At a family after-Christmas celebration in Missouri I had a chance to interview my sister-in-law regarding her thoughts as a CASA Executive Director. Here is what she’d like to say to anyone considering foster care.
Q: What is it you really want prospective foster parents to know?
A: “The children they foster are going to have issues. In many cases they have experienced trauma, abuse, neglect. Some have mental disabilities. They are not going to be like their own biological children.”
Q: What is the best way someone can prepare to foster children?
A: “They need to have realistic expectations. They need to know the children they are caring for have been broken, hurt. They have seen things, heard things and experienced things children should not have to see, hear and experience. They need to know that when a child is acting out it is not a sign of disobedience or lack of discipline, it is out of fear or response to change.
“For instance, if an adult changes jobs they go in with a certain level of anxiety and yet that is understood and those around them allow time for the adjustment. Yet these children are pulled out of homes, out of everything they have known and sometimes at a moment’s notice. Just imagine.
“Now I am not saying they shouldn’t have boundaries, but they do need understanding of their (the kids’) situations.”
Q: What kind of boundaries should be expected for these children as they assimilate in to a foster care family?
“This is an age appropriate answer and will depend on the child. Some will respond to a simple ‘No’ and others have experienced such major trauma that their reactions will be entirely different.
“Whatever course you take, the boundaries have to be consistent and well-communicated to the children at the child’s level. Most of these children have not been raised with consistent rules, boundaries and consequences…or even consistent consequences. Not putting the toilet seat down shouldn’t have the same consequences as urinating on a wall.”
Q: What is your hope for foster families and their charges? If it is such a challenge for everyone involved, why would someone want to take on these foster care kids?
A: “These children are our future. They need loving, consistent adults to raise them and show them that there is a different life out there. There are good people. There is unconditional love. So many of our children come from multi-generational dysfunctional families that someone has to show them, to walk with them, so that they can break the cycle.”
Q: Any last thoughts?
“Being a foster parent is worth it. Seeing children grow and change while in your care makes every one of the challenges worth it.”
In closing, I’d like to thank Leigh Ann for taking time to help me with this post. From my own experiences through life I have known many people that have fostered for one child for a short amount of time and others that have dedicated their lives to providing foster care. I’ve met excellent foster parents and I’ve met, well, not excellent. I could tell you stories…and probably will in the future.
Right now, almost every foster care system in the United States needs help. They need the help of established families. They need the help of people not in it for what little money is provided. They need people who understand that sitting around the coffee table and complaining isn’t as productive as rolling your sleeves up and pitching in. This isn’t a money issue for the States, it is a resources issue in regards to competent human capital.
It is my hope that this will ignite further discussion for anyone considering foster care.