We went to the girls’ daycare on the Monday morning after we had met.
The girls were happy to see us when we arrived. They showed us their room and introduced us to their friends. They loved their “school”, and it was clear that their teachers knew and loved them well.
Along with S (their foster mom), we filled the teachers in on the family transition plan. Dustin and I definitely wanted them to stay enrolled there, even though it wasn’t super convenient to our home or jobs. At least they’d have one area of consistency in their ever-changing lives.
On Thursday evening, we picked the girls up from their house and took them back to ours to have a two-day sleepover.
We grabbed their overnight bags, a couple of their favorite toys, and their little hands. K secured their car seats. They said goodbye to K & S and climbed into the backseat of our car.
Neither asked very many questions about what was going on, and our younger daughter was incredibly quiet. (If you know our girls at all, you know this is odd.) We knew they were uncomfortable, which was to be expected, so we continued to talk, play music, and prep them for the fun we had planned all weekend. What else could we do?
The truth is, our younger daughter is quite the talker. She’s vivacious, spunky, and hilarious. It’s only when she’s uncomfortable that she clams up, shows less emotion, and becomes much more shy. We didn’t know that about her then, but looking back, it is so clear. She was terrified.
All things considered, it was a fun and exhausting weekend together. The girls took a while to get adjusted to their room, which they were thrilled about having, so bedtime was a bit of a chore, especially the first night. Dustin and I slept terribly, wondering if they’d be ok in their room, if they’d need anything in the middle of the night, and if we were doing any of this right.
They were up on Friday morning by 5:30am, which was ridiculously early by our standards. So we snuggled on the couch and watched some Netflix together as half of us guzzled coffee.
We spent the next two days just doing random things together. It didn’t feel as much like parenting as it did babysitting, which we were accustomed to, so things went fairly smoothly. Dustin spent years being a manny, so he’s particularly good at finding ways to keep kids entertained.
When it was time to take them back on Saturday evening, the girls were sad to say goodbye to us but so happy to see S & K and their brother.
We had 8 days to get ready for their official move.
The following weekend, our friends put together a party for us – a “baby shower” of sorts.
There was delicious food and cute decorations. Our closest friends from church surrounded us with gifts and cards and words of encouragement. We felt so loved and supported.
If we hadn’t already believed we could do this, their belief in us had given us the extra confidence we needed to enter that difficult new season. With friends like those, we at least had a shot at making it through.
Many foster families have supportive communities around them. The catch is that sometimes the good friends who love and support us in many other parts of life, don’t know what to do when someone enters the foster care adventure. There are so many unknowns and obvious uncertainty.
So how can family and friends come alongside those who are fostering, especially knowing that the family dynamics are ever-changing? What are the most helpful ways to reach out?
My first suggestion is to ask good questions. Listen to the particulars of their story and the unique situation for that family. They may not need a party every time a new child comes into their family, but there are most likely needs that you can meet.
They might need help with transportation for other kiddos who are in their home, so that they can be home with their new addition(s). They might appreciate meals to help make weeknights a little easier. They might need babysitting, so they can attend a foster parent support group. They might need help mowing the lawn for a week or two so they can spend their time helping their new kiddos get acclimated.
They might appreciate physical items like diapers or wipes for a baby that arrives with only the clothes on her back. They might need extra beds or dressers or car seats when they say yes to a sibling set they weren’t expecting.
Sometimes, like everyone, foster parents have a hard time asking for help. They know they are the ones who have “signed up for this”, so it can be hard to reach out or even accept help.
So lean in and listen and don’t take “we’re doing fine” at face value. There isn’t a single foster parent I know that doesn’t at least need encouragement, prayer, and lots of hugs.
This type of presence will mean the world to them. It’s a gift to have people who are unconditionally “for you”, especially in the midst of an overwhelming, broken system. Without our people in the process, I’m not sure we would have made it through.