This time of year, families are usually registering for summer camps and checking community activity calendars with great excitement, looking forward to the Summer months ahead. This year, the impact of COVID-19 means Summer will look different. As families continue making the necessary adjustments there are still many opportunities to creatively engage kids in ways that bring joy and fun. Below are some suggestions that will keep kids busy, create happy memories and build strong connections, all of which are vital in developing healthy, resilient families.
Porch drop offs: Kids love surprise gifts! Porch drop offs can be a great way to bring the fun and a change of pace. Create a bag of items like coloring sheets or puzzle books, sensory objects, water toys, summer treats and an age-appropriate craft project. Consider porch swapping puzzles, games and toys between households as you feel comfortable.
Cupcake Wars: Have one or more families set up a place where kids can get messy and host a virtual baking party. Drop off vanilla frosting, decorating supplies and cupcake batter. Have each kid use two ingredients from the pantry to create personalized flavors. (For younger kids, pre-make different flavors of cupcakes and frosting.) Let kids be as creative as their hearts’ desire with fondant, candy toppings, melted chocolate, cookies, and piping bags full of fun colors. Designate a judge to determine the winner of the decorating competition, have kids share about their personalized flavors, and enjoy the yummy results together.
After their son, Brooks, was born, Bradley and Deanna battled secondary infertility, struggling with inherent grief and loss. After weighing the options, foster care seemed like the right option for their family. The Hamiltons knew there were kids in the community who needed the love and care of a family. One of Deanna’s best friends, Charissa, was a foster parent, so the Hamiltons understood the possibility for more loss and grief and decided caring for a child was worth the risk.
Soon after signing up for Project 1.27 training, Hamilton's friend and tenant, Ingrid, shared that she would be providing kinship care for a baby girl. When Ingrid struggled with finding appropriate childcare, Deanna volunteered and the family developed a close, loving relationship with little Poppy. Five months later, when the Hamilton’s were certified, Poppy was officially placed in their home. During those five months, Deanna and Bradley got to know some of Poppy’s biological family who agreed the Hamilton’s would be a great adoptive family for Poppy.
As foster parents, Deanna and Bradley came to understand the layers of beauty in foster care and developed a personal understanding of how beautiful reunification can be. Unfortunately, for Poppy, this could not be done safely. Deanna shared that Poppy’s mom continues to be at the forefront of her prayers.
Project 1.27 staff talked to three churches about how they are supporting families in crisis. Thank you to Denver United Church, The Rock Church in Castle Rock and Colorado Community Church in Aurora for sharing these ideas.
A Meal Train
Churches in the area are organizing meals for families in need. Some churches provide funds for groceries, others offer to make the meals. The meals are gathered and volunteers distribute the meals to families on designated days.
Collaborate as a congregation and create small care packages to send families during this crisis. This is a simple but powerful way to get the congregation involved and show love for families.
Emergency Food Pantries
While churches remain closed on Sunday mornings, the building and people resources are still available. Ask the congregation to drive by and drop off pantry donations which other volunteers can organize for distribution. Then invite families in the community to drive by while volunteers load trunks with food and essentials
Zoom Support Groups
Zoom provides the gift of staying connected during isolation. Offer a variety of zoom gatherings and support groups throughout the week to support families. Churches are able to tailor the content to address the various needs of the community and congregation.
This is a great way to offer encouragement and support.
Personal Follow Up
While there are many things churches can do in this crisis, sometimes there is nothing better than a good old-fashioned phone call or hand written note.
Here are some additional ideas shared by Denver United Church >
During Support Team Training, you may recall learning about the many traumas foster children experience and the resulting impact of grief and loss. As children go through the process of resolving their experiences, it is not uncommon for a new traumatic event like the fallout of COVID-19 to re-start the cycle. Foster parents work tremendously hard to create a sense of stability and safety, which for many kids was upended overnight by this pandemic. In a time where children are being asked to shoulder many changes and uncertainties in their daily routine, psychological and emotional distress may resurface. Below is a refresher on each stage of grief, how this global crisis may be affecting a child impacted by foster care, and some helpful tips on how to walk alongside a foster child navigating new losses.
