How Can You Help a Child in Foster Care?
When a social worker from Child Protective Services, along with the police, invades a home to remove a child, there is an automatic crisis mode that begins.
The children often have little personal items to bring along. If they do have items with them, those are usually clothes, which are quickly stuffed into a garbage bag. Those children are ripped from everything they have ever known and placed in the home of complete strangers.
When children arrive into foster homes for the first time, they are scared and worried. Typically, children are removed from their biological families due to abuse or neglect. This means the children have already been through traumatic situations. The trauma continues as they wonder if they will ever see their parents again. There is nothing easy about being a child in the foster care system.
The holiday season can be extra difficult for foster families. Even though the foster child came from an abusive home, that child still wishes to be with his or her parents or other biological family on Christmas Day. This can often lead to acting out behaviors from the child due to the struggle to process all of the changes, trauma, and grief he or she is experiencing.
What can you and your family do to support a foster family and a foster child during the holiday season?
If you personally know a foster family here are some ways you can offer support.
Provide a meal for them. For a foster parent having one less thing to think about can mean so much! This is especially helpful during the initial transitional time.
Provide fun family bonding experiences. A huge part of a child trusting the new foster family is creating bonding moments. Giving gift cards to go to the movies, bowling, or other fun family events is a great way to help a child and adult connect.
Help provide Christmas gifts for the foster child. Having an additional child, of course, means added expense and giving a few gifts could help relieve a big burden.
Offer a date night. Most foster care organizations allow trusted family friends to provide a few hours of childcare in order to give the parents a break. Providing free babysitting is a perfect way to allow foster parents to recharge.
Don’t pass judgment on the child’s behavior. When children have been through such traumatic situations, they often exhibit their internal confusion through external acting out. These behaviors don’t mean these children are bad kids; simply that they have had a hard life.
If you don’t personally know a foster family, here is how you can help a foster care agency.
Adopt a child’s Christmas wish list. Many children in foster care have never had a real Christmas experience. By adopting a wish list, you will be able to brighten a difficult season for one of them.
Hold a supply drive and collect items for Welcome Bags. This will provide a child with a duffle bag, toiletries, a blanket, games and more to help his or her transition into a new place.
Donate! Many foster care agencies are underfunded and need your help to keep their doors open. By donating, you are providing a safe home to children all over the state.
Consider being a foster parent. According to the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services, there are more than 4,500 children in the foster care system in Mississippi as of July 2019. A hurting child needs you to provide a happy and safe home.
Support their events. A great upcoming event you can support is Methodist Children’s Homes of MS’s Share the Light. This community event is a Christmas open house and light parade. Methodist Children’s Homes will be lighting up their campus as a way to brighten the holidays for the children who live there year round. This event boasts a parade of lights, a Christmas tree festival, local choirs singing, an interactive nativity pageant (in which your child can participate) and even a visit from St. Nick himself! It will be a great event to bring your little ones to all while supporting a great cause!
These are just a few of the ways you can help a child in need this holiday season.