You’ve heard about the great work foster families do in the community. You’ve read the statistics. Your heart is moved, yet you are not sure how to act. We know fostering a child is not a path for everyone, but we also know many of you would like to journey alongside foster youth, helping them heal, supporting their families, and ensuring a child’s well-being. We’ve compiled a list of everyday ways to support and help foster kids and foster families. After all, not all heroes wear capes, and we bet you can be an amazing champion for a foster family in need.
13 Everyday Ways to Help a Foster Care Family
- Host a Foster Shower
When a new foster family receives a child they are often given little time to gather all the gear, clothes, and material needs the child will require. While agencies like Walden Family Services do help, there are often gaps of need with each child. Consider donating gently used toys, clothes, car seats, or furniture, or hosting a drive with other local families. Make sure to arrange moving and drop-off, as most foster families with new placements will be short on time.
- Arrange a Meal Train/Bring Food
We all know kids can eat, and with a newly expanded and busy family finding time to shop for, cook and clean for a meal can be difficult. Consider creating a meal train that includes help for shopping, and dish/kitchen clean-up in the evening. Make sure to inquire about any special dietary restrictions or needs for the family.
- Provide Respite & Relief
Become a respite care provider by going through the background checks necessary. As a respite care provider you are able to provide regular relief for the family, which would give you the opportunity to mentor and build a relationship with the foster child, as well as support the foster family.
- Help with Everyday Chores
Dishes, laundry, yard work, washing the family car—these are all everyday things every family needs help with. Offer to help a local foster family with everyday chores.
- Sponsor a Foster Child’s Extracurricular Activities
As we discussed in “Common Foster Care Myths and Misconceptions,” foster families do receive some monetary support to help cover the child’s basic needs; however, the extracurricular activities that help kids grow and thrive are not always covered. Consider sponsoring local art classes, sport activities, music, or other enrichment opportunities for a foster child. While providing some financial help and support to the family, you’ll also be giving the child a great gift of discovery and enrichment.
- Donate to their Entertainment Wish List.
As with extracurricular activities, entertainment is often an area where foster families and kids could use additional support from friends and family. Offer to donate to their entertainment wish list by donating movie tickets, bowling or miniature golf passes, and theme park or museum tickets/passes.
- Build a Snack Pantry
Meals are great, and are often a go-to form of food support for foster families, but children love to snack and graze. A great way to support a foster family is to help provide healthy, quick and easy snacks for the children and parents. Snacks such as ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grain cereals, healthy trail mixes and granolas are great places to start.
- Offer to Mentor a Foster Child
Foster children, especially tweens and teens, often need to regain trust in adults. A great way to help support a foster family of tweens and/or teens is to mentor the foster child. Building a lasting and supportive relationship can help the child regain trust in adults, and provide valuable emotional support.
- Support the Families’ Existing/Biological Children
As the family expands to include new foster children, existing biological, foster or adoptive kids may begin to feel left out. If you are unable to mentor or provide respite care for the foster children due to laws, consider mentoring or spending special time with any biological or adoptive kids.
- Arrange Family Play Dates
A great way to get to know the new children and welcome them into your extended family, network of friends, or community is to organize a family play date. Speak with the foster parents about best times and activities, whether the group should be large or small, and then organize a playdate including all the children. Be mindful that some foster children will need smaller groups and spans of time, or that the new family may need time to settle before starting social outings.
- Create a Memory Book
A great gift to a foster child and family is a memory book of their time with their foster family. If you are crafty, volunteer to create a scrapbook for the family/child that includes pictures, favorite memories, special recipes, as well as words of love and encouragement from extended family and friends.
- Create Toiletry/Self Care Packs
The first thing new or busy parents forgo is self-care practices. Create a self-care pack for the parents, including any special treatments, toiletries they would enjoy. For an added bonus, create a self-care or toiletry pack for the child with any special personal care items that are appropriate to their needs and ages.
- Donate a farm/CSA box
Have you found a local CSA you love and support? What about adding an extra farm box of fresh fruits and veggies to be delivered to a local foster family. This gives you an opportunity to support local farmers and agriculture and a local family, while also promoting healthy eating habits in youth and families.
Over the 42 years we have served families we have witnessed the unending gift of love our foster parents provide to their children. We have seen great transformations in our children, and have witnessed the great catalyst love is for healing. We know these great strides forward are born not only out of our amazing foster parents, but also from the loving support they receive from their extended network of family, friends, and community. Remember, we all can make a great impact on the life of a child in need. We can all wear capes.
For more information about foster care, read our other posts:
Defining and Understanding Foster Care
Common Foster Care Myths and Misconceptions
To stay up-to-date on Walden’s work on behalf of foster youth, visit our newsroom, or follow us on Facebook.
To financially help a foster child, visit our donate page. Your monetary donations provide a great deal of support to our children and families.