Monday, July 21, 2014

Notes from a Foster/Adoptive Parent

Personal notes from me as a foster/adoptive parent.  Things we hear from most everyone once they find out we do foster care or have adopted.  Some is advice to you, and some may be just a little insight so you don’t put your foot in your mouth the next time someone tells you they do foster care or have adopted their child(ren).

1.  I couldn't do that because I wouldn’t want to give them back.

   Are you saying that if a child in need came to your door, you’d say, oh honey, I’d let you come in and feed you and keep you safe, but it will hurt my feelings when you leave, so I’m not going to do that.  Sorry.
   I have a hard time understanding how this sentence can be positive toward me in any way?  To me you are saying I have no heart, or I am insensitive, or I have no feelings and it will not be hard or hurt me when they leave.  Ouch!
   The truth is, you don’t have a choice.  When or if the time comes for them to leave, the social worker says have them ready at something o’clock and then they pick them up.
   Does it hurt!  Oh yes.  But it’s still worth all the effort and work of giving love to a child in need.  And frankly, I think that opens you up to want to help more children in need, even if for a short time.

So- what could you say instead?
-Thank you for giving, even when it hurts.  
-I’m glad you are gifted in this area, because I don’t think it’s my specialty.
-That must be hard, if you ever need a shoulder to lean on during the hard times, you can count on me.
-Or, if you ever want to talk about it, I’d be willing to listen, and pray for you.
John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

2. You’re so lucky to be with them.

    Now I can understand the underlying meaning here, but still. Do you know what these children have gone through in their life?  Even though their family has hurt them in some fashion, it’s the only people they know.  To them, that is how everyone functions.  They don’t know any different, yet.  But in the process, probably a police officer, and a social worker came into their house and put them in a car and brought them to a ‘strangers’ house, until further notice.  From their viewpoint, do you think they are still lucky?

So- what could you say instead?
Nothing.  You do not need to tell them anything regarding this circumstance in their life.  Just accept them, and love them.
Matthew 25: 35,36,40
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, 
I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, 
 was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, 
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

3.  Do you have any ‘real’ children?

   If only you could see inside my home.  That it’s me who helps them when they get hurt, and it’s me who tucks them in at night, and is there for them in the morning or even when they are crying in the middle of the night.  I’m the one making the food, washing the clothes, teaching them.  Guiding them when they do wrong.  Comforting them when they hurt, or cry just because.  I’m the one who takes them to their doctor appointments and picks them up from any other meetings.  I’m the one who adjusts my schedule to be here for them all day long.  If that is not the love of a parent, then I don’t know what is.  They are really my children for however long they are in my home.  I am really taking care of them.    When you birthed your child, even though you were there, it was not YOU who made that happen.  It was God.  He created the child, and he gave the child to you.  Just because I didn’t birth the child doesn’t mean that we don’t belong together.  God gave me these children, just differently than how God gave you your children.  And not just the adopted ones, but every foster child who ends up here as well.  God placed them here for me to take care of, as a mother.  We are not guaranteed any number of days with our children, even though there is the ‘normal’ life span.  I look at these foster children as an extra member of the family for however many days they end up staying at our house.  3 days, 3 months, 3 years, forever.....They will have been a member of our family, and we will never forget them or the impact they left on our family.  And I can only hope we will leave a Christ-like impact on them, no matter the amount of time they spend here with us.

So- what could you say instead? (If you really need to know....)
Do you have any biological children?  (We refer to the term ‘bio’ for short.)
Romans 8:15b
...You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.  

Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

4.  So, are you going to adopt them (him/her)?

   I would love to adopt every foster kid that comes through my door.  But that is not my choice from the start.  Most kids do not come to your home because they are looking for a permanent place to live, but a temporary place to live.  They come to your home because they are in a bad situation and need a safe place to stay until their parents or guardian can get the help they need to get their life back on track.  And if that doesn’t happen, it takes many months of court for them to decide to place the child up for adoption and then many months for the adoption to be final.  It’s not an easy or quick process, unfortunately.

So- what could you say instead?
Nothing.  You do not need to ask this question.  If we were going to adopt them, we would proclaim it from the mountain tops!
Matthew 19:14
 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, 
for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

5.  Where did you get your children?
   Seriously?  Why would you need to ask this question?  If you are asking because you know someone who adopted from a certain location, then say that.  We will give you any other information regarding our children that we feel necessary for you to know.  When you foster you are a foster parent for the county that you live in.  So your town, or any small town in your county, that’s where these children are from.  Yes, shocker.....these things happen even in your town!

So- what could you say instead?
A better question could be, where were your children born?
Revelation 4:11
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.

6.  Is it hard to love them?
   I’ve got to be honest, I was really taken aback when someone asked me this one.  Is it easy to love your spouse, your mom, your in-laws,  your neighbor, or you name it!   Maybe, maybe not.   But, love is a choice.  Either you’re going to choose to love them, or not.  I’m in it to love them all, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Because that’s what Jesus would do.  And that is what the child so desperately needs.  LOVE.  Unconditional love.  Show them the love of Jesus.
1 John 4:19
 We love because he first loved us

7.  Aren’t you worried that the foster kids will be a bad influence on your other children?
   My response to this is, Do you go to the store?  Do you watch TV?  Do your kids go to public school?  Aren’t you afraid those people will be a bad influence to your kids?  Of course you need to prepare for bad influences.  That is why you teach your children how to act appropriately, and how to make wise choices.  It’s much easier to be there and watch the lessons my children are learning while they are happening under my roof, before they grow up and learn these lessons without anyone to help coach them through it or afterwards.  If anything, this is a great way to teach your children first hand the differences in people, the way our choices affect us and those around us, and how to be a good example to others.

