and safety for a foster kid in your community. Here are some orgs to check out:
#5 Offer Your Creative Services.
If you’re a photographer or videographer, you can use your talent to help foster kids. Adoption agencies are always in need of high quality photos and videos of kiddos to share with prospective families. To get started, visit the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory to search for agencies in your area that could benefit from your skills. Also visit the Heart Gallery of America program, which organizes expos and galas with framed portraits of children available for adoption.
#6 Become a Respite Care Provider.
Respite care providers offer short-term, temporary care for foster kids so their foster family can have a break (whether it’s planned or a last-minute emergency). This type of support is vital to a foster family’s health and well-being and it gives them an opportunity to reconnect and rejuvenate. Each county has a (usually pretty small) list of people who are qualified and willing to do respite care for foster families – if you want to be on that list, you can learn more through Adoption.org and the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory.
Laws vary state-to-state, so you may need to get a background check or special certification from the foster family’s licensing agency. And once you're “official,” you’ll be able to provide a valuable service to not only the foster child, but the foster family as a whole!
PS: You might also consider volunteering for your local Foster Parent Night Out. FPNO gives parents a rare, and much-deserved, evening off – free childcare included!
#7 Fundraise or Donate.
If you aren’t directly connected to a foster family, consider donating supplies or fundraising donations to a local foster care organization. This can be as easy as putting a call out on your local Facebook parenting group or a mass text to your friends. Foster children have very little possessions and (just like any kid) need school supplies, toys, clothing, personal care items, and even suitcases. Any monetary or physical item is so appreciated, but be sure to check with the specific agency to see what would be most useful.
#8 Feed a Foster Family.
Who doesn’t love knowing their next meal is taken care of?! Foster families caring for hungry kids appreciate food in any form–whether it’s a piping hot meal or a restaurant gift card. Get creative with your giving! Drop off a home-cooked meal, deliver some pre-cut fresh produce, prep a batch of freezer meals, leave a bag of snacks on their doorstep, or hand them a coffee or food delivery gift card. When in doubt, assume ALL foster families could use some nourishment.
#9 Organize a Meal Train
If you’re short on time, but want to help share the love for a local foster family, organize a meal train. Having consistent, healthy food on hand is essential in those first couple of weeks after a new placement arrives, allowing foster parents to focus fully on getting to know the new child in their life. Meal Train is the perfect place to get started.
#10 Give A Warm Welcome.
Inviting a new baby, toddler, child, or teenager into a foster home can be a huge emotional transition for everyone in the household. While nothing can completely ease feelings of discomfort or uncertainty, ask the foster family if there are ways you can help their new member feel more celebrated and welcome. Offer to shop for, and deliver, a gift or special activity for the new child, or the entire family, to enjoy. Think: A fun game, movie, book, stuffed animal, favorite treat, or even tickets to the museum, passes to the city pool, or zoo memberships.
#11 Be Hospitable.
Another way to give foster parents a little break? Invite the whole family over for dinner, a playdate, a trip to the library, or on a fun outing (like to the mall or park). It’s a great way to stay connected and help their foster child feel like part of the community.
#12 Help With The Chores.
Most foster families have a laundry list of household chores and tasks hanging over their heads. Ask if there are practical ways you can help carry that burden. Can you fold their clothes, mop the floors, start a load of dishes, wash their cars, or help with the yard work? Be specific with the ways you can help, then follow through!
#13 Check In Regularly.
Foster parents are almost always dealing with an overwhelming amount of logistics, complicated schedules, and their own feelings of isolation – all while doing their best to meet the needs of the children under their roof. It’s anything but easy, so check in with them as often as you can! Provide a listening ear and a safe space for them to vent, cry, laugh, and share whatever’s on their mind.
Parenting alone is a monumental task, and being a foster parent is no different. When we come together as a community to show our love, encouragement, and practical support to these families, we can help them feel a little more seen and appreciated for the valuable work they do.
Hello Bello believes every child deserves the best, so we’ve partnered with Foster Source to provide 6 months of family care products to 25 deserving foster families. Want to join us in supporting these incredible caregivers? Donate to their diaper funds:
- The Radue's
- The Price’s
- The Thompson’s
- The Beechley’s
- The Vigil’s
- The Bruch’s
- The Coble’s
- The Velasquez’s
- The Mont’s
- The Jones’s
- The Danna’s
- The Mainer-Duggins’s
- The Juniel’s
- The Line’s
- The Anderson-Trujillo’s
- The Tannahill’s
- The Coronado’s
- The Daigle’s
- The Greer’s
- The Garcia’s
- The Harris’s
- The Hogarth’s
- The Varela’s
- The Godwin’s
- The Borja’s
Also, if you know a foster family, you can start a fund for them here. Note: Funds can be used for anything on HelloBello.com, not just diapers!
Have any other tips for supporting foster families? Or a story or advice to share? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!