Walking into a new, unfamiliar home and announcing her name without any tears, came a 5-year old girl who couldn’t write a word, count to three, or say the alphabet. But when she entered our daughter’s home, she entered our hearts. Three days later, her little sister was brought home from the hospital—withdrawing from drugs. 

By the time Big Sister turned 6 (just two-and-a-half months later), she was counting by tens to hundreds and by hundreds to thousands, saying her alphabet and sounds, reading simple words, and sharing with us all an amazing temper tantrum with the same gusto with which she was learning.

But there was a learning curve for us all.

Ways to support foster families

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 or what we could do. We had no idea how much hardship we would hear from a little one who had no idea what her life was about and how much sadness we would endure for them. But we also didn’t know what joy, richness of life, and love we would experience.

We’re still learning how to encourage and help our daughter’s family, and we don’t know how much time we’ll have with these little ones. But we have learned a few ways to support foster families on this journey.

1. Help with meals. 

This is an easy one—for anyone. Our daughter has endured many moments or days overwhelmed with tantrums, taking the girls for hours-long visits with their birth mom (about 30 minutes away), and other life cares. So when someone brings a meal, it takes a heavy load off of her to not have to think about, 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 will 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 another day they need it. Breakfast wraps and casseroles help the morning routine. Be creative as you encourage their hard work!

2. Become a foster care respite provider. 

There are different levels of provider care options for which you might be able to serve. We’ve chosen 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 things with their biological children and the foster girls as they have need. It supports them tremendously.

3. Listen. 

We all need to listen to one another. It’s not a gift; it’s a skill we’re all working on.

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, or 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, a guardian ad litem, the birth parents or other family members, 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.

4. Serve and help in your capacity and when you are able. 

Helpers don’t need to be available for every need, but when you are able to help and serve it is a great blessing. Count the cost of your own 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. Foster families need you and your support.

5. PRAY for foster families! 

This is lastly mentioned but not the least important. It should be first employed, not a last resort.

When you think 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 to support foster families, as well!

We could surely add five 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 help, encourage, and support foster families on their journey. Think outside the comfort box and list what you see might be helpful that you can do …. and do it “for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23)!

Copyright © 2023 Joe and Cindi Ferrini. All rights reserved.

Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at CindiFerrini.com). They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family, and special needs. They spoke nationally for FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember marriage getaway 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: CindiFerrini.com And via social media at: facebook.com/cindi.ferrini, facebook.com/UnexpectedJourney/, and facebook.com/MyMarriageMatters/.