By Jason Johnson
The first step to starting a foster ministry is to communicate with and connect to those who are already fostering. By doing so, you’ll be able to offer support and practical insights to those serving on the front lines of foster care ministry.
Next, you’ll need to find what guided group resources are available. Resources keep the group focused and can open doors to deeper, beneficial conversations. Resources are like guard rails; Without them, foster family support groups tend to either become gripe sessions or therapy sessions.
Providing a ministry for foster families means creating helpful and healthy places where foster families can go to talk about what’s going on in their lives in a safe, yet productive, way. One resource I’ve developed is Reframing Foster Care. This book has group discussion questions that can ignite healthy and helpful conversations for foster parents.
At the end of each meeting, foster parents should be able to leave encouraged, with renewed perspectives and feeling empowerered.
Here are four key elements of support your ministry should provide:
- Tangible—Foster parents have real, physical needs. It might be for childcare or clothing, for meals or help with laundry. Meeting those needs within your ministry is crucial to the health of the families you’re serving and to the ministry itself.
- Relational—Foster families need to be with people who “get” them. They need to think, “These are my people, and I don’t have to explain myself too much to them. They understand who I am, what I’m doing and what I’m going through.”
- Educational—There are issues of trauma and trauma-informed care that go with parenting kids from hard places. In terms of trauma, much of what children in foster care need goes beyond the initial training foster parents receive. Foster families need experts to guide them and to help them understand what’s going on with their kids. Providing that education greatly serves the families in your ministry.
- Spiritual: These families are on an incredible journey. They’re discovering who God is in a new and unique way. Your group can remind them of the hope of the gospel and affirm each struggle is not without purpose. Offer to pray for each family in your ministry and ask how else you can support them.
Working with other agencies may allow families to receive continuing education credits for attending your group. That is a huge incentive for families because they need to receive ongoing training hours to maintain certification.
Last, but certainly not least, frequency of the gatherings is important, too. Though meeting weekly is hard for most people, once every other month is too long. Find a good pace, and stick to it.
Foster parents experience an array of emotions few can relate to. Their journeys are equal parts beauty and brokenness, joy and heartache, excitement and exhaustion. There is no textbook on how to be a foster parent, no formula, no simple three-step guide. But there is hope in God’s ability to bring beauty out of brokenness. Your support group is one way hope of the gospel is shared to foster families in your community.