We work and serve in a very challenging field, and we can’t avoid acknowledging and responding to the vast injustices our foster children have experienced. However, it is far too easy to forget that these children are just children. They tell me, at the end of the day, they want and think about the same things the other kids in the neighborhood think about, the same things their peers worry about, the same things “normal” kids dream for. And while it is true that our foster kids do indeed have additional complicating factors and concerns–supervised visitation with a biological parent, separation from siblings, life away from the home they knew–they often want to be thought of for other things; things that might seem irrelevant and inconsequential to those working with these kids who know the gravity of their whole situation. To illustrate, these kids follow pop culture, they care about what’s “cool,” they have favorite foods, they laugh and joke with friends…and they also happen to be in foster care. The point, though, is they happen to also be in foster care; they aren’t just about foster care.
While I acknowledge the importance of files, paperwork and regulations to ensure things like timely medical and dental care, I also highlight the importance of tending to other factors of normal child development–peer relationships, having hobbies and interests, and making time for play. It also helps to remember that for these children, their situation isn’t always as ghastly as we think or project from the outside. This is the only life they’ve known, and many children go on to demonstrate great resiliency in the face of adversity. Our kids are fun, resourceful, ingenious and unique in personality and character.
So how do we incorporate this “normalness” into our work of caring for these kids?
1. As case workers, clinicians or Social Workers, we care about the little stuff, ‘cause it’s not all trauma.
2. As a Resource Parent, you facilitate the youth’s participation in a sports team, and most importantly, you go to the games.
3. As a Community, we embrace these kids in our neighborhoods just as we would any new family.
4. And as an agency, in partnership with our Community, we continue to coordinate campaigns such as Sponsor a Child around the Holidays– 'cause our kids love Santa too!
Take time to listen to the funny story from school that day, to watch a funny movie together, to coordinate playdates with others families with kids.
Go to the park, read a book, ask about their favorite food – and then make meals together. Care about Social Media, because our kids certainly do. In an effort to protect foster kids from any more hurt, we have to be careful not to create environments that feel imprisoning.
You can help. As you’ve heard me describe, these kids truly are just kids. Opening up your “normal” home to a child in need pays dividends far beyond financial measure. And in those moments, when these “normal” kids act “not so normal”--because they will; they’ve endured more than any person should– the team at Family Care Network will be there to support, guide and assist you through these difficult times, regardless of whether it’s 2pm or 2am. In the end, you will have grown and your foster child will have experienced a reparative event in which trust in the world begins to restore and hurts begin to heal.
While I anticipate that some will read this and think I’ve minimized the experience of our foster kids – those readers will have missed the point. The point is not to forget or to wish away the hurt, the point is to remember that like a porcelain vase with a scratch or crack, the vase is still beautiful. Our children are still children; they are not their trauma.