Denial: It can be difficult to help children understand what is going during this pandemic. Children may feel that this viral threat does not affect them and they can still have visits with family, play dates with friends, and continue going to school. Since things changed so dramatically over spring break, children may have thought of the first weeks as an extended vacation and expected to quickly return to normal.
Most often, kinship care involves a child being placed with a relative – grandma, auntie, uncle or cousin – but sometimes a friend, coach, coworker, teacher or neighbor who has established a relationship with the child is asked to step up. Unlike foster parents, kinship providers welcome a child with little notice, little preparation, little support and a host of complex relationships to navigate. That’s why Project 1.27’s Kinship Care program in Mesa County is so important.
Foster care and adoption is a rewarding journey that requires a lot of planning and energy to manage day-to-day needs. Families are doing everything from managing appointments, school activities, and therapies to family commitments, crisis management and re-certification requirements. It can be difficult to find a moment to pause and rest, especially when rest matters the most.
Be socially (media) active
Use your social media networks: share Project 1.27’s posts on Facebook and Instagram, tweet about 40 Hands in Forty Days, and share your love for children in foster care. Become a Forty Days Champion. Everyone loves a champion, including us! Make a commitment to connect with friends, family members and colleagues between March 2 and April 10, encouraging them to donate like you! Every donation of any amount puts life into our mission! Forty Days Champions like you help drive people to our 40 Hands in Forty Days profile, people who might not yet know about the need for great Christian foster and adoptive families. Here’s an image to share to get your friends involved.
Host a Party
Become a Forty Days Champion by gathering family, friends and coworkers between March 2 and Party with a Purpose. You chose the day, time and place. You chose the giving goal. Project 1.27 provides invitation templates, a simple party-planning guide and staff to support you at the party. Here’s a link to get you started.
When you donate, you are supporting better outcomes for kids in foster care and inspiring others to get involved. Donations help Project 1.27 move up on the list of Forty Hands in Forty Days organizations. This makes our cause more visible to everyone who comes to the Forty Hands in Forty Days website. This campaign is being promoted on tv and radio stations, promoting Project 1.27’s mission all across Colorado. Here’s a link to make a donation. (Donations must be made between March 2 and April 10).
Once a child is placed with a foster or adoptive family, he still faces many challenges in recovering from trauma and walking through the grief related to being separated from family. After stepping forward, most foster and adoptive parents discover caring for a child from foster care is hard, pain-filled, sometimes miserable work. But it’s also beautiful, redemptive and grace-filled. Celebrate those good days and be patient in the hard seasons.
Be patient with kids
Children from foster care need time to adjust. Moving from a home where there was neglect and abuse is very difficult. Trying to learn how to be part of a new family is hard. Allow time for the child to adjust during this transition AND future transitions. When a child has experienced multiple traumas, this trauma is expressed in behaviors, emotions and unexpected responses. Parent through a trauma- informed lens and keep learning as much about trauma as you can. Don’t hold back on your love during these transitions. It may break your heart, but do it anyway. Your love does make a difference.
When it comes to processing complex emotions as a result of trauma, children do not have the same ability to identify and articulate the things that are bothering them. As a result, it is common for foster children to exhibit the pain of their trauma through behavioral outbursts. Adults in a parenting or mentorship role to the child can play a strong role in helping the child understand their emotions and teach them how to express powerful emotions effectively. One of the greatest ways to build this connection is through play. Below are some suggestions on how to use play to unlock emotions and thoughts that a foster child might be struggling with.
This February we encourage churches to take an opportunity to show love towards adoptive parents, grandparents, foster parents or any caregiver within your congregation by hosting a Kids’ Night Out. Show your love by providing caregivers a worry-free night out with a spouse or significant other while the kids are having a safe, fun-filled night at the church. Being a caregiver, especially of kids who’ve experienced trauma, can be a difficult job. Here are some steps to consider when planning.