We just found out that our foster license was approved, and while we eagerly await our first placement, we are committed to continuing to step into the gap for families that already need support. Doing so brings us joy, prepares us for parenthood, and—most importantly—deepens our own experience and exchange of love in the community around us.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is facing disruption of the routines they take for granted. While all these new social distancing requirements can easily make this a time of isolation, we can just as easily use this shake-up as an opportunity for innovation in our relationships. We can get intentional about reaching out to those who are alone, get creative about bringing each other joy, and get serious about supporting each other through hardship.
If you are sitting at home, craving the social connection that your old routine used to provide, now is the time to reach out to people in a new and different way! Get creative, have fun, and make memories doing something meaningful for another family in your community. If you want some ideas to get started, these are some things we’ve already done or experienced (or might be doing to someone reading this soon!):
1. Write encouraging cards. Share an uplifting quote or just some general words of kindness with a parent that might be feeling overwhelmed. Thank them for the hard work they put into caring for their kids. Let them know the things that make them special as people and parents. If you have children, consider getting them involved, because nothing warms the heart quite like kind words (or drawings!) from a child.
2. Deliver groceries. You can drop them off yourself or use a delivery service such as Instacart, Shipt, or Walmart Delivery to stock up a family with mouths to feed. You can ask them for their list in advance, choose a few of their known favorites, or just get the things that pretty much everyone eats like cereal and frozen pizza. We recommend just being sure that they’ll be home at delivery time, so no food gets left out too long.
3. Schedule a meal delivery. Some people struggle to find time to restock their pantry, but others have everything they need except time to prepare the meal! Coordinate with the family in advance so they won’t make other plans or already have eaten. Then, you can arrange for a restaurant to deliver a meal, pick up takeout and drop it off, or even cook something yourself for the family and deliver it to their door. Bonus points if you can make it a balanced meal or leave them some leftovers!
4. Send a care package. Many parents are overwhelmed due to losses of childcare right now, and care packages with snacks and age-appropriate activities for kids can go a long way in helping those parents keep their sanity for another day. You can include things like coloring books, paper dolls, Etch-a-Sketches, or anything that is designed to keep a child entertained without too much of a mess. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to include a little pick-me-up for the parents, too!
5. Schedule a virtual hangout. You can use any video chat platform like Facetime, Skype, or Zoom just to catch up and hang out with someone who might be missing social time. You can make a playdate with your kids and have them do the same activity on both ends of the screen. You can make it a movie night by screen-sharing or starting a movie at the same time on separate TVs. You can just catch up while you watch each other do dishes or laundry. Whatever works—it’s just about laying eyes on a friendly face.
6. Throw a virtual family shower. If you know a family that is expecting or has recently gotten a new placement, then invite a bunch of friends to hop on a Zoom call with the family at a certain time to celebrate! Let everyone take turns sharing what gift they are sending to the family and why. You can get an Amazon wish list from the family in advance, or you can theme the gift-giving. You can ask everyone to get the family something they wish they’d had when they were their kids’ ages, or something to help them keep their sanity, or anything that will generate some fun and creativity.
7. Do a drive-by visit with hand-me-downs. Clean out the clothes, toys, books, and other supplies that you don’t need for your own children anymore that are still in good condition, and then schedule a time to drive by a family’s house with kids the right age. Don’t tell them what you’re bringing, but tell them they’ll need to come outside. Have everything in your trunk, and then pop it when they come outside to let them choose whatever they’d like! If you want to make a day of this and do it for multiple families, just tell each family that they can pick 1-5 items from the trunk at each visit.
8. Chalk up a driveway. Visit a family’s home unexpectedly, either while they’re asleep or out or even home so they’re just stuck inside wondering what you’re doing, and then draw some words of encouragement or a fun picture in their driveway to brighten their day. You can also leave some sidewalk chalk by their front door when you finish, and encourage them to add to the artwork over the next few days.
9. Prepare a surprise scavenger hunt in someone’s front yard. Leave the list of things to find on their front door and be sure to include the boundaries, and then hide things for them to discover when they wake up. You can hide Easter eggs with candy inside, toy dinosaurs or cars, or even just some interesting bits of nature. We recommend doing this at first light, so no one mistakes you for a prowler in the dark!
10. Take care of the outdoor chores. If you know a family that has to leave home for work or errands, then go get some work done while they’re gone! You can mow their lawn, clean their gutters, rake their leaves, blow off their driveway, fix their fence, or whatever you know needs doing that they would appreciate. You might want to tell them to look for something different when they get home, and you can even call or video chat to play a “20 Questions” or “Hot and Cold” game that helps them figure out what you did!
Start with the people you already know, and you might have a list that never runs out. The better you know someone, the more ideas you might have to make them smile and deepen your relationship! But if you’re interested in loving the stranger in the greatest need, then consider reaching out to a faith community or non-profit organization that will help you find and serve those people. Everyone can do something, and now is the perfect time to start exploring what that something might be for you and your family.
There is so much that you can do to support foster families and children in care- now and always. To learn more about the ways that you can advocate for children in foster care, read 5 Ways to Advocate for Children in Foster Care (Without Fostering).
Sarah and her husband have just obtained their license to become foster parents in Upstate SC. As they grow their family, their goal is to love others with the same love that they have experienced in Christ. They advocate for children through their careers, church involvement, social media platforms, various blogs, and direct support for foster and adoptive families.