Emergency Shelter Foster Care is just that--an emergency. The name implies that something has happened; something that is putting a child’s safety at risk and the only immediate solution is to move that child into a different home, away from whatever is causing them or triggering their trauma. As you might imagine, being placed in Emergency Shelter Foster Care is very difficult for a child or youth, and the likelihood that they will need a lot of extra hands and support is very high. At FCNI, our Emergency Shelter Care Program is designed to do just that--we provide a lot of support to the parents and children trying to coexist while dealing with very challenging circumstances. Below is a glimpse into this very specialized program as seen through the eyes of a Rehabilitation Specialist (RS), a staff member who has the education and training to provide this specialized support to our Emergency Shelter Care parents and kids.
I want to acknowledge the foster parents I work with on a daily basis. I am a Rehabilitation Specialist providing support to our Emergency Shelter foster parents, and working in their homes every day I see their amazing hearts and passion for what they do, and how much it means to them to nurture foster kids in their homes during times of transition or crises.
Emergency Shelter Care is typically a short-term placement (it could be for one night or sometimes a few months) but one teen girl who I worked with has been with a young family for several months now while a long-term plan is being put together for her. She has blossomed so much since being placed with them. She feels accepted, acknowledged, and always affirmed in their home. Her grades have improved so much; and while I know she has worked very hard, I also think it’s because the foster mom and dad have praised her gradual growth every day and have spent time working on homework with her.
For possibly the first time in her life, this young girl is learning how to be a part of a healthy family, including talking through hard situations. At times she gets frustrated with the two biological kids in the home because they are younger. However, the foster parents have helped her to grow in her assertive communication skills and have shown her that her opinion and emotions matter to them just as much as the other kids’. The parents also make sure to spend individual time with every child in the home. Her foster parents not only provide for her basic needs and have taught her to take care of herself through healthy nutrition and activity, but they truly care about her and spend time talking each morning and evening after school, they enjoy great meals together, and they include every child in the family’s activities. When all of the kids leave for school in the morning, the parents said goodbye and give hugs to each one, and they always let them know that they look forward to seeing them later on in the day. For many kids, this may be the first time they’ve felt so safe. This foster family is quite new to providing foster care, but they are already making a huge difference in their foster children’s lives because they care!
Another foster home I work with is a single foster mom. Although she is a single parent, her house is always full of foster kids. I’m in her home almost every day, and I get to see firsthand how she truly cares about everyone who comes through her front door. Whether it’s a kid, a social worker or an RS, we’re all welcomed in her home. And the kids just love staying in her home. I know this to be true, because they tell me every day. When I go to her home to provide respite for several hours every Saturday so that she can have some time to herself, the kids always talk about how much they love her cooking, her baking, her special meals, hanging out together and her easy going attitude. To them it’s important that they feel like they are in a real home, not a group home or somewhere unwelcoming, and they feel so at home and comfortable with this foster mom. Much of the reason for their feelings of stability exists because this foster parent, while seemingly laid back, actually provides a lot of great structure and is very firm with her limits; without nagging or getting in their space. She expects respect, but she also gives it and treats everyone with care and kindness.
I think what I come back to with Emergency Shelter Care foster parents is that they just care for and respect each individual who comes into their home. They aren’t superheroes (although sometimes we suspect they might be), but they do care very much about kids. They care that every child has a chance to thrive, that they are cared for and nurtured, and that they have an opportunity to succeed in life. So while they may be lacking in actual superpowers, they are just naturally incredible!