So- what could you say instead?
I don’t have just one answer here, so maybe you could honestly and sincerely ask us what it’s like on a day to day basis?
Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

8.  You’re too strict.
   We each have our own methods of teaching our children.  All children need boundaries, some need more than others.  And not all, but many foster children have lived a life of no boundaries.  They don’t say it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks for no reason.  The longer you have lived life with no boundaries the harder it is to learn in some cases.  Thus the more consistent you need to be in your follow-through of any circumstance.  If you feel bad for the child, it’s because you know nothing about them, or their behaviors or their current needs, and you are not thinking about what is best for them.  We are trying to give them what they need to succeed in life.  
   I think we need to all be more understanding of each parent’s disciplinary choices.  You don’t get to pick how I discipline and I don’t get to pick how you discipline.  Even advice in this area is not so well received by most anyone not just foster parents, that maybe we shouldn’t give it unless specifically asked.  However, if you took time to get to know the different needs of the child, you might change your thinking all together about the "strictness".
Matthew 7:9-10
 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!

9.  All kids do that.
   This one really gets my goat.  No, all kids do not do that.  At least, they do not do it for the same reason as this child.  Yes, we are all sinners, and all kids are naughty at some point.  Yes, all kids have many similar actions, and go through many similar life cycles.  However, foster/adoptive children have most often been through a traumatic time in their young life.  They possibly were exposed to drugs and alcohol prenataly, and/or after birth and many of the choices they make are not because all children do that.  It’s because they don’t know how to express the pain they have lived and they are acting it out through naughtiness or something else maybe even something worse.  It’s because they were robbed of consistency, and love and support during the most important times of life for a child.  And now they are acting out in a way that reflects their history, and/or their disabilities/special needs, most of which are disabilities that are not noticeable to the naked eye.

10.  Why isn’t your kid in this or that class? or Why didn’t you guys come last night?
   There are some events we are not going to be able to attend, either as adoptive parents of special needs kids, or as foster parents.  As a foster parent you live life by the day.  You have no idea even that day what is going to happen, so it’s hard to plan things out.  I can’t guarantee that we are going to be able to attend that service, or that party, or most things, because I don’t know how my children are going to behave that day, or how many children I will have in my house that day.  Just like “that” a social worker could bring 1, 2 or more foster kids to my house.  There is little warning.  When new ones come we are unable to attend because we know nothing about these new ones.  We need to get acquainted, we need to adjust to a new normal, we need to learn what their temperaments are like, and how they will act in different areas and situations.  Like I said previously about the non-visual disabilities, they can not always handle the stress of groups.  Or they are highly sensitive to the lack of boundaries in those class/activity types of settings that they start their acting up, or resort to their old ways.  Then it’s all down hill from there.  
   Maybe it’s our adopted kids, or foster children we’ve had in the home for quite awhile.  The special needs that come from the years of trauma and neglect these children suffered at such a young age is not going to go away quickly.  It takes a long time to help clean up the negative before you can even start adding the positive to their life.  One thing can resort their brain to survival mode.  And it’s not a pretty sight.  Sometimes for yours, mine and the child’s sake it’s best we stay home.

So- what could you say instead?
We missed you, but understand you couldn’t make it.

What can you do for us?

Bring us meals, or host a shower for us when a new child comes to our house.  You do it for someone who has a baby.  And this is just as life changing and stressful.  We need to know people are there for us.

Offer us some of your used items.  We are constantly going through clothes of all sizes in either gender, and shoes wear out like crazy, and toys get wore out from all the different children.  Looking to downsize your toys, or baby/children items.  See if a foster family can use them.

Offer to fill out paperwork to be a legal babysitter for us!  We need a break sometimes, and unlike birthed children, we can not just call any babysitter.  We have to set it up with another foster family, who likely is already filled up with other foster kids, or not go anywhere.  My husband and I have not been on a date just the two of us for maybe a year.  Either I go and he stays with the kids or he goes and I stay with the kids, or we all go somewhere together.  So, fill out the background check and attend one meeting.  Then you are legally able to babysit for us on short notice.  What I wouldn’t do to have you in my life.

Check in on us sometimes.  Things are up and down and always changing.  Maybe we just need you to check in and make sure we are ok.  Or maybe we ran out of toilet paper, and there is no way to get to the store right now.  Like for instance when there were six kids in the house and I can’t leave any of them home alone, but I also can’t fit that many kids in my van at the same time and my husband is at work. :)

Notice us.  I can’t say it enough.  Foster parents are few and far between and there isn’t a big foster family group where we can all get together to encourage one another.  We need others to be understanding even when they don't understand.  Be there for us in the good and the bad.  Stand behind us no matter what.

Mourn with us.  A child that we have taken in and loved as a part of our family is gone.  That is loss my friend.  Loss hurts.  Loss and grief do not go away in 1 hour or 1 day or 1 week or 1 year.  We will always remember that child, we will always miss that child.  Don’t make us feel like we can’t talk about these children that we miss.  Whether you knew them or not.  The children will come and go, but we will not lose the memories we made with them while they were here.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Choice Point

Some times you just need a visual.  Right?

We are constantly talking about the two paths of life.  One leading to reward and the other leading to consequence.  Recently I decided to make it be a cliff instead, and had the idea to make it a visual as well.

So here's the end result.

It always seems like an easy choice when we are asked which way we'd rather go.  But when you're in the heat of the situation, sometimes we jump right off the cliff before we even know where we are.  And when that happens, consequence comes and there is no way out.  I think that is the better part of the cliff senario for my kids in this picture.  This shows them that once they have jumped into the consequence "Danger Zone" you can't just turn around and now get back on the other path easily.  It takes a little more effort than that.

Hope you can utilize this as well.


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