What Foster Parents Wished Other People Knew!

Posted: March 22, 2013 in Foster Care Journey, Parenting

I really liked this article I found but it was really long so here is my condensed version of it… You can read the full version here!

  1. We’re not Freakin’ Saints.  We love kids and there is a need so we met it. Thinking or saying we are saints implies that ordinary people cant do this… Honestly the world needs more ordinary, human foster parents. This also stinks because if people think we are saints then we can’t be jerks or humans that need help and thats bad… because sometimes this is hard!
  2. Watch what you say around the kids! I have been stunned by the things people will ask with children around, from “Oh, is their Mom an addict?” or “Well, they aren’t your REAL kids are they” or “Are you going to adopt them?” or worse.  No one likes someone speculating about their families whom they love, or their future… the kids are hurt by it too.
  3. Don’t act surprised that they are nice, smart, loving, well-behaved kids. One of the implied assumptions are that foster kids are flawed, damaged, horrible kids. While many kids in foster have endured a lot of trauma, and sometimes that does come with behavioral challenges, but many of the brightest, nicest, best behaved, kindest and most loving children I’ve ever met are foster kids.
  4. Don’t hate on their parents.  Nobody chooses to be born mentally ill.  No one gets addicted to drugs on purpose.  Nobody chooses to be born developmentally delayed, to never have lived in a stable family so you don’t know how to replicate it. Abusive and neglectful parents often love their kids and do the best they can, and a lot of them CAN do better if they get help and support, which is what part of this is about. Birth and Foster parents often work really hard to have positive relationships with each other, so it doesn’t help to have people speculating about them.
  5.  The kids aren’t grateful to us, and it is nuts to expect them to be, or to feel lucky that they are with us.  They were taken from everything they knew and had to give up parents, siblings, pets, extended family, neighborhood, toys, everything that was normal to them.  No one asked them whether they wanted to come into care. Don’t assume that moving into our home is happily-ever-after for them.  Don’t tell them how lucky they are or how they should feel. There feelings are very complex and confused…
  6. No, we’re not making any money on it.  We don’t get paid – we get a portion of the child’s expenses reimbursed, and that money is only for the child and does NOT cover everything. I get about 56 cents an hour reimbursed. Saying this in front of the kids also REALLY hurts them. They think they are nothing more than a cash cow, which is far from the truth.
  7.  When you say “I could never do that” as in it would hurt you to much… assuming we have stronger hearts or that we are heartless because we can give the kids back. (This one is huge for my wife!) Letting kids go IS really hard, but someone has to do it. Not all kids in care come from irredeemable families.  Not everyone in a birth family is bad – in fact, many kin and parents are heroic, making unimaginable sacrifices to get their families back together through impossible odds.  Yes, it is hard to let kids we love go, and yes, we love them, and yes, it hurts like hell, but the reality is that because something is hard doesn’t make it bad, and you aren’t heartless if you can endure pain for the greater good of your children. You are just a regular old parent when you put your children’s interests ahead of your own.
  8.  No, they aren’t ours yet.  And they won’t be on Thursday either, or next Friday, or the week after.  Foster care adoption TAKES A LONG TIME.  For the first year MINIMUM the goal is always for kids to return to their parents.  It can take even longer than that. Even if we hope to adopt, things could change, and it is just like any long journey – it isn’t helpful to ask “Are we there yet” every five minutes.
  9.  Most kids will go home or to family, rather than being adopted.    Most foster cases don’t go to adoption.  Not every foster parent wants to adopt.  Not every kid wants to be adopted. Some foster families want to adopt… but that is not usually an option. The goal of foster care is to aid birth parents or extended families so that they can get back up on their feet and get their kids back!
  10.  If we’re struggling – and all of us struggle sometimes – it isn’t helpful to say we should just “give them back” or remind us we brought it on ourselves.  ALL parents pretty much brought their situation on themselves whether they give birth or foster, but once you are a parent, you deal with what you’ve got no matter what. “I told you so” is never helpful.  This is especially true when the kids have disabilities or when they go home.  Yes, we knew that could/would happen.  That doesn’t make it any easier.
  11.  Foster kids are not “fake kids,” and we’re not babysitters – they are all my “REAL kids.”  Some of them may stay forever.  Some of them may go and come back.  Some of them may leave and we’ll never see them again.  But that’s life, isn’t it?  Sometimes people in YOUR life go away, too, and they don’t stop being an important part of your life or being loved and missed.  How they come into my family or for how long is not the point.  While they are here they are my children’s REAL brothers and sisters, my REAL sons and daughters.  We love them entirely, treat them the way we do all our kids, and never, ever forget them when they leave.   Don’t pretend the kids were never here.  Let foster parents talk about the kids they miss.  Don’t assume that kids are interchangeable – one baby is not the same as the next, and just because there will be more kids later doesn’t make it any easier now.
  12. 12. Fostering is HARD.  Take how hard you think it will be and multiply it by 10, and you are beginning to get the idea. Exhausting, gutwrenching and stressful as heck.  That said, it is also AMAZING and mostly utterly worth it.  It is like Tom Hanks’ character in _League of Their Own_ says about baseball: “It is supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it.  The hard is what makes it great.”
  13.  You don’t have to be a foster parent to HELP support kids and families in crisis.  If you want to foster, GREAT – the world needs more foster families! Contact me if you want to know more about becoming a foster parent… it is tough but it is AWESOME! But we also need OTHER kinds of help.

