Hey Foster Parents…5 Simple Things That you NEED to Remember

May 14, 2010 at 1:49 am 41 comments

Whether you are new foster parents or have been doing it for years, here are 5 things that you NEED to remember about us… not in any particular order, as they are ALL important…

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1) I am a child. No matter how much I yell, act-out, hit you, spit at you, destroy things, and tell you I hate you….I am a child and god knows, I have been hurt.   Step back before you say something or do something you will regret.  Be creative in your use of “punishment” and never hit us or devalue us. You see, that is exactly what we want you to do…to prove you are just another person we can’t trust.

Also, remember things that may be normal for you or other children, may be scary for us..night-time, baths, closed doors, loud noises, cigarettes, changing clothes, sitting on laps, certain foods,  etc..

The best foster parents I ever had used creative methods to work with me.  For example: I used to steal food and hide it all over my room and under the bed.  Some of it would rot.  When my foster mom discovered my behavior, she did not “punish” or “take away my behavior” — she gave me a food drawer to put whatever I wanted in it.  It was mine.  It wasn’t about eating everything, it was about the safety of knowing there was food there when I needed it…makes sense for a kid who grew up without enough to eat.   Every couple of days, my foster mom would sit down with me and go through the food drawer and together we decided if food needed to be removed (like browning bananas).

Another example, everytime I acted out and told them to goto hell and that I hated them, they forced me to do something with them.  Oh god….talk about family moments.  If I told them to fuck off and die,  I was raking leaves with them.  If I told them to burn in hell and threw something at them, I was  helping cook dinner.  You see, they forced me to be included when god knows I wanted no-one to like me.  If they had sent me to my room I would have been alone…like I always was…they changed the dynamics creatively.  See?

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2) Please remember birthdays. I came from a bio-home where no remembered my birthday or any holiday.  Birthdays are important to kids.  Even if you don’t have alot of money, please try and do something special.   It is a special day for kids and makes them feel special.  Do you have any idea what it is like to know it’s your birthday but no-one remembers or cares?  Can you imagine what it is like going to school where all the other kids bring in cupcakes or cookies or brownies on their birthdays, but you don’t?

The first birthday cake I ever had was in foster care.   It was lopsided, filled with fingerprints, and well, kind of ugly, but it was the best tasting cake I ever had…because the other kids made it for my “special day” — my birthday.  I seriously hope none of those kids became pastry chefs–LOL–but at that moment,  I was beside my little kid self with joy…my first birthday cake…Thanks to them….

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3) Please don’t be afraid to talk about  bio-parents IF WE WANT TO.  They are part of our lives, no matter how terrible they were.  When you are a little kid, you simply can not comprehend what is really happening.  I shook my head yes, but I did not understand.  How can you?  It is not normal to be in foster care — NOT NORMAL.  My bio-parents were bad people..read the rest of the blogs and I am sure you will agree.  But, you know what?… I wanted my bio-mom.  I wanted to see her.  I wanted to go home to her.   And I needed some closure as I got older…

If we bring it up, it is because we need to PROCESS something.  We are NOT trying to make you feel bad, we are NOT trying to hurt you... we are trying to understand what is going on in OUR lives.  It is not about you, it is about us.

Early on, I had one foster home who would never answer any questions.  All I wanted to do was get some closure in a kid’s mind.  Instead I got “they are gone LT” or “they don’t matter anymore LT” —- what?  Of course they matter!  They created me, hurt me, and then ruined my life…..how can that NOT matter?

Be empathetic, be understanding, and be willing to tell the truth on their level.  The best foster parents I had, did just that and explained things over and over and over again.   They let me ask questions and were not afraid to tell the truth.

Remember to also tell your foster kids or foster-to-adopt kids that  it is NOT their fault and they are NOT bad kids…  Deep inside we all feel that…no matter what happened.  We were the ones taken away….it makes us feel like it is our fault and that we are bad.  See? I need to hear it to this day because I blame myself for everything — irregardless of what happened.  I made my father do it, I made my mother go away, I was bad, I was taken into foster care, see?  Self-blame…..  stop that.   Tell your foster kids that NOTHING WAS THERE FAULT and they are NOT BAD KIDS.

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4) Celebrate little things. One of my foster homes used a point system and rewards.  Initially I was constantly in negative points for acting out, getting bad grades, not doing chores, etc., etc.  However, once I settled into the home I managed to make it where I had positive points.  Although I had not made it to “reward level” we still celebrated because I finally managed to get out of negative.  I got to pick dinner one night as my reward.  I never got to do that ever in my life.  Getting out of the negative was a big achievement for me and the foster parents acted accordingly.  A small positive step in the right direction…

Foster kids have strikes against them.  So, they don’t always grow and develop like “normal” kids.  Celebrate the little things and be proud for small changes and steps.

