1. Stop seeking/worrying about approval from others.
This is great advice regardless of whether you foster. I am a people pleaser, and that can be a good and bad thing for the same reason: I worry about other people’s opinions. When we began fostering, I thought people would celebrate the good we were doing. It was a wakeup call, however, to see how people acted and reacted to bringing traumatized children into our family. I learned quickly that fostering is our calling, and grew up quickly, leaning on others who foster to strengthen my faith, because after all it is God bringing us these precious souls. Over the years, because we have stayed the course, it has been amazing to see some people’s opinions and actions change.
2. Back off the case(worker).
I use to be that person who sent constant emails and had questions for every aspect of the case. I would communicate weekly, sometimes daily, with the ongoing caseworker, supervisors, guardians ad litem, therapist or teachers. Communication is good, but the constant questioning only creates much stress and frustration. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe in being a great advocate for all my children, but you need to know when to back off. Not everything is going to make sense nor will everything be answered for you. This is where my faith in God’s plan became stronger than my need for answers.
3. Focus on the daily memories.
When you are always thinking ahead, you cannot enjoy the moment you are living. Don’t overthink the days to come. Don’t think about a child leaving or staying. Stay in the moment you are creating. Worrying about the days and months ahead only drains today of its joy. You are making amazing memories for your family each and every day, so stay in that place of daily memories and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
4. Surround/connect yourself with other foster families.
The hard days will come. The questions and judgment will be there. If you have connected with other foster families, they will be there as well. I cannot stress this point enough, it has saved me and filled my bucket back up time and time again. Set up play dates, get on Facebook pages for foster families, and attend Connecting Bridges or Foster Parent Advisory Council meetings. Connect, engage and build your knowledge and friendships for the days ahead. There are amazing families just like yours out there going through the same stuff. Be a part of this incredible fostering community — there is always room for more.
5. Advocate and Research.
Just as you do with your own health, you must be the biggest advocate for the health of these children. Don’t wait for the therapies, treatments, advice or knowledge to come to you. Waiting is a plan of action after you have taken some action. I frequently do my own research into all of the issues our children are presenting and speak with other foster parents to see if anyone is having similar issues. I take recommendations for the best therapists, doctors or treatments. I find resources and share them with other families so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I am always pushing forward for my children to progress academically, behaviorally and socially. I try to build my knowledge base in all areas so I will know the questions to ask and the services to get in place.