January Foster Care Budget

I get questions quite a bit about my monthly budget for my foster kids (about how many dollars do I spend each month on costs associated ONLY with foster parenting). I don't accept any checks or form of reimbursement. It's a choice I made when I first began fostering. I don't make -a lot- of money, but I make enough to support myself and my kids. I thought it was really important that I can show my kids that they are not associated with a dollar sign. And I wanted to 'walk the walk', rather than just 'talk the talk'. With that being said- I've decided to start a 'Monthly Budget Post', where each month I will tally up the approximate amount of US dollars I've spent each month, fostering. This is the first month, January 2015. I've tried to keep track of all of my purchases. These purchases account for three kids ages 5 to 12.

Groceries (these are groceries I've purchased specifically for the kids- not myself, or family meals in general. These only account for additional purchases made solely for the children) :
Breakfast Cereal: $10
Oatmeal: $10
Waffle-Making Supplies (flour, sugar, etc): $10
Different Flavors of Syrup: $20
Cheese, Meat, and Crackers For School Lunches: $20
Sandwich Supplies For School Lunches: $20
Fruit and Veggies For School Lunches: $20
Granola Bars: $15
Fruit Leather/ Organic Fruit Snacks: $25
Apple Sauce: $15
Popcorn: $20
TOTAL: $175

New Electronic Toothbrushes: $15
New Toothpaste: $5
Hair Comb: $2
Shampoo/Conditioner: $10
TOTAL: $32

School/ Court Meetings/ Family Visitations: $60
TOTAL: $60

Pencil Sharpener: $5
Volcano-Making Kit: $15
Poster-Board, Markers, Glitter-Pens: $10
TOTAL: $30

Underwear: $15
TOTAL: $15

Movies/ DVDs (including rentals): $20
Books: $15
New Sleds: $30
TOTAL: $65


NOTE: An important thing to keep in mind is that this 'budget' does not account for any extra groceries I buy for daily meals like dinner- which I would be cooking for myself anyways, I just make more now (which is probably another $200 to $250 total each month). It also doesn't cover any of the costs of bringing a new child into my home.

What To Do When Your Foster Child Talks About Suicide

Suicide is a strong word, and depression is an awful disease. ANY child battling depression and thoughts of suicide needs a strong support system behind them. Unfortunately- not all foster children have that kind of support system. It's important that, as a foster parent, you are always there for your child- not to judge, not to preach, but to help. If your child EVER mentions suicide or death to you take it seriously. Depression is not a joke. It's not a 'phase'. It's a heartbreaking illness- and it should be treated that way.

    Talk to your social worker immediately: Once your child has confided these thoughts with you- let them know that you want to make sure that they have a strong support system around them as they struggle through this time. Tell them you are going to tell their social worker- and then DO tell their social worker. Making other people aware, opens up opportunities for you AND your child to get the help you need.

    Do not get mad: For some reason many parents basic instinct is to become upset when their child speaks of killing themselves. This is by far not the correct reaction. Obviously you're not going to celebrate. And chances are you are going to feel angry and upset. But remember that your child is going through so much right now. They need a strong adult figure who can set a good example for dealing with hard issues in a healthy way. Be that example, and keep a level-head.

    Let them know you're worried because you CARE: A lot of teens in foster care feel pushed to the way-side. They are often the 'forgotten children'. Too old to be babied. Too old to be hugged and cuddled to sleep. Too old to have band-aids placed on their boo-boos. In a lot of ways it can be hard to show a teen you care. But one of the easiest ways to do it- is to tell them. Be open with them and let them know you love them so much, you want the best for them, and you're obviously very nervous and worried- but that's not THEIR fault, it's only your way of reacting because you care so so much.
Ask them why, what's causing it: A lot of people struggling with depression don't know "why". And a simple "I don't know" can be an honest answer. But don't doubt the power of words. Ask your child why they feel the need to end their life- what's bothering them. This simple action gives the child a way to open up to you, because you are asking them to open up to you.