I never ate at a table until I went into foster care.  NEVER.  I had no idea of table manners and had to learn them….  When I finally learned to ask someone to pass something I wanted instead of just grabbing for it, my foster mom acknowledged my improvement and praised me and gave me an extra dessert.  Small steps….

Remember, we move around, come from different worlds, so things are different to us.  Some foster homes have completely different rules and expectations than other foster homes.  Imagine trying to figure all this out as a kid…it’s hard.  Reward and praise for little things….we need it.

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5) Try your hardest to keep us and not move us. Think REAL hard before you make that decision. I understand not all placements work, but ask yourself “why do I want to get rid of this kid?”  — Not easy? Acting out? Doesn’t listen?  Before you make the decision to dump a kid, please really think about it.  Unless your safety is in jeopardy, really think about it

You may not realize HOW MUCH of an impact you dumping us really has…..More than you can ever imagine.  To this day, I feel the pain of being dumped over and over and over again and many times NEVER knowing why.

What we feel is something similar to this:  “these people are getting rid of me because I am a bad and horrible kid. My bioparents hated me and these people hate me too.  No-one will ever want me or care about me…I am disgusting and damaged.  Since no-one cares, I don’t care and screw the world.”

Over time, this attitude builds up and builds up and eventually we  get worse or shut down completely.

I acted out, I misbehaved, I was rude, but I was a child in incredible pain….moving me just made it worse…because I could not trust anyone to be there for me, to help me, to care about me.

Being a foster parent is the toughest job you will ever love (if you do it “right”).  If you can’t deal with children in pain, it is NOT for you.  Period.  You can do more damage than you know.

Find alternative solutions to the problem, use creative parenting, look inward, seek help, ….. but dump only as a last resort.

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Entry filed under: Foster Care. Tags: , , , , , .

Foster Parents — Top 10 Things to Make a Foster Child’s First Day Easier Happy 18th Birthday! Get your ass out of my house — you are aging out. Foster kids kicked out with nothing.

41 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Laurie  |  June 1, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    This is a well written piece that looks at foster care from the kids perspective. I wish it was mandatory reading for all foster/adoptive parents.

    Reply
  • 2. looneytunes09  |  June 2, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Thanks for reading it. While foster parents and foster kids are “in the boat together” sometimes it is hard for each of us to see things from the other perspective. It was not until I got older that I could acknowledge a foster parent’s viewpoint. As a foster kid, we feel incredible things and many times do not share — I only hope I do some justice to those feelings for the kids.

    Reply
  • 3. So Easy to Forget « Non-Happy Endings  |  June 5, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    […] full list is in a post entitled Hey Foster Parents…5 Simple Things That you NEED to Remember and it’s worth the time to read through the entire thing. But here’s the one that […]

    Reply
  • 4. Regina  |  June 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    I work for a child protection agency and would love to reprint your 5 things list in our monthly foster parent newsletter. Please let me know if that would be okay. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

    Reply
  • 5. janine  |  July 26, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    I am a foster parent in Australia, and have gained a great deal from reading your blog. Most of your posts horrify me – I am shocked by the experiences you lived through in fostercare. It probably sounds naive but I am sure we don’t have so much abuse in fostercare here in Australia (not that ANY abuse is acceptable). Over the years of comparing our system with the USA I’ve concluded that we have better training and ongoing education, more support for carers, lower case loads for workers, stricter monitoring of carers and their homes and fewer placements in each foster family. We also have some pretty good specialised programs to keep children in one family, so they don’t get bounced around the place. I would hate to hear of a foster child experiencing your childhood trauma in care, and aging out without a family. I can only hope you eventually meet and form a relationship with someone who will stay in your life and be someone to love and be loved by.

    Reply
    • 6. LooneyTunes  |  July 26, 2010 at 11:49 pm

      I think you hit the nail on the head when you listed the things that differ between Australia and the US. Our standards are a joke, our workers are overworked and underpaid — sometimes I did not see them for months –, there is no continued requirement of training and no incentives to do so for both foster parents and workers, and finally, in some cases foster homes are stacked with 4-5-6 kids…we simply don’t have enough placements. Until there are major changes, problems and abuses will continue (https://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/is-this-for-real-your-experiences-in-the-foster-care-system-it-cant-be-this-bad-can-it/)

      Thanks for reading.

