What Does Having a Foster Care “Village” Really Mean?

I got a ding on my phone and it was that familiar number from placement. “We have a baby girl who is currently in the NICU. She’s not ready to be released, but can you take placement and start bonding with her?”

We said yes, but this yes was very different. This was a yes at the very beginning of a global pandemic. The world was changing, stay in place orders were being sent out, and the “quarantine life” was becoming a new normal. This yes was different and there were new hurdles that we knew we would have to navigate. 

How would my husband and I split our time in the NICU? Who would hold down the fort with our four other children? Who would manage all of the therapies already in place? Were there even enough hours in the day? 

We had no idea what saying yes to a medically fragile child would even look like, but we did know that we had something that would make the load so much lighter. We had a village, a group of people who wanted to be a part of our family’s foster care story. For many of the families in our village,  this season of life meant that welcoming a child into their own home was not possible, but they still wanted to help children in care. Our village wanted to support foster families. They wanted to support our family. They wanted to be a part of this girl’s story too We had a tribe of people who showed up as soon as they received the texts that we had said yes to another daughter for however long. Why? Because that’s what being a part of a village means, at least in our home.

It means that love shows up. Exactly how love shows up really speaks volumes to the character of the people in our tribe. It’s not a reflection of me, my husband, or anyone in particular in our household, but a reflection of a group of people who have come together to show up.

Having a village means that needs are being met in tangible, emotional, and at times spiritual ways. It means that food shows up on your doorstep for an entire week so that when you have to switch shifts at the hospital, dinner is the least of your worries. It means that a virtual baby shower is held to welcome Baby Girl home when she is released from the hospital. It means all the things we didn’t have but knew we needed showed up at our doorstep. It means that laundry is picked up and dropped back off folded and ready to be put away. It means that texts of encouragement are sent just as often, if not more often, as the Amazon packages arriving at our door. It means getting into the trenches with us and walking alongside us for however long we continue to foster.

Having a village of people who not only love on you as the parents but pour into all the children in your home is a gift. It’s a treasure and it means that we are not alone. The tribe that we have been so blessed with is full of people who don’t just say “let me know if I can help;” instead, they say “I’m bringing dinner Tuesday night,” or “I’m washing laundry on Thursday,” or “Here’s a gift card to Starbucks; treat yourself momma,” or “I’m praying for you today and you are doing a great job momma; keep at it,” and so many more words of action. 

Here are some easy phrases to use to help build a village around a foster family?

For the village:

  • I want to support you as you say yes to this new placement, “I am bringing dinner over one night this week so you don’t have to think about it. What night works best for you?”
  • I know the first week with a new placement can be stressful, “I’d love to babysit for you on Friday night so you can get a little break.”
  • I’ve always wanted to foster but I cannot right now, “It would be an honor to act as a loving mentor to the child in your home. Would it be okay if I take them out for ice cream on Saturday?”
  • I own a business that will allow me to help single foster moms with maintenance, lawn care, or other tangible projects that she may not be able to do on her own. “How or when can I offer you my services free of charge?”

For the foster parent seeking a village:

  • Friends, I am committed to fostering but I feel overwhelmed right now. “Would you be willing to send some encouragement my way this week; I can really use it right now?”
  • Friends, my house is a little messy and there are loads and loads of laundry and dishes. Still, “would you like to come over for coffee or dinner or just an adult conversation. 
  • Family, I know I signed up for this, but I can use your support. “Can you come over for dinner one night this week to play with the kids while I make dinner?”
  • Fellow foster parents, I am feeling lonely in this journey. “What are your best tips and tricks for finding support locally?”

So, what does having a village really mean? It means we are a fostering tribe and simply put, we are so much better together. If you are a foster parent, I hope that you can build your village over time. It doesn’t happen overnight and it is okay to ask for help and to want someone to walk along this journey with you. And if you are the friend or family member of a foster parent, I’d encourage you to find the way that you can support them with your time, talent and resources.

Crystal is a Christian, wife, and mother to many through foster care, adoption, and marriage. She loves all things Golden Girls, documentaries, Crime Series, green jolly ranchers, Chick-Fil-A, and sports. You can find her rooting hard for the Cubs during baseball season and the Crimson Tide during football season and sometimes Notre Dame because she loves her husband. She is passionate about birth families, sibling bonds, and being a resource to families in hard places.

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