How to actually help a foster parent.

How to actually help a foster parent.


There are several decent lists out there naming tangible ways to help foster parents in the throes of it. They are beautiful and worthwhile and please read them. But this is isn’t that.

Even in the midst of a break when time is slow and life calm, it’s hard to look back and know what could have helped when it wasn’t. All the things on those lists sound great. But what I’ve realized is that as much as the logistics of life as a foster parent are tough, it’s the emotional turmoil that gets me.

Yes, meals and rides and appointments appointments appointments add up, but most of the time we can figure it out. Here or there we just need to phone a friend.

And boom. That’s what it is. That’s what we need.

The friend we ask.

Stay with me here. This concept seems simple but the nuance is everything.

Many of us have lots of friends we can ask and have asked, but only a very select few that we continue to ask. These often aren’t the people we expected. They aren’t necessarily the best friends we had before foster care or even the folks who offered loads of help when we first shared that we were welcoming kids.

Instead, we have found that the friends we ask are the people who get it. They may or may not be foster parents, but they know parenting kids from hard places. And they just know hard.

They understand what it means when we call. That we are probably close to breaking. That we aren’t sure what we will do if they say “no.” That this is infinitely bigger than bringing a meal or picking up a child from school.

The “yes” is like someone handing me a water bottle in a marathon. It says “You’ve got this. We’ve got this. You aren’t alone.”

Now, this can feel tricky because of course sometimes we all have to say “no.” And that’s more than okay. That’s good. Nobody should always say “yes” ever. After all we all have jobs and families and our own commitments and priorities. So please say “no” sometimes so that we know you will when you need to.

But there is a beautiful “no” that still says “I’m part of your village.” It’s the “no” that tries to find another “yes.” It offers to call other friends and solve the need together. It suggests ideas of different ways to help. It doesn’t move on, it moves in.

This technical “no” can still communicate the heart of “yes.”

And in a world where so many of us are scared to need help, let alone ask for it, that water bottle “yes” means more than you know. No matter what the technical answer is.

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  1. Kim

    Yes! My oldest son has seizures (the kind where he stops breathing and we need the ER immediately). The people who have been my village are actually not family and are not who I would have expected. Thank you for posting this. It makes sense to me and reminds me to be that for others who may not be my closest friends, but who I know are suffering.

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