I’ve been brainstorming a lot lately about how to get more people involved in foster and adoptive care. No, I don’t mean how to get more foster parents, although that is needed too, but just getting people involved. Not everyone is cut out for foster and/or adoptive parenting (not everyone is cut out for parenting period) and that is okay. The last thing I want to see more of in the foster care system is people who take on kids only to disrupt the placement because it just isn’t working. That isn’t good for anyone, especially these already hurting kids.
As a side note, if you do feel that foster care is something you are interested in, however, pull up a seat and let’s talk. That need is real. We are currently on hold and I still get calls. I would be honored to talk with you about the realities of foster care and how we have seen God carry us through it and bless us abundantly….but back to the point….
What I do mean is there is an abundance of need in the child welfare system and it isn’t just for more foster parents. There is a big broken system out there made up of thousands of kids, social workers, attorneys, foster care support, visitation workers, and biological parents just crying out for help and maybe for a little compassion and understanding. So here are my thoughts from my time in “the system”.
Caseworkers/Social Workers: This job is H.A.R.D. I haven’t done it and have no desire to whatsoever, but I sure do pray for them. These are the people who are legally responsible for all the kids in care as well as their biological parents on their overflowing caseloads. If you want a job where you get yelled at ALL.THE.TIME. by EVERYONE you have to work with….well, this job is for you. These people do it for the kids, the families, the broken. They are not paid nearly enough, nor do they get enough time off to deal with the trauma they wade through daily. The ones I have seen make it through more than a few years are truly amazing people. They are gems. You know who you are.
How can you help? Pray for them and say thank you. If you live in Lincoln, drop by the DHHS office at 16th and Old Cheney(ish) and say thank you. If you don’t, look up where your local caseworkers are, some states are run through DHHS and some are run privately. Send food. Send flowers. Send kind words. Their work is confidential, so I am not sure that any kind of volunteering would be feasible (although they could use it), but in my experience encouragement coming from outside their coworkers/supervisors is extremely appreciated.
The kids: If you aren’t a foster parent there are still a lot of things you can do for the children.
You can become a CASA (Court appointed state advocate) volunteer. This organization uses volunteers to advocate for the children in court. We have had a great experience with them with one of our cases. They are present solely on behalf of the child and their voice is taken into account by the judge.
You can join the foster care review board if you live in NE (if you don’t, check what is available in your state). These boards follow assigned cases and review them regularly to make sure they are progressing as they should. If you are not aware, a big problem in child welfare is how long these cases drag out. Again, the input of these boards is taken into account by the judge presiding over the case.
You can volunteer for events through local foster agencies.
You can provide respite (breaks for the foster parents).
You can pray for them.
Foster Care agencies: These guys have a tough job too. They are present as a support/advocate for the foster family and children. They aid in matching children with appropriate homes, provide support in those homes, help mitigate with other parties in the case, problem solve, etc., etc., etc.. They are who I call first whenever I have an issue. They need volunteers to help with childcare for events put on for foster parents, they need monetary donations for Christmas presents for teens (Toys for Tots generally covers the little kids), they need prayers, and they need thank yous too. There are MANY agencies out there. Lincoln alone has at least 5. If you want an idea on where to start helping, you can contact an agency directly. I think they would be flabbergasted to have someone just call in to offer assistance.
Foster and Adoptive Families: As this is where I live, instead of giving you a list of things you can do, I want to give you the list I carry in my heart of moments where people were the hands and feet of God in our life. Parenting is hard. Parenting other people’s children is very hard. Parenting children with trauma can be isolating and lonely. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for the world…the rewards greatly outweigh the hardships. But if you asked any foster or adoptive parent if they thought parenting those who are un-biologically theirs is the same as parenting biological children, I do believe you would hear a resounding no.
So here is my “highlights reel” as chronologically as it gets…
- When we got our first placement of 2 brothers, we stayed home from church for a while, mostly because we were just surviving. When we finally started going again, our little 2 year-old wasn’t able to cope with going to nursery. One of the ladies who runs the counter of the nursery let him be her buddy for months so we could attend church.
- Because our family lives out of state it took a long time to get them cleared to be able to watch our kids. A couple from our church that we were building a relationship with asked what they needed to do to be able to babysit, and they followed through and gave Warren and me a few much needed breaks. This is a huge need for foster parents. If you know someone who is fostering and are willing, please offer. They won’t ask because it requires a background check, and depending on the agency and caseworker, may also involve a home inspection.
- When we found out we were getting the other siblings of our two boys, the ladies in my small group at church threw me a “baby(kid) shower”. They brought grocery cards and gifts for the boys, extra bath towels and other necessities. I still cry thinking about this. It was a poignantly touching moment in an overwhelming time.
- In order to take in these guys we had to move, and quickly, to a bigger house. Our small group jumped in and made that possible.
- When our boys were reunited with their biological mom, my MOPS group sent me flowers and a card. There are no words to express how much my heart needed that. It is a hard place to be when you know that God is rebuilding families and it is good, but loss is still loss.
- After the loss our extended families felt, they still were on board with us taking in more kids. I want to take a moment to say thank you to our family for loving these kids as their own. We are grateful for your willingness to journey with us.
- When another friend offered to be able to babysit by getting background checked.
- When we took in our last placement, I was serving with MOPS, and some ladies on the leadership team brought meals.
- And over all….those who prayed with us, cried with us, and loved on our kids.
To those of you who have filled my highlights reel, you know who you are, and I appreciate you more than words can say.
I think many of these highlights overlap into families adopting from overseas, but I won’t speak for them (you guys feel free to comment away!). They have kids who have come from broken places as well, and they get to go through culture shock to boot.
The Biological Families: In the midst of all of it, it is easy to forget the biological parents. Pray for them as well. They are struggling, and should not be written off. They need love and support. The ones I know come from hard places and are fighting their own trauma/addictions/grief/etc. I am often reminded that except by the grace of God, that could be me.
There are so many other ways to get involved. Many other people who are a big part of this broken system keep plugging away and loving kids and families. So as we walk through national child welfare month and national adoption day I want to encourage you to get involved somehow, somewhere. It may not be life changing for you, but it will be for someone.