      Reply
      • 7. SM  |  June 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm

        I do agree, but from my experience as a current US foster teen, I think there have been a lot of reforms since when LT was there (at least in my state) its still bad,but they do do a good job of keeping up visits, background checking, training (my foster parents went through a year of training!), not changing your school, caseload is lower (mu county worker has 11 kids), and moving you from bad placements (it does take a while though- took them a month to get me out of a bad placement into a the great one i have noe), etc.

        Reply
        • 8. Brianne  |  March 4, 2015 at 3:03 pm

          As a foster parent and a doctor in 2 states, I can add that the requirements for training, home visits, etc varies by state. THe state in which I live and foster has much more stringent requirements than the other states I also work in. The second state really lacks terribly in their support and training of foster parents. However, I would bet that workers remain extremely overworked and underpaid which is sadly typical in our country of positions that are vital but not money-makers. This lends to high job turn-over and poor quality too often. I am so thankful that my case worker has a wonderful heart and stuck in her position for 13 years. She cares and puts so much into her work with joy

          Reply
  • 9. Erika  |  January 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    LOVE this. I’m gonna read more.

    Reply
  • 10. Kirkland's  |  March 3, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Hey everyone, we can have the social workers, child protection agents read this, all one must do is be kind, copy this, put it in an envelope, with or without a card of support to the worker etc…. mail it off, I have been mailing supportive cards to the supervisor and her team , and they are wanting to investigate me, and remove my 9 year old, stating my mental illness, well it has done pretty well thus far, and I have yet to yell at you all, and have yet to get into your face, and disrespect you by not taking off winter foot wear, covered in snow and ice, so hey, follow my lead it may get you know where, but honestly, I send things about 10 things a child with AUTISM would love for you to know about him!!! The supervisor said this is what you do when you are stressed, write things, look up info and bring us a book (s) about children with ADHD and AUTISM< why thank you she said, yep this is me, different and loud and ask many Questions.
    Gotta love me, at least if the Childrens aid is chasing and busy with us they arent bothering anyone else; amen hugs everyone.

    Reply
  • 11. Nichele  |  November 23, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I was in foster care and often felt like a “recyclable item.” Like if one family can’t find use for me they just send me to the next. I would have countless nightmares after turning 18 and I would have to wake myself up and remind myself that I was in college on my own and no one could come in and take me away from everything again. I don’t think I will ever fully heal from knowing I wasn’t wanted.

    Reply
    • 12. Beveanne Harrold  |  November 22, 2012 at 5:08 am

      nichele at the ripe old age of 44 i have to sadly say it doesnt it gets easier and you just learn to enjoy and treasure each moment as its there. but it may not ever get easy.

      Reply
    • 13. Alicia Ramirez  |  March 2, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      I’m with you on the feeling of never recovering from being unwanted. Feeling abandoned by everyone who was supposed to care for us severely damaged us but did not kill us. Every day we live and strive for a better life is like a “f u” to all these scumbag.

      Reply
  • 14. Kerri  |  May 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Hi LT- I wanted you to know that I am making a new foster care agency here in Colorado- because I want to do things the way I believe they should be done…and part of that is requiring all of my new foster families to read your ‘foster parent instruction’ entries BEFORE they ever take kids in their home. Do you know that the things you write are better than ANYTHING I have seen anywhere for foster parent training? After almost a decade doing this work, you are the first person who has taken the time to give foster parents clear guidance from a foster child’s perspective. Never stop doing what you are doing. You can change the world of foster care.

    Reply
  • 15. Linda  |  June 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Thank you so much for this blog. My husband and I became foster parents to our girls, ages 6 and 12, just about 4 months ago. It certainly is not an easy job and there are some big ups and some big downs. We had training through the private agency but honestly nothing has helped me see things through their perspective more than your writing. When I am over the top frustrated your words give me the patience and understanding I need to be the person they need. The metaphor about the gentle flowing water has stayed with me . . . and it’s so true. Please know your words are precious and I hope you continue to blog and help us in being the best parents we can be. From the bottom of my heart I thank you.

    Reply
    • 16. LooneyTunes  |  June 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      Hi Linda,

      thanks for your note. it really impacted me.

      thank you for being a foster parent and taking older children.
      i hope my words help you as much as your words helped me today.
      peace.

      Reply
  • 17. sana  |  June 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    thnx for this blog..i have just strated working with foster kids…..needed hlp badly..by the way i psychologist n tryi ng to work with children specialy thru art therapy..wish me luck….sana

    Reply
  • 18. HMK  |  July 5, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Hi LT,

    I’ve only just found your blog but wow, what an impact its already having on me as a foster mum – I don’t like saying “carer” because I’m a mum to my little ones. I may not have been there for the start of their lives, but I’ll be her for them for the rest of my life. I hope you keep writing because what you have already written is so valid and needs to be heard and I’m sure you have so much more.

