Foster parents are an important and integral member of the child’s team. Their list of responsibilities is endless and ever changing. Their primary responsibilities are ensuring the health, wellness, and safety of children who are entrusted to their care.

Is fostering children and youth easy? No! Can fostering be a rewarding experience? Absolutely! Can you, as a social worker, make a difference in the lives of foster parents? Yes! Your role is to ensure that foster parents have the skills, resources, trainings, and supports that will empower them to thrive.

Let’s explore some specific small things that you can do that can result in big differences in the lives of foster parents:

  • Be Available and Responsive: Open communication is essential and vital for everyone involved. Foster parents are aware of your busy schedules; however, their schedules are busy as well. Returning voicemail or email messages in a timely manner will let your foster parents know that providing answers to their questions is an important priority. This will also create a trusting and mutually respectful relationship.

“We trusted the workers who showed up when and where they said they would; we appreciated when we received timely responses to our voicemails and e-mails and when our workers were available at off hours to accommodate our schedules; we appreciated that if someone didn’t know an answer, they told us where we could find it or when they would get back to us with an answer (and they did!).”
--Licensed foster parent

  • Teamwork: As valuable members of a child’s care team, it is important that foster parents feel connected to everyone else on the child’s team. Knowing that they have a voice at the table creates an empowering and affirming connection to all involved.
  • Offer Support and Feedback: Look for opportunities to provide foster parents with helpful feedback and praise. Thanking them for “going above and beyond” can go a long way toward validating our aforementioned point--that foster parenting is challenging but rewarding work.

  • Be Resourceful: Provide assistance to foster parents on how they can navigate a complex child welfare system. Start by asking foster parents open-ended questions such as, “What are some of the obstacles or challenges that you are facing?”, “What resources have been helpful for the children in your care?”, or, “What are your unmet needs?” After hearing what they have to share, follow up with, “What can I/we do to help you access the resources that you need?”

Beyond these everyday little things, you might also c onsider crafting a personalized card and mailing it to your foster parents to honor and recognize their months, years, or decades of fostering. Going to the mailbox often results in sifting through bills and junk mail. Imagine how exciting and empowering it would be for a foster parent to open up a card thanking them for welcoming a sibling group of three at three in the morning. Or a "thinking of your card" after a child has been successfully reunited with their birth family, a time of both celebration and loss for foster families.

All of these random acts of kindness will certainly be well received and appreciated by foster parents. Consciously pausing, reflecting, and sharing your thoughts and feelings with your foster parents is more of a "big thing" after all!