With tears rolling down my cheeks, I picked up my phone and texted my wife: “I can’t do it, you need to make the call.”
You see, that day I was supposed to call our foster agency and tell them that we couldn’t keep our foster twins. It was too much to handle. The twins had come to us when they were five weeks old, with a slew of health issues. They were now six months old and the load was too much for my wife and me. We had to throw in the towel.
My wife texted back: “I can’t. We’ll figure this out.”
That morning we decided that we would keep the twins and figure out how.
Quickly after that I called an organization named Fostering Hope. Fostering Hope partners with churches to create wrap-around teams for foster parents. My plea was simple: “WE … NEED … HELP.” Fostering Hope connected with our church (Woodmen Valley Chapel) and sent help.
It was a humbling experience to admit we needed help, but if we hadn’t asked for help we wouldn’t have Katie and Kyle today (we adopted them … they are officially Rumans).
That was five years ago. We’ve learned a lot about what kinds of help foster parents need, and what kinds of help foster parents don’t need. Below are a few practical ways you can come alongside foster parents and help where it’s needed.
1. Date Nights
This is an obvious, but very important, area. Foster parents don’t get a lot of time to be together as a couple. They need that. I’ve seen marriages fall apart because of the demands of foster care. I wonder if the marriage would have lasted if the parents had had time together—to connect, to be together. The key to this is committing to a consistent day each month. The fourth Tuesday will be date night, and we’ll watch your kids. Commit to it, and stick to it. This allows the foster parents to have something to look forward to.
When we were in our darkest days, we had kids aged 14, 2, 5 months, 5 months, and 1 month. Preparing a meal was hard; feeding that crew was even harder. Having a meal brought to us was a godsend. And, in particular, the meals that included simple instructions such as “set oven to 325 degrees, put in for 30 minutes, enjoy,” were the best. No extra work, easy, and delicious. One family even included plates and plastic silverware. No extra work was needed on our end. There is a great website called Meal Train (www.mealtrain.com) that makes it very easy to schedule meals for families.
One of the ladies who helped us out called and said, “I’d like to come over and do your laundry.” My wife and I looked at each other: “Really? Okay.” This angel of God came and did our laundry. Washed, dried, folded. It was amazing. This also left some time to chat, and to listen. Sometimes one of the best gifts you can give a foster parent is a listening ear. Let them vent, don’t offer solutions. Just listen.
There is significant power in the “How ya doing?” text message. To know someone cares, someone is there, is a huge blessing. And sometimes my texts back would be, “ok,” or, “hanging in there,” with a quick response of, “How can I help?” Sometimes we would just need people to come over and feed a baby a bottle of milk. Having a group of people who care for you, who don’t judge you, who are rooting for you, is a priceless asset.
5. Consistent Prayer
I almost didn’t include this one because it seems a bit overused, but the power of prayer is something that cannot be taken lightly. Knowing we had a team covering us with prayer gave us a confidence that we could do this—God and His army of angels have our back.
There are over 200,000 foster parents in the United States. I’ve never met one who didn’t need help (even if they said they didn’t). If you know of a foster family, please reach out. Insist on helping in any way. They need it and I guarantee you will be blessed because of it.