My husband and I began our journey as foster care parents in 1998. At first, it was more curiosity than anything; 15 years later I now know that it is a calling. Foster care is challenging, frustrating, and sometimes heart breaking and yet it is the one of the most rewarding experiences a person could ever have. Care can be in many different facets; from respite care to adoption and many stages in between. We choose to pursue long-term care because we want to make a difference in a child’s life. We want to give them a safe home, people they can count on (eventually) and create normalcy in the lives. This is not to say that others that do emergency care are not as important, we just feel that this is where we fit into the puzzle. We have one biological child, one adopted through the foster care system, a long-term placement (who did not want to be adopted) who is currently in college, and another long-term placement in high-school.
Foster care is challenging, frustrating, and sometimes heart breaking and yet it is the one of the most rewarding experiences a person could ever have.
Children in foster care are unlike biological children who grow up knowing they are loved unconditionally and that no matter what the circumstance that is presented, you as their parents will always be there for them. Survival is what kicks in for these kids; they learn only to depend on themselves and to trust no one. This in itself can be very challenging when a child is placed in your home. Every adult in their young lives have either mistreated them in some way or let them down.
By the time the child has arrived in your home, they have a hard shell that only unconditional love, patience, and time can eventually soften.
As parents, we try to always be there for the child whether it is a sporting event or when a biological family member has let them down for the hundredth time. Sometimes this is difficult with schedules since we both work outside the home, but it is imperative. There are things that we do to help make the placement a success; eat dinner together (5 out of 7 nights), include them in plans particularly vacation plans. Nothing says more to a child then when they go to “respite” while the “family” goes on vacation. Once they are in your home they should be treated as part of the family. They should be afforded every privilege and pleasure as your biological child would receive. We use humor and lots of it; of course it must be appropriate. It is hard to be angry when you’re smiling! Be genuine, kids know when you are not. NEVER promise anything you cannot deliver, if you do not follow through you become another person who has let them down. We try to separate school and home as much as possible. If the child has been punished at school we do not give a consequence for the same action. We need our home to be one that is safe for everything including talking about the teacher/school. Now this is not to say that school is off-limits because you need to be involved in their education. I typically receive at least 2 e-mails a day from teachers and or support systems regarding my kids. From my experience education is the last thing on their minds; they must first feel safe, nourished, loved, and protected before they can work on other things like school, peer relationships, and even cooperation.
One of the things we had to concur is: “it” is not about us.
Whatever the problem and/or situation that arise it is not ours and it is not about us.
Each child will come with their own entourage of people including, a DCF social worker, Waterford Country School social worker, therapist, dentist, physician, often psychologist, orthodontist, bio-family, and now your family. It can get pretty complicated. Use your resources, that’s what they are for, be a part of the TEAM – it is the child’s well-being at stake. From our experience each child is very different, they have experienced different types of abuse/neglect and respond/react in different ways to stimuli.
Rob & Shana