May is National Foster Care month, When I first became certified as a foster parent, I felt there was a negative stigma associated with foster parents and foster kids. There was regular press coverage about foster kids living in horrific situations with foster parents who loaded their houses up with kids so they could get more money. In some states, Social Workers didn’t visit homes for years because they could only respond to emergencies they knew about. I remember feeling so discouraged when another negative article would come out, because I felt that no one was telling the stories about the thousands of good, loving foster parents.
Tag: National Foster Care Month
“Foster Care” has come a long way over the past couple of centuries and is yet experiencing another significant transformation. Foster care in the USA has its origins in English Poor Law, which basically allowed an abandoned or orphaned child to be forced into indentured servitude until they became of age. Kids basically became slaves for the individuals housing them. The argument in favor of this practice was that this arrangement provided children with the “basic skills they needed to survive in life.” America’s first foster child was Benjamin Eaton, age 7, in the Jamestown Colony.
Over the course of the past month, I have given extra thought to the concepts and reality of “foster care”, primarily because May is National Foster Care month. As I thought about “what” foster care really is and includes, I quickly became overwhelmed. Broken down into small parts such as foster children, foster parents, Foster Family Agency, social worker, therapist, Community Care Licensing, etc. and “foster care” can be understood and managed in my small mind. However, “foster care” in its entirety is a complex and complicated system. As I struggled with the question of “What is foster care, really?” my simple mind would soon turn to thoughts of Disneyland. Now, those of you who have been or are currently in foster care or may have a daily connection to “foster care”, are probably thinking: “This guy has lost all connection to reality,” because foster care and Disneyland may seem like complete opposites.
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.
Over the past 26 years that I have been a part of the Family Care Network’s Circle of Serving as a Resource Parent, I have gotten to know many, many other Resource Parents. Before I learned about the diversity of kids needing foster care I had a picture in my mind of what a foster child looks like and what a foster family looked like. My picture included infants or toddlers needing families composed of young couples with or without their own kids. Back when I started foster parenting in 1990, I was surprised to learn that there were teens in need of homes and that Resource Parents came in all ages, and were both couples or singles. After all these years, I can truly say that there is no standard demographic for a Resource Parent.
For the better part of five decades, I have worked with Foster Parents (now re-branded as Resource Parents). This group of extraordinary, unique individuals have certainly left an indelible, positive imprint on my life. I am not sure I have the skills to craft an appropriate expression of gratitude I have for those who have turned their homes and lives into sanctuaries, hospitals, safe havens, classrooms and sometimes even battlefields for our children and youth (and not without costs)... but here I go.
There are parents, and then there are Parents. There are plenty of folks who do an outstanding job of nurturing, protecting and guiding their children to become healthy, successful adults. For these people, excellent parenting is a high priority in their constellation of life consuming activities. But, then there are those unique individuals where parenting is not just an important responsibility, but rather, it is their Vocation.
It’s a new month…and it’s not just any ol’ month—it’s May! At Family Care Network, May is one of our favorite months. Why? Because every day in May (all 31 one of ‘em) we get to two celebrate two important National Awareness Campaigns—National Foster Care and National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. You may think that these two campaigns really have very little to do with each other. But guess what? You’d be wrong. Because this May, FCNI is hosting its 12th Annual Miracle Miles for Kids 10K Walk/Run.
Americans love to celebrate stuff; special months, special days, special events, special causes, holidays… just about anything can be and is celebrated. This is good; celebration heartens the sole. So, can I invite you to celebrate with me an invisible class of amazing people; a group of selfless, hard-working, passionate folks who are not really on our radar screens, surely not the medias’; individuals who make life-changing impact every day in the lives of hundreds of children–Foster Parents!
May is National Foster Care Month and our Foster Parents deserve great appreciation – they do an amazing, mostly unrecognized and unrewarded job. There aren’t too many folks willing to open up their home to a complete stranger who has been traumatized, who may have serious mental and/or emotional needs, or who presents some very challenging, difficult to manage behaviors. However, thankfully thousands of families still decide to foster parent with incredible results. And we should all be very thankful that they do.