May is National Foster Care Month –– a time when we get to celebrate foster parents, a group of caring, committed people who are too often underappreciated! I count myself amongst the very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with foster families since the early 1970s. I certainly appreciate and admire all of the Amazing Families that have served children under the Family Care Network umbrella over the last 32 years. As our organization has grown, I have unfortunately been further and further removed from the day in and day out contact with our foster families.
Tag: National Foster Care Month
I’m sure we’ve all heard a lot of different words to describe foster parents and/or foster parenting. Hopefully phrases such as, “hearts of gold” and “selfless heroes” outnumber the negative and inaccurate sentiments that too often plague this noble and challenging life choice many (but not enough) make.
Sadly, some kids just get dealt a bad hand in life, through no fault of their own. Clay was one of those kids. He first ended up in foster care when his parents were arrested for using and selling drugs. At the time, Clay’s aunt and uncle stepped forward to give five year old Clay a home. But after many years with the family, Clay’s uncle was arrested for domestic violence and his aunt, severely traumatized, could no longer care for Clay. Now 15, Clay was again placed into foster care for his safety.
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.
Every foster parent is different, obviously, and what brings them to this line of care is different too. But, surprisingly, a lot of our parents have one striking similarity. In every story we hear from a foster parent about why they do what they do, there is a similar vein of, “I just wanted to try it, to see if I liked it. And here I am, years later, still doing it; still loving it.” People who foster parent well, don’t really know why or how; they just know that their hearts get called to do it.
Have you ever found yourself with “what if”? We often use the saying “It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack” when searching for Resource Parents (formerly called Foster Parents), and there is good reason for that. Many of you may think we’re on the hunt for loving, kind people who have a hefty dose of patience when we’re recruiting for Resource Parents. Great Resource Parents have virtues in spades, so please don’t get me wrong when I say this, BUT what foster youth really need are adults who can take ACTION.
Hazel* turned eight in foster care. Previously, she had been living with her mother who struggled to keep her safe and provide for her. Caught in a cycle of domestic abuse, Hazel had been exposed to many traumatic instances, all of which left an imprint on her emotionally and developmentally. Before care, she had a lot of difficult behaviors, including being combative with her peers and mistrusting the adults in her life.
One Friday in 1957, just before school was out for the year, my Mom scooped my sister and me up from school unexpectedly. Our Dodge Sierra station wagon--you know the kind with the small fins and turquoise panels--was packed full of stuff; lots of stuff. She said we were off on an adventure; wow, this sounded exciting!
One of the most frequent concerns I hear from parents who are considering foster care or adoption is, “Will it be too hard on my kids?” There is certainly a fear of the unknown of how bringing a foster or adopted child into your lives will impact your current family. It is safe to say that adding a new family member to any family will change its current dynamics. This change is true if you add a new biological sibling, have a grandparent move in, remarry after divorce, or open your home to a foster or adoptive child.
Families are not static; they change frequently regardless of how much we wish we could keep them the same.
Many of us have a desire to open our lives to children in need of love and safety. It’s fun to dream of throwing open your front door to welcome an adorable foster child into the home. But becoming a Resource Parent is actually an intensive process that requires background checks, training, references, a home inspection, and what seems like an endless stack of paperwork. There are a lot of hoops to jump through before a child ends up on your doorstep. For many applicants, the most intimidating aspect of becoming a Resource Parent is the dreaded home study-- a comprehensive, written evaluation of the applicant’s strengths and issues. I know firsthand the scrutiny of inviting a stranger into my home to write about my life. Before I started writing home studies as a Social Worker, I was a foster parent! I’ve undergone five (FIVE!) home studies as a foster and adoptive parent in Indiana and California.