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How to Love and Serve Foster Families

May is Foster Care Awareness Month, and this is something that has become very important to me.

As believers, we are called to care for orphans. Really. It’s not just a “golden rule” idea or a something nice we should do. It’s not pity. It’s a command given to us in scripture (James 1:27 and Psalm 82:3). As a follower of Jesus, the “Father to the Fatherless” (Psalm 68:5), I have to have an answer for how I am helping to carry out James 1:27 and Psalm 82:3. If you are a believer, you need to have an answer for that too.

(photo cred: Johanna)

The obvious answer to meet the need is to open your home and become a foster family yourself. You need to seriously and prayerfully consider this. There are still many ways you can serve the foster community other than this important role though.

Right now, for me and my family, the main way is to take an active role in serving families who are taking in foster kids. It’s to be the “village” for our friends and potentially strangers. The Lord has made it clear to me in multiple ways that this is a very specific place he has me. To help hold up my friends’ weary arms while they persevere through this season.

I am far from an expert on this topic. I am figuring this out as I go. But I have learned a few things from my friends and I have such a desire to love them well. Here are a few things I have learned are desperately helpful that you can do too:


Our Christian society has done such fantastic job of painting prayer as a dainty, pretty, angelic approach to God. I just don’t think that’s what God intended when his word tells us to “BOLDLY approach the throne” (Hebrews 4:16). I don't think prayer should be passive… I think it should be BOLD and AGGRESSIVE. So when we talk about praying for our friends’ who foster, don’t get a passive idea in your head of helping in this way.

I also don’t think it has to perfect and right. I think it can be messy and mid-processing. The beautiful thing is that God already knows your heart. He knows why you are talking to him. Prayer is communicating and relating to God and I think God loves it when we talk real with Him because he already sees the reality in our hearts. Talking real with God about not understanding where foster care families are, or even not understanding why He would allow orphans in the first place, is not only allowed with Him, but it puts your heart in a position to learn and be moved by Him.

Prayer makes you an active player in the game because you are putting yourself in a posture to be changed yourself. Prayer is a way that God stirs our affections for the things that bring Him Glory. And let me just tell you, I think His people who open their lives up to the orphans bring Him so much glory.

Here are some specific things to pray for Foster Care:

  •      That more families would open their homes to children needing one
  •      Whether or not you are supposed to be one of them
  •      Specifically name your friends who are currently fostering
  •      Pray for miracle energy and endurance for those families
  •      For healthy attachment with their kids
  •      For the Lord to give new, happy memories for these babies who have lived through trauma
  •      Pray for all tangible needs to be met
  •      Ask God to show you what tangible needs you yourself can provide
  •      Pray against loneliness for the kids and Foster parents
  •      Pray for the Church and churches to rise up to help meet this giant need
  •      Pray for good interactions between parents and case workers
  •      Pray for the case workers and CASA reps. Pray for endurance and perseverance. (because I don’t think we have to know the exact stat to know that turnover rate is High in that job)
  •      Pray that the Lord’s presence would be so very near and tangible. When that friend has to say good-bye to a child they have loved on for 9 months. When that friend is afraid to get to close again. When that friend hears the stories of trauma. When that friend wishes they had never said “yes”. Pray pray pray for the Lord’s nearness to be felt.

   Be. There.

In the trenches. Be there for them.

I have this mental image from WW1 whenever I think of trenches. Of soldiers with gas masks working in the trenches side by side. In the mud. In the blood. Together. That’s what I think about whenever I offer to be in the trenches with my Foster Care friends. From what I have seen from my friends, foster care is hard, its exhausting, and its messy. And that’s the time that they need friends the most. Friends who aren’t offended by the mess or scared by the trauma, and who aren’t saying “I told you so” in their minds. They need people to strap on a gas mask and be in the trenches with them.

