Walking into a new and unfamiliar home, announcing her name, and leaving her mom behind without any tears came a 5-year old little girl who couldn’t write her name, count to 3 or say the alphabet and entered our daughters’ home and our hearts. Within 3 days her little half-sister was brought home from the hospital – withdrawing from drugs. By the time Big Sister turned 6 (just 2.5 months later), she was counting by 10’s to hundreds and by hundreds to thousands, saying her alphabet and sounds, reading simple words, and could share with us all an amazing temper tantrum with the same gusto with which she was learning. Yet the learning curve was about to affect us all.
Special needs came in a different type of package!
As Bupa and Muma to these two precious little girls, we jumped in to help our daughter, son-in-law and their two sons. We had no idea how much help would be needed; how much love would be shared by each of us in all different directions; how much hardship we would all hear from a little one who had no idea what her life was about; how much sadness we would endure for them, and yet what joys, richness of life, and love we would experience. We’re still on the learning curve without knowing an ending time with these precious little ones from the foster care system, and thus we continue to grow along with this sweet family as well as extended family. Join us on this learning curve as we share 5 ways to support, help, and encourage a family on this journey of foster care:
- Help with meals. This is an easy one-for anyone. Times that our daughter has endured moments or days of overwhelm with tantrums, taking the girls for several hour visits with their birth mom (about 30 minutes away), and other life cares, when we or others bring a meal it takes off a heavy load to not have to think, let alone prepare a meal. If you are outside the family and you feel you could do this, mention a day and time you’d drop off the meal. It would be like a cool drink of water to everyone! When we show up to help we’ll sometimes bring an extra meal or a freezable meal for a day they need it. Breakfast wraps and casseroles help the morning routine. Be creative as you encourage their hard work!
- Become a foster care respite provider. There are different levels of provider care options for which you might be able to serve. We have chosen to be able to provide respite care in the home of our daughter and son-in-law and provide rides to help with school and activities. This allows them to have dates and do other things with their own 2 children and the foster girls as they have need. It supports them tremendously.
- Listen. We all need to listen to one another. It’s not a gift; it’s a skill on which we are all working! As grandparents we need to listen to the foster parents (our daughter and her husband) because they know what’s going on in the home and what lessons are being taught. We don’t need to know all the details or ask why in the moment, and maybe ever. If they are in charge, we are to help. If we are unable to follow that lead then we shouldn’t be helping. It’s complicated and they are working with case workers, guardian’s ad litem, the birth mother/parents or other family members through the system channels, the foster children, their own children and their marriage. To get an answer in the moment will be complicated. Listen well. It’s a big help.
- Serve and help in your capacity and when you are able. Helpers don’t need to be available for every need, but when one is able to help and serve it is a great blessing. Count the cost of your own life, time, energy, finances, and materials. What can you do? How can you do it? What are you willing to do? How much time can you offer? Likely, they’ll take whatever you can give. They need you and your support.
- PRAY! This is lastly mentioned but not the least important. It should be first employed, not as a last resort. When you think of any of the family and workers involved-pray for them. Awakened at night with one of them on your mind? Pray. Frustrated at what you’re observing or dealing with? Pray. Needing direction? Pray. Desiring answers? Pray. THIS is the most important part of our lives in general but a necessary piece of the foster puzzle, as well!
We could surely add 5 or more ways to help, and if you’re walking or running in this journey so could you; but let these be considerations for you as you answer the question of how you might support, help, and encourage one needing it on their foster care journey! Think outside the comfort box and list what you see might be helpful that you can do….and do it as “unto the Lord”!
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at www.cindiferrini.com). They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They spoke nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways for 20 years, authored *Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at:
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(Copyright by Ferrini’s and also used with permission by Familylife.com/artilces.)