My mentor, director of the college ministry I was a part of, and one of the sweetest friends I have, is a foster mom. All I have ever understood about her journey is that she has the sweetest and funniest kid I have ever known, and sometimes it is not easy. She is a mom who is resilient and strong and one who I look up to. About a week ago I got the opportunity to catch up with my friend.
She is one of the people in this chapter of my life that knows my life the best. I have laughed with her, read the Bible with her, learned new things with her, cried with her, danced with her, and shared some of my deepest emotions and thoughts with. Catching up with her is refreshing to my soul. We met at a coffee shop and our conversation lasted four hours, talking all about the ups and downs of foster care.
I have known her for two years, and never one time previously did I ask her any questions about foster care. Not one time did I ever care to learn or take time to question what she needed. Starting my internship with Colorado Kids Belong a little over a month ago already has me wondering, “Why have I never cared about this before?”
I started my internship at the beginning of January. I have been learning a lot, observing and listening, and I cannot explain to you the passion that has welled up inside me in such a short amount of time. Meeting new people, hearing their stories, seeing the collaboration happening in Weld County, Colorado,
I am amazed by the work that is going on to improve the lives of kids and families in foster care. What I recognized also is that not that many people it seems in the general public are aware of the needs. I wasn’t. We have churches, counties, and non-profit organizations banding together around foster care, but where is the knowing and available friend and neighbor?
Community support beyond the foster care community is so needed. As someone who was outside of the world of foster care, I never have been able to understand this. I dismissed the fact that this level of support was even necessary. After having this conversation with my friend, my eyes were opened up. Who knew a single conversation would entirely shift my heart? I have never wanted to sit down and learn as much as I did after we talked.
The first step for someone (unaware) like me is education. It does not take forever and ever to make an impact. You do not need years of training, or even months. Again, I have only been in this for six weeks! The idea of just being available has stuck with me through this last week–being available to listen, being available to help, being available to learn.
You probably know how impactful it is when a family member or good friend understands you. I know that I feel so loved and so safe when I have people in my corner that know me and want to keep getting to know about me. In love, we should learn how to be trustworthy people that can stand in the corners of families and kids that do not know where they belong. Trust, consistency, and love are so important for anyone, especially for those in the midst of transition, change, and the unknown.
The busyness of life always feels like it can interfere with us giving time to others. As a college student who has had to learn to manage classes, homework, a job, and a social life, (AND be able to fit it all into one day), I can confidently tell you that you can still be such a large support system in the lives of foster families. Support is as easy as taking a minute out of your day to bring coffee or a sweet treat to a foster mom.
It is as simple as doing your homework in the living room of a foster family’s house just to be company for the parents who are staying home all day with their kids. We CAN integrate these uncomplicated supportive practices in our days. I guarantee, no matter how many deadlines you need to meet or how many tasks you have to complete, there is nothing that can get in the way of being a loving support for foster families.
Here Are Some Great Resources To Get Started
An hour introduction to trauma awareness covering the topics of attachment, trauma, toxic stress, grief and loss, that also gives practical ways that you can help! This was created for the population of those who are church volunteers and helpers, or just for friends and family and is a faith-based training. Taking an hour to become trauma-informed allows parents to have comfort in you hanging out with their kids. There is a sense of safety when understanding trauma responses and knowing how to react to them.
Do you know any foster parents? Do you know any former foster youth? Treat them to coffee and ask questions! Start learning straight from the source. It is the best way to do it!
Follow social media pages! Read blogs and books!
Recently I have felt as though I am learning the most through Instagram pages! So many of us have the tendency to mindlessly scroll on social media to pass the time. Why not be intentional and follow some amazing accounts of people with amazing stories. You can learn so much just from an Instagram caption or story. Here are some foster care related accounts that I look forward to checking every time I open the app:
- Tina Bauer – @tinaa_bauerr
- Tori Hope Peterson – @torihopepeterson
- Jamie C Finn – @fosterthefamilyblog
- Foster the Family–a book by Jamie C Finn
- This book is geared towards foster parents but actually gives a lot of real-life stories that are helpful to learn from and read even if you have no plans to be a foster parent. I love hearing real stories. As I mentioned earlier, learning from the source is the best way to do it! Let’s keep learning from real foster journeys!
My new learning experience with foster care has changed my entire perspective and is already making a change in my community. It should not only take an internship, a job, or becoming a foster parent to be able to find a heart to serve the foster community.
Taking action towards support through the simplicity of asking questions and learning is all it takes. It is not a hard or time-consuming task. Educate yourself and when you learn, educate others. Let this information spread out far into the community, far into the state, and far into the world.
Experience more, learn more, volunteer more. Support more. We are not all in a place where we can be foster parents, but we can all care about foster care. And then do something about it.