    Best of luck xoxox

    Reply
  • 19. ergo  |  July 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Last year, a close family member had to request that a foster child be removed for molesting a a toddler in the home. It wasn’t “playing doctor” and it wasn’t rape, but somewhere in-between. It was very sad as they loved both kids and still do.

    Reply
  • 20. Leanne  |  October 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Hi,
    woud like to reprint this in a newsletter for foster/adoptive and kinship parents – it is mailed in hard copy and then it is posted on a website. we will give credit to you as the author. let me know if that is ok. I really like some of your posts and will likely ask to use others in the future. I would love to be able to put more things written by the kids who experienced foster care/adoption into our newsletter. That is often so much more impactful and useful.
    Thanks!!

    Reply
  • 21. Laurie  |  November 29, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Such an awesome article! We have a foster child that I really didn’t understand why she acts out. You have given me insight and I will try to take these things into consideration when I need to be extra patient! Thanks.

    Reply
  • 22. Lee  |  February 14, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Thank you for this insightfull message. I am a current treatment foster parent who is a single guy and was also an abused child. I understand alot of what my kids are going through first hand, but really enjoyed some of the ideas you shared on here. I particularly loved the part about the food hoarding, cudos to your foster mom for coming up with that idea, I plan on using it in my home as well.

    Reply
    • 23. Lee  |  February 14, 2013 at 10:23 pm

      PS. I deal with all teenage boys who are hard case stories and have already been removed from at least one other foster home before coming to me, but usually it has been multiple foster homes. I have been fairly sucessfull, one left for college last fall, and I have 2 more leaving for college this fall. I sincerely wish you well LT and I know first hand how hard it is to get past our histories, let alone put ourselves out there publicly and talk about it, please keep up the good work!!!

      Reply
  • 24. JKB  |  May 28, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    LT-
    I am a teacher and my best friend is fostering two boys right now. I stumbled upon your blog and it really spoke to me like no other information that I had read. From your disclaimer all the way through, you are a very gifted writer.

    I am writing today to ask your permission to use some of your words in a project that my kids are working on for our local foster care agency.

    Reply
    • 25. LooneyTunes  |  May 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      yup. feel free to use whatever helps.
      peace.

      Reply
  • 26. Amber  |  June 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I work for a child protection agency and would love to use points from your blog in training all new and current foster parents.

    Reply
  • 27. Nick  |  October 28, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I train prospective foster and adoptive parents and would like to use this post and a few others in the trainings. You have provided very valuable information that foster and adoptive parents need to know. Can I have your permission to use information from your blog?

    Reply
  • 28. linda welch  |  December 14, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    I have posted to my Facebook page I hope that’s ok I think all foster carers should read this it is invaluable I certainly have taken a lot from this and I hope it is ok if I share it with other foster carers we are a fostering family and each child we have fostered it has been so difficult when the powers that be move them and we miss each and every one of them thanks for putting such a powerful article out there

    Reply
  • 29. Beth  |  January 6, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    I am a foster home licensor with a private foster care agency and would love to print this out and give it to all my foster parents. Thank you for having the guts to say these things and to let people know what you and all the other kids need. We all know these things, but seeing/reading it makes it that much more clear.

    Reply
  • 30. Carmen Ferber  |  January 22, 2014 at 11:28 am

    I am the director of a private fostering agency (and adoptive parent of 13 amazing children we first fostered) and would love to share your thoughts and perspective. You say it so well and this is what needs to be understood by foster parents.

    Reply
  • 31. Bill  |  July 30, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Very well written. I work with children in care and I am asking your permission to share it with one of my kinship carer who has a nephew that is struggling at the time. The young person did a presentation about his time in care at a conference and found it very difficult to accept the praise that was given to him. He stood up in front of 300 people and nailed the speech. Since that day he has been acting up at home. We know that he has been hurt, and are trying to find ways to help him accept the positive things he does as he is not used to getting praised for the good things he has done in his life.

