So. We had some little visitors to the farmhouse last weekend. A brother and sister whose foster parents needed respite care for them for a couple of days. These two kiddos were a lot of fun. Excellent manners, well-behaved, easy to be with. And cute.

Little girls are easy for me to understand. I get the obsession with doll houses and horses and crafts and glitter. Little boys are a bit of a mystery. Superheroes, vrooming cars, and wrestling are all unfamiliar territory.  Now, before you think I was completely unprepared for the activity level of a little boy I have to tell you that our youngest daughter was a bundle of constant sound and constant motion for the first 10 years of her life! She’d dig up bugs, gather worms, get dirty and love every minute of it, so I’m not totally clueless about such things. But still, little boys are, well, different. In the most fun way. 🙂

A short while after the two arrived I was telling my husband that we’d need to remind the little guy to use the bathroom. Being only four years old he still needs to be told to take a potty break. My husband then told me HOW to help our little guy use the bathroom. He says, “You need to go in ahead of him and lift up both seats. He’ll do the rest.” In all the years we’ve parented together my husband has never told me HOW to do ANYthing. I was impressed! And I found it really cool that he totally handled it. I mean, obviously he has more experience with boys by virtue of the fact that he is one, but still… Impressive none the less.

We kept our little visitors busy. We went to see A Night In Bethlehem at a local church. We took a trip outside to the barn to pet the horses. And we trekked through the meadow in the fresh snow where we spotted coyote tracks and fox tracks. Our little girl got to spend time grooming Irish out in the barn and she absolutely loved that. She also seemed to really enjoy our trip through the meadow. Our little guy was more about plowing through the snow outside and driving his cars all around the house when we were inside. 🙂

Now the littles are back home with their wonderful foster family and we will be available again if/when they need us.  Here’s the thing – foster families need people to come along side of them and support them. I’m not tooting my own horn here. I’m speaking from experience. As a former long-term foster parent, I can tell you that any support you can offer a foster family is appreciated beyond measure. This support comes in many forms. *Make them a meal – do you know how many appointments and activities foster parents have to drive their children to each week? It makes meal planning a real challenge! *Offer to watch their foster child for a couple of hours so they can have a date night or run to the grocery store kid free or just sit in a quiet house and enjoy the silence! This will probably require you to get background checked, but it will allow you to be a true resource for your foster parent friends! *Tell them something awesome about their foster child. Many foster children have big issues that cause big behaviors, and dealing with these things all the time can be overwhelming. By pointing out something positive about their child you are offering a foster parent encouragement and hope. *Most importantly – pray for them. There is no limit to the powerful impact that prayer will have on a foster family and their foster children.

We didn’t set out to be respite care providers – our intention was only to do long-term foster care for a specific child. Our path took some pretty sharp turns and here we are in a very different place than we were a year ago. I guess the thing I’ve learned is that we have to be willing to take the sharp turns and trust that God is in control, even when it feels like we’ve gotten whiplash! Ha! Now that we are on this path, I’m feeling really thankful for the opportunity to meet other foster families and help out where we can.

Do you feel like you can offer help and support for foster families? Maybe you feel like you want to BE a foster family. Or perhaps you ARE a foster family who is aching for support and encouragement from others. Fostering is a  cool/hard/rewarding/thankless/awesome/lonely/exhausting/exhilarating experience, and each of us can play a valuable role in the success of the children and families who are living it every day. Just something to think about… 🙂