The First Year - Foster Parenting


We have been foster parents for just over a year now and the adventures we've had,
the stories we could tell, and the memories we have made are far too numerous to count.
We have learned along the way to weather the bad days with humor,
lower our expectations without forfeiting our values,
and that every child has the ability to grow and thrive
despite what tragically sad stories brought them to our door step.

The biggest challenges:
When you tell someone you are a foster parent
typically the first thing you hear come out of their mouths is something to the affect 
"how do you let them go?" of coarse this is a concern, but I find that for me
what is more challenging than saying goodbye, is saying hello.
As foster parents we are given very little information
concerning why the child is being placed in care. 
It's not until months down the road that you really start piecing together what has 
really happened to your child. But none the less here you are with a frightened,
little stranger at your door who is typically beyond upset, 
angry, and in dire need of a good long bath. 
If you will, the first few minutes that child enters your home
 is like dancing with a comply stranger.
Do you come in close and two step side by side or turn up the volume and let them 
hash out their emotions on the dance floor? 
Many children don't even know what's taken place,
I have children in my home today, that even after months of being in our care
still don't comprehend why they can't go home, and/or what their parents did wrong. 
It's easy to feel like the bad guy,
and some children will NEVER see it otherwise
 no matter how much love you show them.

Not only are you a stranger but your STRANG!!!
It doesn't take long before you and your new arrival are 
butting heads. Sure you might have a honeymoon period,
but eventually your new kiddo will want things to be just like they
were before... at their home.
But this is your home,
and in your home there are rules, chores, homework time, bed time,
and many other limitations and expectations
all of which are typically foreign concepts
to your new kiddo.
Typically children are one extreme or the other,
either they are "advanced" for their age
as they assumed roles their parents were not attending to,
or their "behind" from lack of exposure
with little to no parental expectations. 

Guilt: Sometimes your wish you could send them back.
That sounds awful!! I hate to think it, and I especially
have a hard time not pushing the delete key and moving past this topic,
but you aren't going to "love" every child.
On occasion I've told my social workers,
"I love so and so, but I don't love having them in my home."
I sometimes wonder if I don't have a big enough heart,
or if I'm not really cut out for being a foster parent.
It's easy to start second guessing why your a foster care provider at all,
when a child in your home makes you miserable.
It's times like these when I have to remind myself that I'm not a professional,
I have no special training for dealing with extreme behaviors,
I have other children, and responsibilities in my life that take up energy,
and unfortunately in life we just don't mesh with everyone we encounter. 
So you do your best, you cope, you reach out, and you give yourself a break -
that's all you can do!!!

Eventually you say goodbye... and yes, it's not easy.
We've been lucky so far, 
that our children's reunifications have been positive experiences. 
I often tell people, "I am sentimental to let them go, not sad."
Of coarse it's hard to say goodbye when you've created a life with these kids,
but no matter how bad their parents screwed up
a child's love is unmistakably constant. 
I never try to replace a child's parent,
it's not my place to fill that role.
Do I sometimes wish that child could stay?
Absolutely!
Do I think they could have a better life in our home?
YES!
But do I believe that they would be most happy with us?
NO!
So sometimes you cry, and you may even need to rant and rave,
but generally you are happy to see your child transition back to were they really belong.

The biggest blessings:
Laughter - without a doubt it's the laughter that brings me the most joy!
When we sit at the kitchen table at dinner time and everyone is talking a mile a minute,
and I think to myself how empty and quite our lives would be
if we hadn't embarked on this incredible adventure. 

The Little Things - when so much of your day seems consumed with 
keeping the peace, drying tears, enforcing rules, and doing laundry, 
it's easy to feel completely defeated. 
But then someone comes along and uses their magic (polite) words without being asked,
or someone tells you they love you, while another does something so cute or funny that you forget
about everything else going on around you - well those things are MAGIC!
They get you through the day, the month, and before long you can't imagine life without all the noise, and tantrums, and dirty dishes.

Personal Growth - There is nothing more rewarding than learning something new, 
and many times it's something you didn't even think you wanted to learn.
It wouldn't be fair if I didn't expect myself to overcome 
my own fears, and shortcomings -
so we all work on personal goals both mentally and emotionally. 
 As foster parents we are asked each year during our relicensing 
to come up with a few goals for the upcoming year. 
It's important to evaluate and perceive our own shortcomings.

My goals for this year are: 
To learn new techniques for dealing with strong willed children 
- especially toddlers.

Work on developing and directing family discussions
- becoming a strong leader in my home when it comes to conflict resolution. 

And learning more about puberty and how to teach healthy and responsible 
personal hygiene.

Well I better sign off - I've left two toddlers to tend to themselves for the last past hours.
Who knows what disasters await me. 

6 comments:

Pink Tree Studio said...

You are amazing, Chelsea, and I am so proud of you!!! You and Jim are true heros! ❤

*Vivika said...

This post is trully awesome. Full of truths. Thank you for sharing these.

Heather Johnson-Family Volley said...

Hi Chelsea,
What a lovely place to have landed. Your blog is beautiful. And so is your digital work. I have had so much fun browsing around.

Thank you for your kind comment on Family Volley (on the post about tattle-taling). I would be honored to have you post about it on your blog. If you would just link back to me, and maybe even send them to Family Volley for the printable, that would be great.

Here's to new friends.

xoxo
Heather

Jane said...

Chelsea, what you've written is truly beautiful and it would be a wonderful essay for agencies to share with prospective foster parents. Your honest expression of the ups and downs of fostering such diverse children, all in need of love and attention from caring adults, is something that everyone considering embarking on this kind of parental journey could benefit from!

Jojo Caramel said...

This is a very nice post Chelsea

prince mondal said...

I really impressed by the blog. Thanks a lot.
fostering agencies