You can:

- . Treat foster parents with a new placement the way you would a family that had a baby– it is JUST as exhausting and stressful.  If you can offer to cook dinner, help out with the other kids, or lend a hand in some way, it would be most welcome.

- . Offer up your children’s outgrown stuff to pass on – foster parents who do short-term fostering send a lot of stuff home with the kids, and often could use more.  Alternatively, many communities have a foster care closet or donation center that would be grateful for your pass-downs in good condition.

- . Be an honorary grandparent, aunt or uncle.  Kids need as many people in their lives as possible, and relationships that say “you are special.”

- . Become a respite provider, taking foster children for a week or a weekend so their parents can go away or take a break.

- . Offer to babysit.  Foster parents have lives, plus they have to go to meetings and trainings, and could definitely use the help.

- . Be a big brother, sister or mentor to older foster kids.  Preteens and Teens need help imagining a future for themselves – be that help.

- . Be an extra pair of hands when foster families go somewhere challenging - offer to come along to the amusement park, to church, to the playground.  A big family or one with special needs may really appreciate just an extra adult or a mother’s helper along.

- . Support local anti-poverty programs with your time and money.  These are the resources that will hopefully keep my kids fed and safe in their communities when they go home.

- . If you’ve got extra, someone else can probably use it.   Lots of foster families don’t have a lot of spare money for activities – offering your old hockey equipment or the use of your swim membership  is a wonderful gift.

- . Make programs for kids friendly to kids with disabilities and challenges.  You may not have thought about how hard it is to bring a disabled or behaviorally challenged kid to Sunday school, the pool, the local kids movie night – but think about it now, and encourage inclusion.

- . Teach your children from the beginning to be welcoming, inclusive, kind and non-judgemental,  Teach them the value of having friends from different neighborhoods, communities, cultures, races and levels of ability.  Make it clear that bullying, unkindness and exclusion are NEVER EVER ok.

- . Welcome foster parents and their family into your community warmly, and ASK them what they need, and what you can do.

- . Reach out to families in your community that are struggling – maybe you can help so that the children don’t ever have to come into foster care, or to make it easier if they do.  Some families really need a ride, a sitter, some emotional support, some connection to local resources.  Lack of community ties is a HUGE risk factor for children coming into care, so make the attempt.

I didn’t write this I just shortened it… you can read the full article here:

http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2013/03/12/what-foster-parents-wish-other-people-knew/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s