Foster care is hard. It is filled with uncertainties, inconveniences, and heartbreak. I’ve dealt with my fair share of each. My husband and I have been foster parents now for over three years. We currently have our fourth placement, who has been with us for eighteen months. In the midst of a pandemic, all the difficulties of fostering are amplified.
As we navigate life during this pandemic, we face delays and changes in the Child Welfare system that impact our family and ultimately the life of our foster son. We were scheduled for court in the coming month, paving the way for our foster son to achieve the permanency we have wanted for him since he entered care. We have no idea when this is going to take place now in light of all the uncertainties. While this does not change my day to day life, nor how I care for my son, it does mean that he, along with every other child in care, is farther from finding permanence.
The goal for all children in care is initially reunification with their family. But when this is not possible, adoption and permanence is the goal. We are all sitting and waiting while kids continue to be separated from their forever families whether that is reunification with parents or adoption. If I allow myself to truly dwell on that, it is exhausting. I can only imagine it’s even more difficult for the children who are old enough to understand that they are not with their family, and that finding forever is going to take longer than anticipated. It is also not fair to the parents who are trying to complete treatment plans in a certain amount of time, yet classes are being canceled, and people are losing their jobs.
So here’s how I’m offering support to other foster families and how you might play a part too.
- I believe in the power of prayer. So I am praying for foster families and children in care. We pray for a quick conclusion to this pandemic and clear solutions to be found and implemented to address the challenges we are facing as we comply with restrictions meant to keep us safe. I personally pray for strength to do what we’ve been called to do as a foster family and for other foster families across our state, our nation, and the world. I am praying and believing that there will be peace as we navigate uncertainties.
If you are a praying person, will you pray for me? Will you hope alongside me and others that families and children will be safe and healthy? If you are not a praying person, we need you too. Will you remember us? Keep foster families in your thoughts as you go about your days. Maybe consider where you can make some margin in your own life to lend support to a local foster family or build a relationship with a youth in care.
- I am checking in with other foster parents. This is a hard season to be a parent. Our kids are out of routine, we do not have our usual support systems in place, and our kids are asking questions that we can’t always answer about why we are only seeing people on videos. I want to make sure that my friends who are in a similar situation know that they are not alone. I offer to pick up peanut butter at the store if they’ve run out or search for ever-elusive toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
So, maybe you know a foster family in your own neighborhood. I would encourage you to ask them how they are. Simply listen as they express the hard things they are dealing with today. Sometimes, they may just need someone to listen to them- an adult conversation. But it never hurts to have someone offer to drop off a meal or to pick up some groceries for us as we manage a wild household of children all while navigating now-virtual visits, trying to play the role of super teacher, and maintaining our sanity.
- I am talking to everyone who will listen about becoming a foster parent themselves. While there are always kids who need a home, there tends to be less kids coming into care while school is out. This occurs because kids are not being seen regularly by teachers and other caregivers. Abuse and neglect can go unnoticed for longer. As we come out of this season, I expect there will be an even greater need for homes.
I would challenge you to consider this for yourself if you are not currently a foster parent. Is your heart open to a child? Is your home a safe place for a youth to find love, support, and care? Please consider if you can open your home for a child who needs you. You can apply right now! There are many orientations and training classes available virtually to support the need.
However, if this is not your calling, please consider becoming the support for a foster family around you or building a relationship with a child or youth in care. Looking for ways to advocate for children in care? Read more from Fostering Great Ideas. Consider becoming a tutor or mentor. Find local organizations and nonprofits that are doing good work in your own community.