Foster Children Were Asked: 'How Could Foster Parents Do A Better Job?'
One of the important things for a child growing up is that they have the opportunity to grow up in a completely safe and stable environment where they can experience true love, acceptance, and support from all those around them.
Family-based substitute care is a great way for youth who are in a vulnerable situation to hopefully gain this, and some day move towards being reunified with their biological parents and/or adopted.
As the following AskReddit thread explores, these are some of the tips that some foster parents implicated in order to provide their foster children with the best home lives possibile.
When a flower doesnt blossom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.
Don't treat foster kids like second-class citizens if you already have kids of your own.
I literally was not allowed on the second floor of a house the entire time that I lived there because it was where "the real family" lived.
My family used to foster kids when I was younger. I heard a story about a kid that was so worried about not having enough to eat and was constantly hoarding food. So, the foster parents decided to have a food fight. Once the child realized that there was enough food, they could literally throw it around, he never hoarded again.
At my last home, when you turned 15 you got a job. When you got your first check, [my foster mom] would take you to open a bank account and deposit half. Then, at least a quarter each one after. That way, by the time you turned 18, you had a nice little nest egg.
I spent 15 years in the foster care system in about 30 different homes. I would say the thing that helped me settle in the most was being able to share a room with my brother, or if they had a child my age. It made it feel safer or in some cases like more of a sleepover. I hated sleeping alone in a new home, it was so depressing. Often, I would just cry myself to sleep.
I also felt like I fit in more when the families didn't introduce me to people as their "foster child" like I was some charity case. In many homes, you could tell that the foster parents were only in it for the money and it showed. You were always given used clothing and didn't attend the same activities as their biological children nor receive the same treatment. Being a foster child is very lonely, a bit of compassion goes a long way.
Be understanding. Even if you adopt an infant, there are still going to be "problems" that come along with them. We are at a much higher risk for developing a mental health issue. You don't know what the kid's parents did to them before they got taken away. Trauma leaves scars that don't necessarily heal in time and that trauma doesn't just go away because the kid doesn't remember it happening.
Be patient and know when to give space. Don't take them not warming up to you personally. These kids have been let down before, it's all they know. It will take time, don't force it. Just make sure they know you're there if they need you. When they do realize you don't have any ill intentions/this really is a home for them, they won't want to mess it up or disappoint you.
I love and respect my foster family so much when they ask me if I'm available to record a show on their TV. I will literally drive home to do so. Not out of obligation, but out of love. I genuinely want them to be happy because I know they want me to be happy. (Luckily, they figured out how to do it from their phone)
Buy them nice clothes. When I was a foster kid and a ward of the state all I had were ugly clothes because no one ever bought me any. Teach them how to dress themselves like they are worth something.
If you have enough time in advance or if it becomes necessary for the foster kid to move on to another home for any reason, get them luggage. Don't make them take around the few things that they do own in a garbage bag or a produce box. That kind of thing is traumatizing.
We were fostering our daughter (she was already in foster care before, but we were in the process of adopting), and we always introduced her like "This is X and she will be living with us for a while." Labels hurt so a name and the circumstance is more than enough.
The foster parents kept a mini fridge in the child's room stocked with juice and snacks to help alleviate the "I don't know when I'm going to eat again" food hoarding issue.
Create a level playing field for all of the children in your care. Whether biological, adopted, or in foster care, they all deserve to be equal in the eyes of the adults who care for them.
Don't force religion on them. Don't let your biological kids bully them. Don't show any favoritism. Communicate acceptance, that it isn't their fault, and that you're there if they need to talk.
Don't forget that they don't automatically know all of the civilized stuff you do in your family. I once had someone yell at me for not washing the dishes correctly. They had never taught me. Pay attention to triggers. I always got yelled at in the car before, So, when someone started a "serious talk" with me in the car, I would automatically lose my temper. Remember, when you don't understand something, it might make sense to the kid. You just don't have the background information to fill it in.
Teaching them to do any assigned chores correctly (and kindly) is pretty important. When I was in foster care, I had a foster mom who used to make me do all of the chores she didn't make her kids do, and then berated me for "doing it wrong", so I had to do it over and over until it was good enough. I would've been fine if she had the patience to actually show me how she wanted things done in the first place.
My mom fosters. She keeps a stockpile of stuffed animals. It helps newcomers to feel a little security. My 12-year-old brother still has his from when he was 5 months old. Even when he had to leave, my mom kept them for when he got back. The system is hectic. I grew up believing that they're all my siblings. The five living at my mom's right now are all siblings. Modeling family is a great way to break the cycle. I have grown sisters who still call, and one of them plays super bowl with my stepdad every year.
As of last night, my wife and I received our first foster placement. We have been very deliberate in creating a safe, loving, and nurturing home.
On a night when the children we received lost everything they had, all we could think of was them knowing love.
Foster kids love their birth parents, no matter what. It was never my role or right to critique or comment on their birth parents, but rather to be respectful and honor that child's personal meaning-making.
Love is not enough for kids who need therapy. You wouldn't just love a kid who has a serious illness without also doing something else to help them get better, and you can't just love a child who has experienced trauma. Be an advocate, fight with the County, and get kids who need it, therapeutic interventions.
Every kid we had who was older than a toddler hoarded food. We'd get a kid, and a day or two later, I'd realize they had pieces of pot roast stuck behind the headboard. I was kind of upset/puzzled, but then I realized it was an adaptive behavior. If you've been hungry often, hoarding food makes a lot of sense. Of course, in our house, it was a maladaptive behavior because we had plenty of food. I learned to give every kid some Tupperware. I told them to use that if they felt nervous about food and then, eventually, they'd get over it.
Let your foster children keep the personal belongings that they bring along with them if they have any.
My aunt and uncle are foster parents. They treat their foster kids just like their biological kids. Meaning out of love, they go to the end of the earth and back for these kids that they may only have for a few months. I've seen kids come into their home looking like they were on the verge of death and leave with more life and in better health than ever. They just love them with everything they have. It's not a job to them. They even went as far as to adopt three of the foster kids, and they have two in permanent care at their home. It's amazing.
Obviously, not everyone can be amazing like this, but like if I had to give any advice, just love the kids. Treat them like your kids and not like a job.
Feed them so much. Always have food available. Cook and eat with them, and be consistent about it. A good, hot, consistent meal brings so much stability to the chaos of being a kid in a new place. Don't fill your pantry full of chips and soda because they'll just get hoarded away, and then they won't want dinner. Don't talk about the cost of food in a negative way around them. You don't want to make them feel like a burden for eating/being alive.
Food is easy. Food is common ground, and it's the easiest place to start.
Just treat them like normal kids. Probably the best part growing up in foster care and then getting adopted is that it honestly felt normal to me. Technically, different from other kids with biological parents, but normal to me.
Don't threaten to get rid of the kid because you want them to do something. You'll lose any and all trust they had in you or any adult for that matter.
When you're a kid most adults will tell you one thing or another is "cool" and "fun." Odds are you're too young to form any kind of opinion on the matter one way or another. You're a kid, right? You don't know what you're eating for breakfast. However, when you get older and form that larger worldview, you realize that yeah, maybe that one time when you were a kid actually wasn't fun.
These are those stories.