Things No One Tells You About Foster Parenting

When I became a foster parent, I dove in head first. We were in such dier need in my area that classes weren't even necessary. I signed up, passed a background check, had an interview, and two weeks later had three kids dropped off on my front door step. I'd done a bit of research, but nothing could prepare me for the experience of truly having children living in my home. And there are a few things I've learned along the way.

The first month is the hardest.
The first month is an adjustment period. Many foster kids have previously had no order to their lives. Children need regularity, but getting in the habit of a daily schedule is still difficult. Without a doubt the hardest part, for me, with every child put in my home is the first month. As expected there are many tears shed. The kids are under an enormous amount of stress- having been placed in a new environment. There is a lot of defiance against authority figures, as they begin to learn why they should respect you. They'll usually test their bounderies. And they do so because you need to earn their respect. They need to know how you'll handle certain situations. They need to know what's expected of them. But once those things have been learned every single one of my kids settles themselves down and makes themselves comfortable. The first month is the hardest, but the time following that is when you truly start to grow as a family.

Bedtime is difficult.
During the day there are a lot of things to clear kids minds, but at night- once the lights are turned off, everything bad can easily come rushing back. I've seen this time and time again, with all ages of kids. There are a few ways to discourage it. Bedtime stories, watching a children's movie in bed, or having a talk before they go to sleep all help clear their minds. I find books and movies work best- as they can then fall asleep with their minds on something other than their own thoughts.

Sometimes social workers are wrong.
Over time, no one is going to know your kid(s) as well as you do. You've lived with them. You've seen their ups and downs. You know them; the good, the bad, the ugly. And that's why it's important for you to express your knowledge of the kids to other people involved in their lives. One of my foster children was misdiagnosed with ADHD and I began to notice that the medicine she was taking had an adverse effect on her. Without her medicine she was a lovely, hyper, normal child. With her medicine she was a zombie plagued with a horrible case of insomnia. It took a while and a lot of fighting, but eventually I corrected her diagnosis and had her removed from medication. Don't always assume social workers, case workers, and legal officials know what's right for your kid. Trust your own gut feeling- your motherly instincts are there for a reason.

Your relationships with the kids will never die.
My kids are my kids- no matter how long they've been away from my home or how far away they are. They'll always be a part of my family. They'll always hold a dear place in my heart. And to many people's surprise- they consider me family too. I keep in touch with all of my kids. I make sure they get Christmas and a nice birthday every year. I'm still a safe home for one's who need it- even if they're over 18. Once you've been a mother to a child- even for just a few weeks, you will always be a mother. Motherhood never dies. And that's the same in the kids eyes. If you have truly loved them, they will truly love you too. That's one thing they fail to mention in many classes. We're all taught to 'let go', but they forget to tell us it's okay to hold on.

You're a foster parent to the birth parent too.
Too many people hate birth parents. They feel like their mistakes define them. But as a foster parent it is not your place to judge. You are merely there to care for the kids. And by caring for the kids it's your responsibility to attempt to let them have a good relationship with their birth parents. I always extend my hand to the birth parents. They are included in holidays, recieve pictures and regular updates, and have regular contact with their kids. I fight for the birth parents as much as a I fight for the kids. I want there to be a 'happily ever after'. And by having a foster parent's support, many birth parents will feel even more motivated to get on and stay on the right track.

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