Children in foster care, by nature of what they’ve experienced, require extraordinary effort and patience. Their behavioral, mental and medical needs are often higher than that of other children. Foster parents can easily find themselves stretched thin, from running to medical and therapy appointments to managing the chaos of coping with trauma. Regulations to protect the children limit the ability for others to babysit and give a parent a day off. And a foster parent is just as likely to get multiple siblings at any given time, rather than one.
Without help, it can be exhausting and overwhelming. Yet, when a family has people to turn to who can share the load and serve as a listening ear, it’s just what’s needed to help them love these children and give them the attention and support they need.
It works like this: A team of volunteers from a faith community comes together as a substitute “extended family” to assist and support foster parents in their task of caring for foster children. They take their lead from the foster parents and are carefully trained to support – and not judge – the foster parents.
They help with a number of tasks: transportation, tutoring, laundry, meals, outings, parties – even giving parents a night out every now and then. They befriend the foster parents, giving them a safe outlet to be themselves and a chance to feel less isolated.
With trust on both sides, the relationship grows and the children in foster care see and feel differences of calm, stability and nurturing within the household. They see adults modeling caring behavior with each other, something they may not have seen in their families of origin.
An effective approach
Fostering Hope has combined the resources we find in volunteers from the faith community with the professional staffing within our organization. We work together to ensure that foster families are supported and get what they need to do their job well.
Here's how we do it:
- We solicit volunteers from churches and other faith communities.
- We hold an informational meeting about Fostering Hope and its mission.
- We train the team, with the help of professionals.
- We screen prospective volunteers for safety concerns.
- We hold a team commitment session, in which we ask volunteers with a foster family for a one-year commitment.
- We introduce the volunteers to the foster parents, and then to the children within the home.
- We hold monthly meetings of the team and foster parents.
- We facilitate the process of relationship building between the volunteers and the foster family and monitor the progress towards our goals of stability, enrichment, and community connections.