Our children are loving this time. They have their parents full attention. We have nothing on the calendar except playtime; all day, everyday. We play all kinds of board games, we do crafts, we’ve gone on many hikes, we play in the backyard. We are building them a new playset. They are having the best time.
There’s one little one in our house not having the best time. He would be if he was at home with his mom and dad but he is imprisoned with a strange family. As many of you know we are foster parents. We took in a young boy a month before this covid pandemic began. Essentially strangers and he is now stuck with us! Not only is he removed from his parents, now he is removed from his friends, his siblings, his extended family and has to spend all day everyday with us. Thankfully he fits in well and loves playing with my kids. That doesn’t mean it’s not extremely difficult for him. He is missing the hugs that only his mother can give. Mine don’t cut it. We are thankful that in today’s world there’s Messenger Kids and Facetime. He is still able to see them and communicate with them on a daily basis. I hope that all foster parents are making concessions and helping kids communicate with bio family if their visits or access has been cut off.
As difficult as the situation is for him, it is worse for those being taken into care right now. Can you imagine? Many foster parents are refusing to take in new placements during this crisis because they cannot put the kids in their home at risk. Before you throw stones, you must realize that a large majority of our foster kids have fragile status. Many have medical conditions or compromised immune systems. We have the maximum allowed number of foster children right now but we still got the call from intake asking if we are accepting new placements during this time. Even if we weren’t full we would have said “no”. Two of our kids have cystic fibrosis so we can’t allow any visitors at all to keep them safe. With a lack of options, the kids may not be placed in the home that would be best suited for their needs. More kids may end up in group homes. Even if we would accept a new placement, think about how hard that would be. More food needed, supplies, new clothes. We usually spend a lot of time shopping in the first few weeks of a new child entering our family. Now with most stores closed how would you cope with adding a new person who comes with nothing? Most kids come with nothing. We’ve had kids come in a diaper before and that’s it. With no stores open, how would we get everything we need to outfit a child? What a horrible time to be a child in foster care!
The other group of kids my heart is breaking for are the ones who are now isolated in hell. Their homes are actual hell on earth. Drunk parents, drug addicted parents, parents who aren’t feeding them, parents who aren’t waking up until 2pm, parents who are abusing them emotionally, physically or sexually with no relief that they would normally get from school. They are now trapped. Their parents aren’t posting about the fun baking they did today with the kids or the hikes or the craft time. These kids have no breakfast program. No more caring teacher. No more learning. No fun at all. Pray for these suffering kids. We know they are out there. Stressed out parents can often take out stress on their kids. I can only imagine how much worse things are for some children now than a few weeks ago.
I am an action taker. I can’t handle seeing needs and no one doing anything to help. So I came up with a list of ways we can all help. Here are some practical things you can do to care for those in your neighbourhood.
#1. Pray for foster children and their biological families who are all struggling with separation. If you personally know any of them, encourage them. Some families may need help with a phone card or help paying their phone bill so they can at least talk to their children on the phone during this time.
#2. Think about children you know who are most likely not enjoying this isolation. More than just the crabby teenagers. This is about those kids you know use the breakfast program. Kids you know don’t get proper care from their parents. Leave a gift basket of little things like toys and colouring books for them on the porch.
#3. If you know of someone with a new foster child, offer support. Ask if they have everything they need. This is a time when shopping is hard, so communities need to share. Things like clothing, shoes, outdoor wear, sports equipment, books, bedding, and hygiene products are all needed for new foster kids.
#4. Offer your skills. If you know of families who are struggling in this time, offer what you can. If you bake, offer some fresh baking. If you sew, offer a little home made something. If you are an artist, create little craft packs for kids and leave them on the doorstep. Be creative. Look for those who are probably hiding in the shadows.
#5. Offer help. If you don’t know anyone in your neighbourhood or community who was struggling before this started, I encourage you to call your local shelter, Children’s Aid, Salvation Army, church, street ministry or other organization and ask how they need help.