May is National Foster Care Month, a time set aside to acknowledge the foster parents, child advocates, volunteers and organizations who help children in foster care find permanent homes. For me, it is a time to acknowledge and pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of courageous children that, due to no fault of their own, are placed into foster care every single day. Sometimes they are reunited with family, only to be placed back into the system again. Other times, when well-meaning foster parents find that therapeutic parenting is tougher than they first believed, the children are removed from one foster home and placed into another, beginning the process of trust and bonding all over again.
This is not meant to be a generalization of all children in foster care. However, many of them do go through these hardships. But against all odds, they still press on, hoping for a loving, forever family and a brighter future.
As a former foster mom, I dedicate this post to all mothers parenting children in foster care and to women that may be strongly considering it. I understand the joy and the struggles and I want you to know that you have what it takes. These precious children are not above redemption. They need you.
To The Mom Fostering A Child That Comes From A Hard Place:
I want you to know that I understand. I understand how challenging it is to reach this child that you love, who seems so heavily guarded.
I know it may be difficult to listen to your child tantrum and scream. Please understand that she is scared and angry. She doesn’t know why she has been taken from her home. Good or bad, her mom and dad are still her mom and dad and they are the only parents she knows. She may feel as if she has done something wrong and that somehow this is all her fault. Please help her to realize that this entire situation is not at all her fault.
I know that you feel incredibly drained from your child’s sleepless nights. Try to remember that there may have been times when she was left alone. Perhaps outside in the dark or in an abandoned house. Consider how frightening that must have been for her, to cry out for someone, but no one ever came. Now she has a challenge trusting and communicating because no one ever paid attention to that beautiful voice that you seldom get to hear.
I know that it seems irrational that your child hoards and hides food when there is plenty of food available for her to eat. Please understand that there may have been times that she went hungry for days. She might have lived a lifestyle of either feast or famine. Her brain might not remember this but her body certainly does. Now, she will do anything she can to avoid feeling the excruciating pangs of hunger ever again.
Try not to take it personally when she pulls away from your gentle hugs. For years, she may have been the recipient of abuse. Now, it is hard for her to welcome even the gentlest touch from someone with the best intentions.
I know that it is embarrassing when she says or does inappropriate things. Remember, she might have been exposed to things that no child ever should. Social norms are probably very confusing for her. She feels so misunderstood. She is only mimicking what she has seen.
I know that you are tired of receiving the same bad report from her teacher at the school. But before feeling that all hope is lost, try to understand why she can’t concentrate in class. Consider the reason behind her constant movement and distraction. Maybe when she sits still and listens, it gives her time to think – and she doesn’t want to think. She doesn’t want to remember the sights, sounds, and smells of what she has been through. So she moves, she makes noise, she distracts others. She does anything she can to escape the memories that keep replaying in her head.
I know how frustrating it is when she seems to ruin holidays and special events. Please understand that while other children may be excited about family gatherings or vacations, these occasions remind her of the family that she has lost. In the midst of her pain, she is forced to participate in traditions that are not like her own and she is expected to smile and be grateful for them.
I know that it is hard to focus on the positive when you are drowning in so much negativity. But I want you to know how brave and strong you are. I want you to know how brave and strong your child is. Please believe that with your help, she will heal from this. Her story will not end here. She will not always be this little. Her life will not always be dictated by a group of adults that she barely even knows. As she grows older, the thought of this will be welcomed but frightening for the both of you. But I want you to know that she will make it through, and so will you.
How? You will teach her to persevere, by watching you persevere. You will be there for her while she does the hard work it takes to heal from emotional scars. You will show her how to trust others and how to accept assistance from the adults in her life, by watching you trust others and accept assistance from the adults in yours. You will teach her to treat education as the golden ticket that it is. You will encourage her to hold on to hope. The hope for a brighter future. You will believe in her ability to succeed in spite of the wrongs that have been done to her. You will be there for her day in and day out, and by doing this, you will show her that she is loved unconditionally. You will show her that she is wanted.
To the amazing Foster Parents out there: Thank you. Thank you for being patient and understanding with these precious children. Many of them are going through tough battles inside that tend to make their way to the surface and you are often the recipient of this explosion. It is your call to win them over, to be there for them, to be that person that never gives up on them. Reach out for help when you need it. Take respite when you can. Although the world may not understand why you do what you do, please know that you are very important to your child, and your worth cannot be measured.