Become the “Dream Foster Parent” Your Worker Has Been Looking For

By August 29, 2019 Blog

It’s so easy to have selfish thoughts and act upon those, but that is not what God has called us to. He has called us to love others well, no matter who they are or where our lives intersect with theirs.

Many people jump into foster care because they want to love on kids (which is awesome!). There is no shame here in choosing to open your home to a child who needs a safe place to land for a day, a month, years, or forever.

But there are so many other people involved in the foster care community. Surrounding every child we love on, there are adults. Can I throw something out there? These adults could use our care, compassion, and love, too.

Let me introduce you to some of those adults. A shortlist includes the child’s parents, extended family, child welfare workers, therapists, a judge, attorneys, and community workers.

Each of those adults are facing daily battles, juggling many balls, and are just as tired and frustrated with the system as you are at times. It is so important first to seek to understand others’ roles in our child’s foster care journey. When we see through others’ eyes, we get a glimpse of their heart to care for families and what their day looks like. For many of them, it’s utter chaos, especially for child welfare workers.

I’ve connected with many child welfare workers as I’ve served in the foster care world. I even interned at a foster care agency two different times. Ya’ll their jobs are stinking HARD!

They start the day waking up, taking care of their own family. They get their family ready for the day ahead, do their morning routines, get everyone out the door, and then they are off to their crazy day themselves.

On the way into the office or once they arrive, they turn on their agency cell phone and hear ding, after ding, after ding (x50) as clients have been texting, emailing, calling, and leaving voicemails for them since they turned it off the night before. Can you imagine the anxiety that can cause? If I were in their shoes, all I’d hear is a constant, “I need you!”

They start replying to emails, texts, and phone calls:

  • Appointments have been canceled and rescheduled. They take the time to move things around on their calendar to make everything fit for the rest of the week.
  • A parent has relapsed and been arrested. They need to meet with this parent to discuss next steps.
  • A child is sick and can’t make their scheduled visit with Mom. The worker calls the foster parent to learn more about the illness and discuss other plans to reschedule the visit. Many times workers’ schedules don’t allow for rescheduling visits. They are just too overloaded.

How do we care for our child welfare workers as foster parents? We know their jobs are tough, and yet someone has to do what they are doing. Is there anything we CAN do as foster parents to make their role just a little easier.

Here are 6 ways you can support your worker:

1. Connect with your worker via their preferred source of communication.

Ask your worker what their preference is. Not every conversation needs to be via phone call or email. Some workers prefer texting, as they are able to check their text messages more often than voicemails and emails. Texts can make it easier to respond quickly, especially if it’s a small question or check-in!

2. Prepare a visit bag for your child.

This is a simple and practical way to support your worker. Include everything your child needs for the visit and car ride. A visit bag could include toys, books, diapers, wipes, a blanket, snacks, and a sippy cup. Child welfare workers’ schedules are hectic, and they may not have time or the resources to grab any of these things.

Yes, it will take you a few minutes of your time to prepare it, and it may even cost you a little extra to purchase these items if you don’t already have them, but it can make all the difference. When you provide this resource for them, it’s one less thing they need to think about. When your child needs a comfort item after a visit, they can quickly grab it and give it to them.

3. Believe the best.

It’s so easy for us to get annoyed and frustrated when our worker’s communication is lacking. When you do not hear back from your worker right way, do not assume she is doing something wrong or not “working hard.” It’s doubtful your worker is being lazy and that’s the reason she hasn’t returned your phone call. Workers are super BUSY. Give her the benefit of the doubt.

If you don’t hear back, reach out again and say you’re following up on your last message. Continue to communicate with grace and respect even in the most trying situations so that even if your relationship with your worker isn’t what you’d like it to be, you can know that you are trying, and hopefully, they will see something different in you.

4. Encourage them.

We all perform better when we are appreciated and encouraged. Let your worker know what you appreciate about him. It’s okay to keep it simple. Even letting him know how much you appreciated that he returned your phone call the same day is huge. Positive experiences build positive relationships. When he feels appreciated by you, he’s more likely to reciprocate.

5. Be a cheerleader.

If you see a biological parent or someone who is not her biggest fan talking down to her or saying hurtful comments, send her a quick personal message to let her know how you appreciate her and are thankful for the work she is doing on behalf of children and families.

Child welfare workers most often choose this role because they want to help and support families, but with that comes really hard relationships. Let her know you’re in her corner and cheering her on to succeed.

6. Get to know your worker on a personal level.

Workers do have boundaries, and few will jump into your foster parent/worker relationship as a best friend. However, if you intentionally, yet casually, try to care for him as a person, loved by Jesus, not just your worker, it will go a long way.

If he has mentioned he was sick last week, follow-up on that! How is he feeling?

Find out how long he has been in child welfare. You can even ask him about his heart for this role. Why did he choose to be a child welfare worker? This also helps your worker to remember his “why.” We all need this reminder in the midst of dealing with hurting people and a broken system.

What have you done to support your worker in her role? Share with us!

Want more insight into the role of a child welfare worker?

Check out these episodes of the Forgotten Podcast as you continue to grow in grace and compassion for these adults who care for your child too:

Jillian Kellenberger

Jillian has a passion for reaching out and loving others. She began serving with TFI in college after learning more about the foster care community. Jillian is passionate about seeing the Church mobilized to serve and step into the lives of those affected by foster care. As a new foster mom, she is currently relying on donuts, coffee, and JESUS!

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