Notice areas of gifting in hidden places. Finding a child’s gifts can be easier with things like sports, music or academics. However, a lot of kids display gifts that you have to be a little more deliberate to notice and to mention. For example, you might have a child who shows a great deal of compassion to other children around them or a kid that has an engineering mind that loves figuring out how things work. Simply saying things like, “I love how you are kind to people who are having a hard day” or “You always work so hard to figure out how things work. You amaze me!”
Look past behaviors to see bright spots. Tom Lukasik, a former foster parent and long-time foster care advocate with 4KIDS of South Florida encourages foster parents to look for “approximations of good behavior.” So, while a child may not sit perfectly at the dinner table and put their napkin in their lap, you may notice that they did sit down this time without sticking their hand in the food and actually used a fork instead. Praise those things. They don’t always feel like progress but they are!
Create moments that reinforce a child’s gift. Do you have a child that likes to cook? Why not pay them a modest allowance to cook once a week for the family. Does your child love to write stories? It’s never been easier to have things professionally printed and bound. Help her produce a book – even if it is just one copy. Show them that you believe in them.
Lend your connections to kids in care. When we give ourselves to kids in care, we are not only giving them our experiences and our gifts, but also the experiences and gifts of every single person we know. One of the greatest gifts you can give to a youth in foster care is a connection that will help them to achieve their dreams. Many of the people you interact with on a weekly basis do not currently invest any time in foster youth. It’s not that they wouldn’t be willing – they just haven’t been provided a simple enough way to do so. However, when you approach them with an opportunity that comes with a name, great things can happen. Do you know a kid that loves computers? Maybe your programmer friend would be willing to spend a little time with them. What about your teen that has taken an interest in photography? Would your photographer friend allow them to come along on a shoot or two and carry equipment? These exposures to your network could make a huge difference, both for a child and for your friends.