We are the Greens and we have fostered seven children. We have adopted two of those, and five of them were reunited with their biological families. Each time we welcomed a new child into our home, our world and routine turned upside down. We would have to adjust and figure out our new normal.
My husband recently preached the “Senior Service” at our church, and the theme was "Transitions." His points were so good not just for seniors transitioning into adulthood but also for adults in most every stage of life. I've taken those three points and applied them to foster care:
There is such a learning curve in fostering. After all of your training is done you feel “somewhat” prepared, but then you get your first placement. *Insert big eye emoji* And really all of your training doesn't feel very practical and you start to get extremely overwhelmed. One of the best things for me was to join a local foster parent group on Facebook, as well as asking a ton of questions of my friends that had gone before me on this journey. While every child is different it's helpful to learn from others and know you aren’t alone on this journey. One of our sweet foster daughters had ADHD and ODD. I had never parented a child with those diagnoses so her therapist recommended multiple books and resources to me. I spent countless hours reading, listening and learning methods and systems to aid her in her daily life. It takes time to learn the ends and outs of someone. Give these kiddos this time. They deserve it.
We can get so wrapped up in our own expectations of how things should be. But these precious kids have been ripped from all they’ve known, even if it wasn’t good, and placed with people they don’t know. So there is so much grace in the transition. It took us a good 6 months with each child to feel “stable.” (We only had long placements, so I can't speak to the short term). Our junior high foster daughter's transition was the hardest for us and definitely for her. She was 14 when she moved into our home and she brought a cell phone with her. We were hesitant, and definitely not expecting that conversation on day one. But being flexible helped us navigate and set up boundaries with her early on, as well as making her opinion and voice heard. Not holding too tightly to your ideals and expectations, and continuing to practice this, especially in the foster care realm, will make for a much smoother season.
In fostering, you are welcoming HARD into your home. These sweet kiddos have experienced massive trauma that we will have to love them through and parent. We have a thousand appointments to keep up with and paperwork out the wazoo. And it's hard. But our mindsets matter. We have to keep positivity and gratefulness in the forefront of our minds. When we are walking through this it's easy to only think of the negative and bad things. But we have to be intentional and think of the good. It can be as simple as “I'm thankful for my foster agency,” or as large as “We haven't had a melt down in two days.” No matter what, be grateful that you are being used in the life of the child. And grateful they are forever changing you too!
For those that don’t feel called to fostering there are still so many ways you can aid and help foster families. These same three points can apply to you as well.
Be Teachable : Ask questions on how you can specifically help that family.
Be Flexible : Do a last minute grocery run, pick up needed items, or drop off a meal.
Be Grateful : Express your gratefulness for their hard work with a card, or a treat.
When we were fostering we had a village behind us and it was so encouraging. One time I came home from an appointment, opened my fridge and there was my favorite drink with a post-it note that said “Because, sometimes mama needs a treat.” I felt seen and loved in that moment and it was so encouraging to me to keep pressing on. Fostering is hard. It's exhausting, and complicated. But this work is also so rewarding. There is so much joy in faithfully going where we have been called. And we don't go alone. "For the Lord your God is the one who will go with you; he will not leave you or abandon you." -Deuteronomy 31:6
Most of all, enjoy these kiddos and love them BIG.