Pending Match

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Asking For & Accepting Help

Does anybody else have a hard time accepting help, let alone asking for help? No, just me?! I always knew going into foster care and embracing the model of Foster the City of having support friends was going to be the more challenging aspect. Oh for sure, saying goodbye and walking through that grief were some of the hardest moments of my life, but in the day to day, inviting others in has overwhelmed me.

We just welcomed a new little one into our home, so we’re back in the new placement stage. Baby boy is our third little one in our home, and I don’t know how I would have finished this first month standing without the tangible and emotional support of our community. Coffee, dinners, lunch, breakfast, check in texts, postage stamped cards (I love getting mail that isn’t junk mail!), flowers, baby supplies, gifts for me, gifts for baby, sanity (masked) walks, and arms to cuddle baby (because his favorite place is right in your arms all.day.every.day)!

Just a quick glimpse into our first week: on his day of discharge I fielded 10 calls regarding his case. In the first 2 days home we had two social worker visits, and an extended doctor’s visit – all quickly followed in the next 6 days with a visit, multiple additional calls and emails, a court hearing, and a 90 minute phone meeting.

So those meals delivered meant my brain didn’t have to think of what’s for dinner, nor did we have to clean up from making dinner which, when evenings are hardest for baby, makes life so much easier.

Sanity walks provided me with accountability to actually get out and breathe, and offered adult conversation that wasn’t baby centered.

One friend dropped off fresh baked bread, and it became my daily bread for three days straight. Good bread and good butter will always be a go to comfort food.

Let me tell you something – my deep dark secret (OK, one of many) – this support, it brings me to my knees. Even though I just expounded on how meaningful and impactful this support is, my biggest struggle is in receiving this support. My inclination is to say, “We’re good. We’ve got it. Thanks, though.” On the flip side I love being able to be the giver. I take joy in providing meals, sending cards, and texting. But to receive it… it brings me to my knees; in humility and in praise.

One of the joys for me of working with Foster the City is to be an active speaker for our Interest and Launch Meetings, and the irony is never lost on me as I share about the impact of having support friends on your foster care journey. God and I often discuss the journey we’ve walked together and the absolute sense of irony that exists in so many areas of my life. Here’s the thing – as someone walking the journey of foster care as a foster mama, a support for others, and working behind-the-scenes for an organization championing for these vulnerable children, I can confidently say that tangible emotional and spiritual support really does make a difference. The national statistic says that 60% of foster families don’t continue after their first year or first placement. If it wasn’t for the support we received in our season of saying goodbye and in turn saying hello again, I’m not sure of the depth of my yes. There are many taxing parts of foster care – physical, spiritual, and emotional – and we need a community around us willing and able to show up.

One of our Foster Families recently shared that they prefer referring to their “team” as a “Support Army” because that’s how it has felt.

“We’ve just been overwhelmed by the way they’ve shown up. We could go on and on about the ways (meals, supplies, date nights, child care, prayer). One thing I’ve loved seeing is how they jump into action, they ‘deploy’ the moment we get a placement. When we got our first placement a few years ago; there were diapers at our door, clothes, formula, a stroller and this was all within a few hours. The intensity of that commitment was such a comfort, a simple reminder that ‘ok, they really are in this with you.’

We’ve seen it in the way our team prays, we’ve gone through some pretty harrowing experiences, and just getting that text from our team lead, saying, ‘OK, here’s what we need to be praying about.’ It’s been the reinforcements we need.” – Jeff and Kashelle

You can hear more of their story and the stories of their support friends in their own words HERE.

In addition to the practical support, foster families need to be supported by the practice of prayer. Foster care is a spiritual battle. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy but the Son of God brings life, and life in abundance. (John 10:10). The very fact that these children are entering care is a demonstration of that brokenness, and as foster parents entering into that trauma they need the protection of prayer.

By asking and receiving help from our community of support, I’ve experienced a depth of encouragement that has carried me through both the joy and sadness of foster care. I’ve forged deeper friendships, and enjoyed a vast array of meals. Furthermore, the little ones in our home have an army cheering them on in life, covering them in prayer, celebrating their life milestones, and rejoicing together when key moments happen. We’re not meant to do life alone, and I don’t believe we’re meant to foster alone. Not everyone can foster, but we can all do something. Take the help – say yes to that meal drop off, welcome an extra set of arms to cuddle baby, a fresh batch of energy to hang out with that teen; you might be surprised what it adds to your life.