    Listen: This is always a tough one. It's so hard not to immediately dive in and give advice or try to cure all of their problems. But the best way to truly discover the core of your child's problems is to listen to them. Ears open, lips closed- is often my policy. Listen to everything they say. Truly listen- and truly care.

    Offer up ways to fix issues that may be causing the pain: When your child has finished opening up to you, work together to think of solutions. If your child is struggling with bullies in school- offer to talk to counselors, teachers, and parents. If your child is feeling abandon by their birth family, let them know that family can often go beyond genetic ties (and you consider them just as much a part of your family as your blood relatives). Also always be open to finding new therapeutic outlets for them, especially (in this case) suicide support groups and phone services for teens.

    Help create alternative ways for them to deal with sadness: Dealing with hurt is hard. Dealing with hurt as a teenager is harder. So many things are still uncertain. And at a time when most kids are still care-free, a child in foster care could be facing SO much more than we can possibly imagine. So continually be thinking of ways for your child to deal with sadness. Put the energy into a new sport (sign them up for karate or tennis, etc). Volunteer at an animal shelter and put your love and devotion into good things. Make art to express yourself. Punch a punching bag to let out steam. There are so many ways to rid yourself of sadness. Let your child know those ways, and help them fight depression.

    Attend therapy and support groups. I find that there are so many amazing support groups out there- especially for individuals facing depression. Attend a few meetings, or special therapy sessions WITH your child. Be a part of their healing as much as possible, and get them the professional and group help that could make the difference.

Dawn's Story: When Fawns Come From An Abusive Foster Home

One sibling group was moved to me from a different foster home. The woman in the foster home said the kids were 'uncontrollable', 'out of hand', and 'she couldn't wait to see them leave'. Everyone I spoke to let me know that there were some serious issues that these children carried with them. These three kids were my first ever placement. When they arrived on my doorstep, they were scared TO DEATH. Silent. Barely said a word. We had small snacks and they went to bed crying for about a month after coming into my home. But slowly, they began to open up. And when they began to talk- the secrets that spilled from their lips would haunt me for a long time. In their last foster home they had been abused. They were forced to walk home, on muddy roads, in tennis shoes in the middle of winter (which in Alaska is just asking for frost-bitten toes). When they got home, if their pants were muddy they weren't allowed to change and were forced to wash dishes as a consequence. The youngest girl was repeatedly 'swung around' (in the way her siblings described it) by an older man in the house. They would cry and try to stop him, but if they cried he'd just swing her harder. He wouldn't stop until she stopped crying out.

These three kids didn't have a single problem in my home. In fact they amazed everyone (their school counselor, their case worker, their birth mother) with their turnaround. Which quickly lead me to pointing the finger at the other foster parents. The root of the childrens 'problems' was their environment, NOT themselves.

I shared this particular story, because I want foster parents to be aware that a lot of their kids problems can be reversed with some love and patience. OF COURSE the children are going to act out if they've been taught to fear 'foster parents'. OF COURSE they're going to have issues if they came from an abusive home. Remind yourself of that before you judge. My kids had been notorious for running away, vandalizing public buildings, acting out in school, and not listening to their past foster parents. Every. Single. One of those issues disappeared when they arrived in my home. You want to know why? They had no reason to run away- and they knew that. They weren't angry anymore, so they didn't need to vandalize things. Things were okay at home, finally, and that calm attitude leaked over into their school attitude. And they listened to me, because for the first time in a long time, they respected the person who was caring for them (and I respected them back in return). Don't judge a book by its cover, and don't judge a foster child by their case studies and paperwork. Kids can surprise you, and all kids really need is a reason to be good, and the good in them will start shining through.

