So you want to support your friends who have just gotten a new foster care placement ~
Firstly, realize that every new kid is a big deal to a foster family. Even those who have been doing this for years know how much one new child changes things. Remember, they said yes when they could have said no to this child coming to them. So, follow their lead, but in general, be excited with them. Ask about the child (the foster family will filter out things for confidentiality - but ask about who the kids is). Ask about your friends thoughts, feelings, worries and excitement - both before when the child is a possibility and after the child is a reality.
And then LISTEN, listen a lot. What people need most is simply a listening ear for all of the ups and downs of a new kid. Listen and remember they are a foster parent on purpose and knew what they were getting into. At this moment, they do not need, your insight into what all 4-year-olds are like, advice on what do when they misbehave etc, etc. Wait until asked to share your wisdom, what they really need is a friend. Bonus: if you are a close friend, they will ask you for all sorts of advice later on.
On the more practical side:
- Buy groceries. I say groceries because while making a meal is great, many kids in foster care are coming out of chaos where meals were the easiest, fastest thing available (think McDonalds), so a delicious healthy, organic, midwest casserole might not be up their alley - and if they don't like it the family will have to cook another meal anyway, so it ends up not helping as much. So buy and drop off groceries. No need to ask on this one. Stick to easy, basic kid food - milk, bread, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, fruit snacks, apples, bananas, grapes, etc.
- Ask if they need to to run any errands for them: running to the post office, picking up something specific at the store, a pack of diapers, etc.
- Come to the door and ask if NOW is a good time to wash some dishes or fold (and put away) the laundry. Don't call, because chances are, they won't know the kids schedule or when a good time will be and most likely their brain will be so fried they couldn't remember even if they did. And if they're not home, call and ask where the hide a key is and do it while they are out. Because, if you know where they live and are coming to serve them, they most likely trust you.
- Stop by after bedtime just to say hi. When kids are getting settled, a lot of extra faces can be overwhelming, but the parents still need socializing and friends - especially if they feel stuck at home until the kids get comfortable. So come to them (and bring chocolate, at least if you're coming to visit me).
- Ask if there is something the other kids in the home need (transportation to/from school events, church functions, etc). Most likely they will want to keep the newest kidos the closest for a time, so help with the other, more settled members of the family might be more readily accepted.
- If your friends own a house, and/or is single, think about what might be hard doing with a child literally attached to your hip, or running away at mock ten (both possiblities in those first few weeks), and ofter to help with that. Shoveling in winter, mowing the grass in summer, cleaning out the car, weeding the garden all come to mind, but I am sure there are others.
That is all I can think of for now. What did I miss? Put it in the comment section below.
Now, go bless your friends! Whether this is their first placement or 200th, lives are changing, one little person at a time. Show them with your actions and your listening ear just how much you care.