A Challenge For You

*If you’re a foster parent or a potential foster parent and you don’t have support, especially as a Foster the City family, can I encourage you to ask for that help? It can be humbling, but there can be so much beauty in the ask. I’m linking to our Foster Family Information Form, and if you’ve never completed the form, please do it now. There are 19 different avenues of support you can check, as well as space to write in your own needs.

*If you’ve completed one in the past, and your needs have changed can I encourage you to complete it again.

We had one family recently share how their needs changed during this last year of the pandemic. She shared that being home all day with a preschooler was wearying, and in keeping safety a priority they weren’t using their support friends as babysitters, but the little girl needed a break from home. So, she reached out to one support friend who had guinea pigs. They created a time for the little girl to play on the front lawn surrounded by the guinea pigs, and those playdates made a tangible difference in the life of that family.

Another Foster Parent shared that initially she had thought asking for someone to walk the dog didn’t qualify as a need, and loved the idea of receiving meals. It turns out that the children in her care were incredibly picky eaters and the meals were going to waste, but that the dog was packing on the pounds! Needs arise as life happens, and every family’s needs look different. You never know what little things may add up, but getting support in those areas make a tremendous difference.

Questions to ask yourself
  1. What lightens the load?
    1. For some babysitting just isn’t an option, but there are innumerable ways to be supported.
  2. What are ways that make you feel loved?
    1. Think about the 5 Love Languages (Gifts, Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service).
  3. Who is my Support Friend Team Lead?
    1. Rather than communicate with multiple people on an already loaded communication schedule, the support friend team lead serves to be the bridge between you and your support friend team.
  4. Who already exists in my circle of friends that I could invite in to be a support friend?
    1. Inviting Others In
Tips
  1. Figure out what works for you, your family, and support friend team in terms of sharing information.
    1. A shared Google calendar is one way to see at a glance what’s happening-meal drop offs, important dates (I like to share court hearings, visits, birthdays).
  2. Know your own boundaries.
    1. One family likes to cocoon for the first few weeks so they limit outside interactions.
  3. As your needs change, don’t be afraid to voice those changing needs.
Categories
Blog

Partnering with a Grieving Child

Five foster homes inhabited by strangers.
Four languages shouting unintelligible words.
Three siblings separated and estranged.
Two parents ensnared in addiction and abuse.
One baby brother requiring protection.

His shadowed eyes stared warily into mine. Their depths held such sorrow… At 3 1/2 years old, this little man needed more than just a safe home. He needed a safe space to grieve and rage and cry and be loved through each big emotion.

Welcoming children from hard places into our homes and churches means inviting in their sorrow and grief as well. We are choosing to actively enter their pain and loss and anger. Families and churches will experience grief and a deep sense of loss as we walk with children in foster care. True stories of abuse, neglect, cycles of addiction, and broken families will break our hearts. Saying good-bye to children we love will overwhelm us with grief. We will struggle to comfort the children that remain in our homes after hard good-byes. In addition to helping our kids from hard places access professional therapy and counseling services, let’s be ready to comfort them as they grieve. Let’s take time to acknowledge their sadness and anger. Let’s sit with them in their sorrow. Let’s comfort their hurting hearts. Here are some activities to do together with children we love as they process grief. Instead of trying to “fix” things or “make things better,” let’s focus on comforting them and connecting with their hearts.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able give them the same comfort God has given us.
2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

Grieving Together
  • Actively Listen
  • Take a walk
  • Quietly sit side-by-side
  • Cry together
  • Share a hug
Mourning Alone
  • Write letters to birth family
  • Process through journaling
  • Compose a Lament Psalm
  • Walk a labyrinth
  • Listen to music
Creating Memorials
  • Decorate a jar for “collecting” tears
  • Create a Lifebook or photo album
  • Frame a picture of birth family
  • Paint comfort rock or picture
  • Construct memory box
Providing Comfort
  • Say a prayer
  • Nourish with food
  • Savor a warm beverage
  • Wrap in a blanket
  • Read a story aloud
Categories
Blog

Walking Through Grief as a Foster Parent

Experiencing Grief
Coping with the loss of a child in care

As foster parents, you have opened your hearts and home to vulnerable children in need. Often you have welcomed a child into your home who has experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect and you have taken on the large task of teaching them to trust, love, care and become responsible or independent by patterning such behavior for them. Attachment is often inevitable. Placement changes and transitions can be heart wrenching for you, your family, and the child in care. There is no way that separation can be made easy and painless. The following however, are suggestions for making the separation as positive an experience as possible.

