Friday, April 19, 2013

5 Things You Can Do to Help Foster Families

Yesterday, I shared an article that a friend had forwarded to me, about Things Foster Parents Wish You Knew.

My friend also asked whether there was more I would add to the article. The article was robust and offered many suggestions. Here are a few other things you can do to support your friends while they serve as foster parents.

1) Trust the kids. Even if they don't deserve it. Sometimes they tell fanciful stories, and that's either a defense mechanism or a way of putting up a shell. Sometimes they lie to protect themselves. Never be offended that they lie to you. Your job isn't to fix them, just to show them that you care about them. Perhaps by extending trust, a child will become trustworthy. Extending trust says "You are trustworthy, or at least, I trust that you can become so." Being overly skeptical says, "I'm not offering you trust until you earn it." And even being a stickler for the kid to be honest right off the bat, kind of sets up an adversarial relationship. The most important thing when a kid first comes into your family's home isn't to instill in a him a behavior, it's probably to make the kid feel safe and loved.

2) Foster parents aren't allowed to spank their foster kids. Sometimes the friends of the foster parents say stuff like, "that's too bad. All these kids need is a good spanking." Please never say that. Many foster kids have been abused. All foster kids have been removed from a familiar environment and placed into an unfamiliar one. In neither case will corporal punishment help them adjust better, and honestly, adjustment & survival is more important in this instance than behavioral modification.
3) When foster kids are adopted, the law about spanking stops applying. Please don't suggest that, once the foster kids are adopted, then your friends should and will spank them. I've seriously heard people say this to foster parents and foster kids, and it certainly runs the risk of having a kid view adoption as a mixed bag.

4) If you live in town, see if you can run errands for the foster parents. Or even better, see if you can 
bring the foster kid with you while you run the errands. It'll give a couple hours' of respite to the foster parent, but it will also expose the foster kid to a different adult, different places, and different routines. If you stop for ice cream on the way home, it automatically makes you kind of the "cool aunt." And depending on the kids' age, you might be able to be a mentor, a confidant, a sort-of Big Brother / Big Sister.

5) Think about being a CASA. Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers that stick with a child throughout their journey through foster care. CASAs spend about 12 hours a month visiting with the child, getting to know them and the people around them, and representing their best interests in court. While foster parents, lawyers, social workers, judges, teachers and therapists all change with unfortunate regularity, CASAs are consistently there.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy


  1. Are random people allowed to take foster kids out to run errands? I was under the impression that foster kids aren't really allowed to hang out with other adults - all adults have to be background checked and so on. I'm sure I could be wrong.

    Oh, and btw, as far as I'm concerned, spanking never solves anything.

    1. It used to be the case that foster parents really needed to have anybody involved with the child background checked. At least some States have adopted something called a "Prudent Parent Standard," which allows foster parents some leeway in arranging for the supervision of their children, for short periods of time. An oversimplified rule of thumb is, "for short periods of time, if you would trust your own child with this person, you can trust your foster child with this person." For some foster kids, the most exciting part of this rule is that it lets them spend the night at a friend's house. Not sure what the rule is in your state, though, but Google searching "prudent parent standard California" or whatever your state is, might help answer the question :)

      I tend to agree with you that, especially for foster kids, non-corporal forms of discipline probably work better.

  2. Our mission is to brighten the lives of Foster Children all over the state of New Jersey.
    We do this in a lot of ways! For example…
    Right now we’re hosting a toy drive so foster children all over New Jersey will have plenty of presents under their tree.
    New Jersey Foster Kids


Open Adoption Blogs