teach your foster children …
Today I was lying around and I was thinking about all the practical things I WISH I had learned from a family, that I did not… and how in some cases I am or was screwed because of it. Perhaps, some of the things that I thought about may seem “simplistic” to you or you may feel that “children don’t really need to be taught that;” but remember the lives of foster children are very different than the lives of children in stable families. Foster kid’s lives are puzzles, made up of pieces of different families, different beliefs, different values, and different messages, that create a beautiful picture, but may not contain practical guidance or long term connection.
So foster parents, take this to heart…and be willing to “teach your children…”
1) How to Cook
When my dog Moonlight was really sick last year and before her condition got “under control,” her diet was supposed to consist of chicken, sweet potatoes, and boiled hamburger. Foods that were very easy on the digestive system. I had NEVER cooked chicken breasts or sweet potatoes until Moonlight got sick… I did not even know what a sweet potato was! Luckily I had both access to the internet and some members of my blog crew who were excellent cooks and had dogs! In fact, I learned from a member of my blog crew how to “boil” chicken breasts in a pot of water on the stove. It was quicker, made it moist, and Moonlight liked it better.
I’m lucky I had the internet and my blog crew… otherwise I would have been lost. Dogs don’t like overcooked chicken either and I kept overcooking and drying them out in the beginning. It was costing me money, that I don’t have!! I know part of cooking is “trial and error,” but just think how much easier it would have been if I had done some of the “trial and error” growing up. Cooking would not seem so intimidating now!
So, please teach “the basics” — so young adults have a clue how to cook healthy food. Sometimes I see whole chickens or whole turkeys on sale for real cheap in the store, but I have NO IDEA how to cook one, and I fear ruining it (partly because of $$).
2) Bodies, Birth Control, and Babies
These topics are sensitive, but if you have teens that are going to age-out, this is very important information for them to understand…
Many foster children have had unwanted (and possibly wanted) sexual experiences. But many have no idea about their bodies. Just because you have been forcefully fucked, doesn’t mean you understand what is supposed to happen in your body. What is “normal” and what is not? What your insides consist of? Why things happen? etc. School health classes may teach it, but don’t count on your foster teen learning it. Dissociating, zoning out, or purposely cutting the class might happen, because one of the components of PTSD is “avoidance” of things that remind you of the past. Foster children may avoid being exposed to anything connected with their bodies.
I have no clue how my body really works or what is supposed to happen… I don’t know the purpose of certain events, nor how to assess my “bodily health.” As I told you, when I was seeing the doctor for my thyroid, I could not answer questions about my menstrual cycle. No clue. I don’t ever remember being taught about “my body” in a HEALTHY way. If Dr. S at the clinic didn’t bring up my health, I would not have a clue that something is wrong inside me.
Please teach your foster children about the types of birth control, where to get it, and how to use it. Even if your personal religion or beliefs go against it or the system is against it…. do it. If you are NOT adopting the foster child and NOT going to provide a safe home for life, the possibility of a teen aging-out and living on the streets is great. Sex is everywhere on the streets. Kids are easy prey because they need money, food, clothes, shelter, etc. Birth control prevents babies. It also prevents diseases that could kill.
Do you have any idea how many kids I met when I was living on the streets who had a baby or desperately wanted one? ALOT. You see… a baby is an instant family. A baby is some human who loves you. And kids on the streets have neither of those. The desire to have someone that loves you is SO great… when you are unwanted and alone. Even though kids would talk about how their babies were going to be loved and cared about more than they were, the reality is that you can’t properly care for a baby when you are poor and living on the streets. The streets are no place for babies. The streets are filled with illegal activities, improper nutrition, improper health care for mom and baby, improper shelter, improper clothes, etc.
Educate your foster children about what babies/children need; emotionally, financially, health wise, etc. Educate about how hard it is to provide for a baby/child if you are not ready. Educate them that having a baby does not make a family and if they are not prepared, the cycle of CPS continues.
And educate about birth control again… to prevent a “child” having a child.
3) How to Drive a Car and Change a Flat Tire
The reality of living in the USA is that you mostly need a car to get around. I live in a city and don’t, but it’s inconvenient not to drive. I never got my license in foster care. No-one ever taught me how to drive until I was out of care and on my own. I learned to drive from the guy I was renting a piece of shit trailer from…… after hooking him up with a bag of pot. (Recall my Maine blog)
Even if your state does not allow foster children to get licenses, they need to learn from someone. Take your children to a park or on a backroad and teach them to drive. Let them practice with someone that is somewhat vested in their development and is a responsible person. I learned to drive from a pothead. I learned the techniques, but not necessarily how to be “safe” behind the wheel, because he wasn’t really vested in me… he was smoking a fatty filled with some high quality weed I scored for him! Teach safe driving skills and safe driving in different situations… you never know where the foster child will wind up.
Teach them how to change a tire and what to do when the tire blows! I blew a tire once on a major freeway in a major city. The pull of the jeep was fucking amazing. Thankfully I was in the slow lane, so I got to the side of the road easily. If I wasn’t in the slow lane, I don’t know what would have happened, because I never knew what to expect when a tire blew. My piece of shit jeep had my pets in it, so it could have been a fucking disaster. I had never changed a tire and had no clue what to do. Luckily for me, as I stood on the side of this major freeway, a cop stopped. He changed my tire for me (Thank you Officer Randy!) and told me I had to get a “real tire” because that spare was not real and should go <50 miles. WHAT?? Why put a tire in a car that is only good for 50 miles?
If the cop had not come by, I would have been screwed. I couldn’t have left my pets in the jeep to walk up the freeway. Make sure your foster child can change it, you never know where they will be.
4) How to Sew Clothes by Hand
I can’t afford alot of clothes. When they get holes in areas where holes are not appropriate, I still need to wear them. When buttons come off, I still need to wear my clothes. My winter coat last year, lost 2 buttons. I “sewed” them back on … and three days later, my buttons were MIA. FUCK!
I tried to staple clothes once and I tried krazy clue once. Both do NOT work. I try to sew and it looks a mess. I try to sew and it does not hold. I don’t know how to start or end the process. I can do the stitching, but it doesnt matter if the start and end are screwed up! Nuff’ said….get it?
5) How to Understand Money
Talk about money, about banking, and about credit cards. When I opened my first bank account, I had no clue what I was agreeing too. I just shook my head and signed the papers. I still don’t understand the concept of interest… Talk about bouncing checks, bank fees, and “gimics” credit cards use to screw you. Talk about taxes, bill payment, loans, budgets, etc. It may sound unimportant, but when you have no money and then you get some, without any one to talk to, it can disappear in the wrong places…
Remember that credit card I got to pay for Moonlight’s treatment. Well, I was paying the “minimal” amount monthly, THINKING that was enough to pay off the “balance” related to the promotion of the card, which was if I pay the balance in time, I would not be charged interest. Guess what? NOT! The minimal was just a minimum and had nothing to do with the promotion…thus I got a HUGE bill with the warning that if I did not pay it, all the interest would be added on. I was fucking clueless. I still am sort-of clueless how it works.
**More than 80% of parents believe they should be the ones to teach their kids about money. Make sure you include your foster children in those lessons!
I wish I had been taught these things, or at least introduced to some of the ideas as I was growing up in foster care, because now I am trying to figure it out on my own and mostly screwing up. While some readers may say, “we don’t teach our biokids those things,” the truth is that many biokids might be exposed to it in their stable home life OR they can pick up the phone and call with questions or email or stop by… Aged-out foster kids may have no-one to turn to when they are on their own. Leave them with practical skills that could potentially make life a little easier… being alone is hard enough.