Practically speaking, this could mean play dates so they could get out of the house. It could mean text messages throughout the day saying things like “If today sucks too, I still love you and I’m still praying. Really praying”.  It could mean bringing wine over after the kids are in bed. It could be feeding them (see below), doing their laundry. Mainly, it could mean just being available to help and making sure they know that.

     Listen. Really Listen.

When your foster mom friend calls you and tells you she is losing her mind, don’t blow it off as a normal Mom day. One thing I have discovered from my close friends who foster are that they just need someone to listen to their day. Really really hear and understand that they are losing their minds. Make time to really listen to the words they say, the pain they feel, and stories they hear. And remember it and ask about it later. Listen without offering advice, without trying to identify, and without minimizing. Just listen.

(photo cred: Amy)

One note about the advice giving and trying to identify…. If your friends ask you for advice or for tips, by all means respond with what you know. But don’t offer it if it’s not asked for. If your friend tells you that their three year old is throwing a fit, do not respond with something like “all three year olds throw fits… even normal ones”. Unless your child had the chaotic, often horrifying traumatic start to life that theirs did, don’t compare the two. It’s not helpful and a lot of times is discouraging.

What is helpful? Listening to the story of their three year old throwing a fit and saying “I’m so sorry” or “I’ll pray specifically for that” or “What kind of wine do you want me to bring you?”

When you get it wrong (and you will), say sorry.

Whether it’s something you say or do, there will come a time with you do the wrong thing. It’s ok. Just say sorry. Recognition is a big deal. And then ask how you can do it better next time.

Get certified to baby-sit or offer respite care

This is the most tangible need I have seen from my friends. They desperately need people, their village, to do the necessary steps to get finger-printed and background checked to keep their kids for them. Because yall, they need a break. And I know some of you non-fosters like me are thinking… “I need a break too”. I get that.  Really and truly I do. But here's the thing: you have a whole world of people who are legally qualified to keep your kids. Foster families only have the people who have gone through the necessary steps to do this at their disposal, legally. It’s not a rule they can push. They can lose their children if they do not follow these guidelines.

(photo cred: Natasha)

Here’s the part B to this…. KEEP THEIR KIDS FOR THEM. Give them the much-needed break. Don’t just take the steps and then not follow through.

CPS and DHA and like programs are continually in need of families to provide respite care and baby-sitting. So if you don’t know any foster families personally, take the necessary steps and get on a list to help! I’m currently researching this for my county as we speak!

Other ideas on this topic:

While you are waiting for your paperwork to finalize, offer to bring take out from their favorite restaurant and set up a date table in their back yard and you keep the kids inside while they dine outside.

If you have it, offer to pay the $40 for the background check of someone who would love to help but can’t afford it.

Feed them. A lot.

And keep feeding them. Long after the meal calendar has ended. Bring more food. Bring them food when they get their 1st placement and bring them food when they get their 10th placement. There should not be a "placement limit" when it comes to serving your friends. 

(photo cred: Tash)

Offer to go grocery shopping for them. Or after you’ve done #5, offer to keep their kids while they go grocery shopping ALONE.

Don’t impose a time limit for them to be “normal”

Assume this is the new normal for these families. Sometimes placements are smooth and the transition is very similar to bringing a new biological baby home from the hospital. Sometimes it is really different from that. A couple times, I have walked through real “PPD” with my friends…. “Post Placement Depression”. It’s a real thing and similar to Post Partum Depression, it can be gripping and draining and can last for an indefinite amount of time.

Bottom Line: Don’t wonder/assume/question when your friends will be back to “normal”. Let them figure out what normal is going to look like in this season and you figure out how you are going to love them well in the midst of it.

The needs in Foster Care are overwhelming. Overwhelming. The need is gigantic and you and I can’t make it go away or fix it. But our God is so much bigger than this need and He can. He can rally his troupes to meet this need.  I encourage you to pray and ask Him what part he has for you to play in this.

Read about some of my friends' journey with Foster Care here: Let's Be Brave

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