It’s been a roller-coaster, thrilling and terrifying all at the same time!
We started our foster care journey in Aug. 2011 and our first child came into our home Feb. 2012. Five years later (as we closed the door in our foster care journey) saw us with four adopted child and our hearts and home full to the brim! You can read more about our story here. But in the meantime here are 5 things we’d like to share with new foster parents. Obviously, we are not saying we are experts, these 5 tips come from our story and how we experienced foster-care. We hope you will be encouraged.
- Remember the end goal
- Be flexible!
- Be kind to the bio moms
- Be respectful of caseworkers
- Educate yourself on kids with trauma
- Get support/community (Bonus for you!)
Remember the End Goal: The end goal is ALWAYS to reunite the child with their bio parents. My husband and I entered this as a way to grow our families. But God moved in our hearts and opened our understanding to the bigger picture. This was not about us growing our family but rather being a safe place for these babes until they could return home. (Yes, it was so hard to release my desires but it was worth it!) Teaching children to bond and trust us, always helps them in the long run. We believe that being with your bio family is always best, if it is safe. Adoption, no matter how good, still is brokenness. There is still going to be a lot that needs processed by the adopted child. We are praying that we can walk beside and support our adopted children as they process this part of their story.
Be Flexible: As foster parents you are signing up for a complete rearranging of your schedule. Visits get planned and then at the last minute rescheduled or time slots get changed. You get asked to do multiple visits per week, sometimes multiple hours long. Getting grouchy about it helps no one. Prepare your heart by knowing you can expect the unexpected, expect to show up only to be sent home, expect to put lots of time and miles on your car, expect this unknown schedule to be your normal. Set your mind to be flexible and you will save yourself frustration.
Be Kind to the Bio Moms: No matter the story of why the child is put into care, the bio mom is a person too. Usually a hurting person, thus the reason her children had to be taken from her. During our time as foster parents I often would take photos of the children and then print them out on the computer or shutterfly.com and take them to visits. I would write down milestones or funny moments during the week and then give it to mom at the visit. I made photo books for bio moms as Christmas or birthday gifts. I did my best to put myself in their shoes. What would I want to know about my child, or how would I want to be treated, if my child was taken from me? I also asked myself, if I had been exposed to the same things that my bio moms were exposed to, would I be any different then them? It is only by God’s grace that I am in a position to be mom to these babes. We have chosen to love our bio moms, we pray for them and we keep contact with them on social media and visits in our home. We are thankful that all of our bio moms told us that if they couldn’t have their children, they wanted us to have them. That is a beautiful gift my friends.
Respect your caseworkers: Over 5 years of being foster parents we went thru lots of caseworkers. Some we loved and others were… difficult. But it doesn’t matter if you connect or not, you respect them. They face a lot of stress and difficult situations. They do a thankless job, we have an opportunity to bless them for the work they do. They are real people too who have bad days and deal with hard things. Plus you REALLY don’t want your caseworker to have a reason to not like you. So talk kind, pray for them, respect them.
Educate yourself on loving kids with trauma: Loving kids who have been exposed to trauma isn’t enough. They look like your normal kid but their brain and memories have been exposed to some really horrible things. Their “bad behavior” is really easy to see and it’s not pretty. “You need to discipline that child more” is not always the answer. Sometimes what that screaming child needs is to be held close and rocked and soothed, just as if they were a baby. Because maybe when they were a baby no one did that for them. Understanding how the brain develops, matters. Understanding the importance of touch, matters. Understanding triggers and behaviors, matters. Understanding happens with experience and knowledge. We now have SO many good resources. Glean and apply what works. Our absolute, hands down, all time favorite educator is Karyn Purvis. She has since passed away due to cancer, but she was a gift from God to all parents. Find her on here youtube, watch and be encouraged! She was known to say, “our children were harmed in relationship, and they will come to experience healing in relationship.” Her teachings are still being taught and explored by Texas Christian University. There is an AMAZING conference put on by Show Hope called Empowered to Connect. If you are a foster parent or even considering being a foster parent, PLEASE do yourself a favor and get the content from this conference. It looks like this year, 2020 they are changing it up a bit, so I’m not exactly sure what that looks like. But follow the links and it should be explained. It will change your life and how you look at your children, even your bio ones. This video is my all time favorite because I can apply it to my bio kids and adopted ones.
6. Get Support/Community: BONUS TIP! We talked with family members and friends about our calling to do foster care. It was important for them to know what was happening and why. We want these people close to us to love our children and foster care can be hard for everyone. You get attached and then they leave. It’s good to be able to talk about these things together. We also loved going to foster care activities. We’d look around and be amazed at all these other people doing this thing of loving and releasing children, sometimes really difficult children. It was encouraging to tell the stories and know that they truly understood. Being in contact with other adoptive parents is still important. We are thankful for the ones that we are still connected to. We are also thankful for the support our family and friends continue to give by babysitting and caring about how our family is doing.
Are you on a foster care or adoption journey? What tips would you share with others? Each child that came into our home had a different story. I know so many others have amazing stories to share as well. I’d love to hear from you!