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