6 things foster parents need to hear

Over the years I have tried to walk alongside many of my foster parent friends who are trying SO hard to do right by their foster kids. Here are six things I desperately want to say to each foster parent:

1) THANK YOU. There are too many foster kids without a good, loving home. Thanks for stepping up to the plate.puddle

2) Stop trying to figure out your case. Try not to focus on birth families. The decisions they make and the way things play out will not play out differently if you are worrying about them.

3)  Try to figure out how to work with and encourage birth families. Kindness goes a long way. Do not worry about their messes or their choices. Just send pictures, update them on milestones and keep them posted. They may need advice and help, Continue reading →

There’s no such thing as giving too much in foster care

A few weeks ago, we welcomed some tiny little baby feet into our home. These little feet and the adorable baby they are attached to caught us somewhat off guard. Instantly, we were thrown back into the world of bottles, diapers, and midnight waking, back into a family of seven with a mere couple of hours to prepare. I for one was veryfamily-photo-shoot-wi-deb-025 emotional with this placement knowing the pain that his momma was going through not being able to be home with her new baby.

Many of our friends and family showed support without hesitation. We had meals brought to us, loads of formula and diapers donated, clothes and blankets showed up. We even had help with some of the other kids during those first few days. There’s also my personal favorite, friends dropping buy with a big olecup of coffee! This was by far more support than we have received with any of the previous foster kiddos we welcomed into our home. 

To those who have supported us or other foster parents, I say, thank you. You have no idea how much a cup of coffee, or a pack of diapers means to us. It might seem like a small gesture to you, but to us it means that you are with us in a time when things are chaotic and we can sometimes feel alone. Continue reading →

Respite angels are truly award-worthy

Nate D. Sanders Auctions Collection Of Academy Award Oscar Statuettes Set To Be AuctionedEvery quarterback has a backup, many computers are backed up because of viruses, and every lead actor has supporting roles alongside them.

So what do foster parents do when they need to rest, recharge or deal with a virus? They reach out to the wonderful people who do RESPITE. Respite is defined as a short period of rest or relief from something difficult. Yet if you ask any foster parent, it is a service that is so very much more. If it were up to foster parents, they would win the Oscar for “Best Supporting” role every single year!

Parenting children is “heartwork” and hard work. The latter of the two can take its toll on a person, a relationship or a family. Continue reading →

Live your version of your story

Others will tell you their version of your story. In fact, many people feel very comfortable doing so without you even asking. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get everyone to tell your version of your story? We can always dream, right?  iStock_000015831258Small1

Without the ability to have others see with your eyes, think your thoughts, have your passion and feel with your heart, that will just not happen.

So why do we waste time and energy listening to the fictional version of our nonfiction best seller? Stay focused and true to what you are writing on the hearts and souls of all you touch, as you provide respite, foster or adopt. Think back to the start of your fostering journey and the reasons you began writing this amazing story. Are those reasons still not ringing true today? Have you listened to so many incorrect or negative versions of your story that you are starting to doubt and believe the fiction? Continue reading →

Foster parenting is an exercise in unselfishness

I sat in a noisy restaurant, and across the table from me was the most beautiful 2-year-old girl with the best little ringlets falling from her head. She was a part of our family for nearly a year and now, seeing her for the first time since she left our home, it would seem we hardly knew each other.DIGITAL CAMERA

It had been months since she left our home to be reunified with her sister. We celebrated with her and we mourned the loss of everyday interactions with her. Now, as our families got together for the first time since this transition, it was clear the transitioning wasn’t over. Continue reading →

Learn to see reunification through different eyes

Reunification.

It’s an act of coming together, a uniting, a union or a homecoming. Everything from the historic fall of the Berlin Wall, which brought about the unity of East Germany and West Germany, to the heartwarming stories we see on TV about people searching for and finding long-lost family members.

Yet to a foster parent, reunification is not the tearing down of a wall or the happy celebratory reunion after years of searching. It is a difficult day that doesn’t feel much like a celebration at all. Continue reading →

Adjusting to the new normal of having a special needs child

As we joyfully prepared for a move toward adoption for one of our foster children, we also heartbreakingly received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. It has been a process to accept and come to terms with this as we also try to find our family’s new normal.

When you have a child with special needs, you learn what he or she needs and how you can Special-Needs-Childbest help him or her function. What may not look normal to one family becomes your family’s normal as you navigate this journey. On good days, you function within your family’s normal, and you avoid any major meltdowns or catastrophes. You can experience days, sometimes even weeks, that go by as you live your normal and then it hits you like a ton of bricks out of nowhere that to anyone watching from the outside, you are not normal. Maybe you even think to yourself in those sad and ugly moments that your child is not normal, and that your family is not at all normal. Continue reading →

As foster parents we must recognize our daily successes

We can all agree that we are much harder on ourselves than anyone else. We strive for perfection in our society, for getting it right the first time every time, and this only causes us to be critical of ourselves. What we often overlook is how much we are getting right and how many times we have succeeded.

Foster parents are no exception and oftentimes feel the most unsuccessful. They don’t stop to realize that they are caring for some of the most vulnerable, traumatized and challenging children. With each child who comes into the home, foster parents build a new skill set specific to that child. In addition to meeting the unique needs of the child, foster parents then extend themselves to the child’s biological parents. This in turn requires yet another skill set to be built, Continue reading →

Foster parent advice for answering the tough questions

I work as a Certified Child Life Specialist in a hospital setting where I am often charged with
providing supportive conversations with children about new diagnosis, surgery and loss.

Even with formal training and a degree to support this work, it is often my 5½-year-old’s infinite curiosity that brings me to a loss for words.

Our family currently finds itself in various stages of permanency. We have an adopted son, a baby we are fostering, and I am also expecting. On the way to school one day, my son asked, “What will happen if we can’t adopt the baby (in your belly)?” Continue reading →

Parenting with empathy is extremely important for foster children

Last year, we got the call to take in a 7-year-old girl. She was our first placement and would be dropped off within the hour. I will never forget seeing her face when she arrived at our door. She was so young, so little and all by herself. That afternoon we went out to Culver’s and then to Kmart to pick up pajamas and clothes for school the next day.

As the months went on, we worked to help her cope with the trauma she experienced. It was hard on her and us. As sweet as she looked and could be, her behaviors were tough to manage. I did what I thought was the best for her… I parented her with empathy. Continue reading →