    Reply
  • 32. Wendy  |  July 30, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Hi LT
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. It reminds me to be thoughtful to my all my children. Although I’m not fortunate to be the ‘bio’ mum for all of them, I love them equally and deeply and have made a life long commitment to protecting them and providing for them. Your words help me through the tough times. May I have your permission to share your words with other foster families at some training sessions I attend?
    Thank you – you are in my thoughts tonight x

    Reply
  • 33. Brianne  |  March 4, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Hello, I appreciate your thoughts very much. I am a family practice doctor and foster parent. I have a young girl for a patient who is essentially being fostered by her aunt but since it was family, in her state, they don’t really have any training on how to help her through this. I feel deeply for her when I hear the kind of comments and attitude her aunt and father have toward her. She had been with her mom in a terrible environment until 2 years ago. Would it be ok for me to share this blog with them in hopes it will help them see her in a better light? Thank you for sharing with me already!

    Reply
  • 34. Foster Parent  |  April 16, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Hi, I’m just checking if I can post

    Reply
  • 35. Foster Parent  |  April 16, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Sjoe, not even sure what to right. I have three children whom lift by me for a year, we tried to reunite them with their mom, but due to circumstances they came back after 3 months. And will formally be placed in our foster care in a month or so to come.The last thing is this world for me is to ”take” another mothers children, children belongs with their parents, but due to the children well being their is no choice. At the moment and in the pass we have a good & open relationship with the children. I love them as if the are my own, they will give me hugs and tell me how much they love me every day.
    We can’t give them all the desires in the world but try our upper best to give them love and attention. At the moment they are hesitating to visit their bio-parents.
    1. Can someone tell me is this right or wrong???
    2. Should we try more effort to encourage them to visit their bio -parents? OR should we accept it if they don’t want to go and visit?
    3. I’ve noticed the one child of 6 years old, is not comfortable talking or answering questions about his bio-parents and if I ask him must I take him to visit a bit, It is a immediate NO, and then he will aim to avoid the rest of the conversation. If he refers to me by a friend he refers to me as his mom. Is this right or wrong? As I know no parent can replace once’s bio-parents – and that is not my dream – all that I want is what is best for them, and to have normal happy ordinary life’s, which children should have.
    This is such amazing children, they respect me, they are open and honest about their feelings. I’m just not always sure how to handle every situation-so scared I hurt them, trying my best to learn them good morals and standards in life, and about choices that each individual is responsible for their own choices made in life (Nothing that happened in their past was due to them and is not their fault!!!) And that how each of them has a choice about the future to come as each individual is responsible for their own life’s irrespectively of our circumstances.
    How will one every know what is right and wrong in handling a foster child to grow up as a normal child – as with everything in my heart I just want the best for this children…!!!!

    Reply
  • 36. Ashley Quinn  |  June 2, 2015 at 11:23 am

    I would like to use this article to help other foster parents during the post-adoption process. I will make sure to site your blog.

    Reply
  • 37. Jo  |  August 14, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    This is a lovely, lovely article. I was one of the luckier ones and had a stable foster home throughout my life but in some ways it detracted from the hurt, rejection and emotional pain I experienced by being given up in the first place and not understanding why my birth mother would pop up in my life every now and then. The confusion was immense but in everyone’s eyes I had a stable home so all should have been okay. I would love to offer the same opportunity to a child needing a loving home but as you say, you’ve got to know you can deal with all issues, sadly I know I couldn’t. But would love to offer external support, a listening ear from someone who has a level of understanding, we will never fully know or understand what a child goes through as each and every child is a individual with their own unique set of needs.

    Reply
  • 38. Mary Hernandez  |  September 30, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you for your words. I would love to share this article with our agency’s foster parents and with my colleagues. Can I share this article in our Foster Parent Newsletter?

    Reply
  • 39. Collin  |  October 3, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Well my foster carer certainly Dosnt do that if we argue back she shouts at us and swears at us it sometimes makes me feel like shit but if I say hey that wasn’t nice she’ll just be like I don’t give a shit can someone help me I love her and have been with her for 6 years yet I’m scared if I want to move or not

    Reply
  • 40. Leah Williams  |  January 23, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    I found your blog and really appreciated the one entitled, “Hey Foster Parents…5 Simple Things That you NEED to Remember.” It is an excellent reminder for those that do the work. I work for a therapeutic foster care program Arkansas. I would like very much to include this in our newsletter as well as to give to those therapeutic foster parent applicants to see things from the child’s perspective.

    Reply
  • 41. Cathy  |  September 26, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    Hi there, Thankyou for your writings and insight. I work with foster carers and would like to share this but will cite your blog, thankyou!

    Reply

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE

This blog is copyrighted.
I know that means you can't take my writing without my permission. If you do, something can happen.
Plus, that is just a real shitty thing to do -- take someone's thoughts -- so don't do it!

I am happy if you want to use my writing to help those involved in the foster care system, but please, leave a comment asking if it is ok and letting me know.

Peace.

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