17 Ways Your Foster Child Says 'Thank You'

Honestly, there are some shady foster parents out there (I, as a foster parent, will be the first person to admit this). I hear a lot of them say "You'll never get a 'thank you'". Um, no- of course you won't. As a parent you should never expect a 'thank you'. Do you EVER expect your birth child to stand up and say "Wow, mom/dad thanks for taking care of me."? No- because you take care of them anyways. They expect you to take care of them. And you love them so much that you wouldn't care if you never received a thank-you even once in your life for what you've done for them. Why in the world should a foster child be any different? And I can PROMISE you- you will receive more 'thank yous' than you can count from ANY foster child in your home. In fact, just to make a point- here's a list of 25 ways your foster child says 'thank you'.

When they ask you for help or advice: They're showing you they trust you, and need you, and want you in their life. They're saying 'thank you for being open to help me'.

When they apologize for a mistake: They're showing you that they respect your opinion, and they're sorry that they degraded your opinion of them. They're saying 'thank you for looking beyond my bad- I'll try to be better."

When they get an A+ in school: They're proving that they are out to better themselves and to do the best they can. They're saying "thank you for all the times you helped me finish homework and study."

When they shine through with their talents: They're showing how much confidence they have and how truly wonderful they are. They're saying 'thank you for being proud of me, thank you for letting me do something I love, and thank you for cheering me on while I do it."

When they eat their dinner: They're showing you they appreciate the work you put into cooking food for them, and a lot of them are saying, "thank you for keeping me well-fed, because not everyone in my life has."

When they accept a gift: They're accepting a bit of your love by accepting something you gave them with love. They're saying "thank you for loving me, and being generous even if you didn't have to be."

When they're cordial to your friends and relatives: They're proving that they care about your reputation as much as you do. They're saying "thank you for introducing me to all of these people who mean so much to you- and letting them care about me as well."

When they try to better themselves: They're taking your advice and using it to inspire themselves. They're saying 'thank you for always encouraging me to be the best person I can be."

When they ask you for something: They're reaching out- which is a difficult thing for anyone to do, let alone a child who may have been hurt in the past. They're saying "thank you for being someone I can trust."

When they laugh at one of your jokes: They're either humoring you or enjoying your humor. Either way they're saying, "thank you for making me smile."

When they have a good day: They're showing you that you are making an impact. You are helping them live a happy life. They're saying "thank you for all you do to ensure that I'm experiencing a fulfilling childhood."

When they smile: They're physically expressing their happiness- proving to you that they are in a good place in their life. They're saying "thank you for forcing this brilliant smirk out of me."

When they make new friends: They're gaining confidence, and showing that they can interact with peers in a positive way. They're saying "thank you for being a good role model to me in how I should behave and interact with people."

When they get excited about something: They're showing you their passion and their drive. They're saying "thank you for introducing me to new things and letting me follow my dreams."

When they offer to help: They're trying to be a constructive part of your family (and society for that matter). They're saying "Thank you for all you've done for me- let me help you this time."

When they take care of themselves: They're showing you that they are growing up to be a responsible independent adult. They're saying "Thank you for giving me the tools to go into adulthood with confidence."

When they say "Thank you": A simple small insignificant 'thank you' for dinner or a birthday gift or a signature on their basketball try-out form, can mean a BIG thank you if you want it to. So many people brush off the small 'thank yous' and consider them insincere. But there is NOTHING insincere about a child thanking you for the small things you do. Don't overlook everything. Don't assume your child isn't happy to have meant you. Their life is tough- very tough, but you are making it a bit easier. I would NEVER in a MILLION years expect any of my kids to say 'thank you' to me. I do what I do because I love them with every piece of my heart. I am the one who should be saying thank you to them! They are my comedians- making me laugh on days when I feel like crying. They are my entertainers, constantly keeping me in awe of their talents. They are my pride and joy- giving me an eternal reason to brag to others. They are the light in my life. A 'thank you' from them comes through in a million ways- but I never want a 'thank you'. I'd rather have a 'your welcome'- because they give me so much more than I could ever give them.