There will be all the visits. Visits with siblings and biological parents, and with the foster care caseworker and the guardian ad litem. Maybe even an adoption caseworker. You open up your home for regular fire inspections and home studies.
And in the midst of it all, you’re just trying to live life. You’re juggling marriage, school drop-offs, doctor’s appointments, and playdates. You’re trying to keep things normal for your biological children and make a safe space for your foster children.
It’s hard. It’s beautiful. It’s messy.
We see you, foster mama. And you’re doing a great job.
Foster care isn’t easy and it’s not for everyone. But together we can lighten the load for those who are in the trenches, even if we ourselves are not in a place to become a foster parent.
The goal of foster care is reunification. Foster parents are not volunteering their homes and their love, expecting a child in return through adoption. They’re fostering to provide a safe, temporary space to children while their biological parents get back on their feet. When reunification isn’t possible, permanency often comes through adoption.
Right now, there are approximately 638 children in foster care in Richland and Lexington counties. And only 428 foster families in both counties.
Here are some ways you can get involved locally.
Donate to Foster Closets
Chapin Baptist Church, Lexington Baptist Church, and First Presbyterian in downtown Columbia all have foster closets. These three churches accept donations of all types: clothing, diapers, baby wipes, toys and more. They store the items for families that need things when a new foster child moves in. First Presbyterian could also use volunteers to help organize the items.
Give foster parents a much-needed date night by offering to babysit for them for free. Don’t make a foster parent ask for help. They may be so busy they don’t even have time to stop and analyze their needs. But help support their marriage by watching their children for a night. Or gift that single foster mom a few hours of alone time.
Take Them a Meal
When your friend or neighbor welcomes a new foster child into her home, it’s much like having a newborn. The entire house is in a bit of an upheaval as the transition happens. Normal, everyday activities can seem daunting. So why not offer to bring your friend a meal? Even take it another step further and offer to organize a Meal Train for them.
Offer a listening ear when your foster mama friend needs to talk. Don’t launch into problem-solving mode. Just listen.
She may want to process the awkward interaction she had with her foster son and a complete stranger. There may not be much she can share with you about her foster child, but you can take her to coffee and listen. Send her supportive texts. Just be there.
Right now, the Richland County Foster Parent Association is looking for participants for their underwear and outerwear clothing drive. You can visit their website to learn more and sign up. In Lexington County, you can visit this website to see wishlists for kids currently in foster care and have a chance to play Santa this year.
Get Active and Advocate
Social media is a great tool for connecting with others who have a passion for foster care. The Richland County Foster Parent Association has a Facebook group that can connect you with needs that area foster parents have and ways to get involved. The same is true of Lexington County. You can also use your personal social media platform to advocate for foster families in your neighborhood.
These are just some of the ways you can help support foster families in our area. But there are so many more.
Are you a foster family? How can others support you?