For the Child that is Leaving:
  • Give them permission to express their feelings
  • In addition to accepting a child’s feelings, help them to identify them
  • Talk straight to the child about why they are leaving and where they are going
  • Make a life book or souvenir box
  • Share information about the child with the social worker so the best plan can be made for the child’s next placement
  • Give the child permission to leave you
  • Do not let the child “make” your reject them
For Your Biological Children:
  • Talk straight with your own children about the move and why
  • Give them permission to identify and express their feelings about the move
  • Communicate the positive aspects of the change
  • Allow your child to grieve
For Yourself:
  • Take time to sort out your feelings and think about where they are coming from
  • Allow yourself time to grieve
  • Talk to someone about your feelings
  • Work with the Social Worker and the family to speak about the steps of the transition
  • Establish what future contact could look like
  • Remember your good times and accomplishments
  • Plan time for a trip or a chance to “regroup”
  • Make a scrapbook of events and times spent together
  • Make an album with pictures of each child you have cared for
  • Start a garden in which you add a plant each time a child leaves your home in remembrance of the child
Consequences of Unresolved Grief in Foster Parents:
  • Emotional distancing / unavailability
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Depression and loss of energy
Who Unresolved Grief can Impact:
  • New foster placement(s)
  • Other foster kids in the home
  • Family members – spouse, partner, children
  • Self
  • Other relationships
Suggestions of Helpful Things You Can Do:
  • Talk about loss
  • Accept help and support when offered
  • Exercise moderately
  • Keep a journal
  • Be attentive to maintaining healthy eating and sleep patterns
  • Read
  • Listen to music
  • Seek spiritual support
  • Be patient with yourself
How to Support Others Who are Grieving
  • Be a good listener
  • Let them feel sad
  • Do not minimize grief
  • Do not be judgmental
  • Ask about their feelings
  • Acknowledge the pain
  • Be available when you can
  • Talk openly and honestly about the situation unless the person does not want to
You know you are recovering when…
  • You can laugh and enjoy being with others
  • Taking care of yourself is not only O.K., but it feels good
  • The future is not so frightening
  • You can handle special days without falling apart
  • You want to reach out to others in need or pain
  • You now enjoy activities that you had given up
  • You can share humorous memories without crying
  • Your emotional roller coaster is slowing down
  • You can actually see the progress you’ve made

Caution: Don’t get alarmed if you’re suddenly feeling the pain of grief again, this doesn’t mean you are regressing, these feelings will come up from time to time when you least expect them.

Additional Resources
Podcasts

The Forgotten Initiative: Saying Good Bye: Navigating Reunification as a Foster Parent
Offers thoughtful insights and practical tools to guide children through hard goodbyes with honor and intentionality.

The Forgotten Initiative: Good Grief: Navigating Loss in Foster Care
In foster care, we know we will be met by loss. God does not ask us to see our losses or our child’s losses as good. It’s not about minimizing our loss, and still, our perspective on grief matters.

The Forgotten Initiative: Walking Through Grief with Hope
A child’s foster care journey begins with loss, loss of what they know, who they love, and all that is familiar. Grief follows right behind and exhibits itself in various ways. As a foster parent, you and those close to you are also well-acquainted with loss and grief as the very nature of your role is to love and let go.

Books

A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis
An honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss.


The Goodbye Book, Todd Parr
Through the lens of a pet fish who has lost his companion, Todd Parr tells a moving and wholly accessible story about saying goodbye. Touching upon the host of emotions children experience, Todd reminds readers that it’s okay not to know all the answers, and that someone will always be there to support them. An invaluable resource for life’s toughest moments.


In My Heart, Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness . . . our hearts can feel so many feelings! Some make us feel as light as a balloon, others as heavy as an elephant. In My Heart explores a full range of emotions, describing how they feel physically, inside, with language that is lyrical but also direct to empower readers to practice articulating and identifying their own emotions.