Written by Sarah Hihn
This year marks my 10th year as a licensed foster parent. It’s hard to believe that ten years has passed since I first began my fostering journey, and oh what a journey it has been! This adventure that I committed to so many years ago, has taken me on an incredible journey of self-discovery, growth, relationship building and increased social awareness. As a scared-to-death newbie, I never could have imagined the journey that lay ahead. As the ole saying goes “if I could go back and tell myself what I know now,” I’d definitely have some tips and encouragement for this wide-eyed, foster momma.
Five Things I’d Share:
1. Don’t Worry, You Got This! – The fostering path is not lined with puppies and kittens. Just like any new parent, there are days when you will want to quit, when you will question your decisions, when you’ll feel like you’re not making an impact. But listen; it’s going to be okay! You are going to be surprised by what you will be able to tackle and overcome. Years from now, you are going to be amazed by how much stronger a person you are!
2. Seek and Accept Help – Reread number 1! There are going to be challenging days. Each kid that comes through your home has experienced some trauma and it impacts them – some days more than others. The best way to work through those trauma-impacted days will be to utilize your stockpile of resources. Seek out every program, service, professional, etc. that can help you, help your kids. You have to be resourceful to be successful. Network for connections, ask lots of questions and get to know how things work (e.g., Medicaid, court system, different agency rules, medication, special needs education and mental health systems – just to name a few).
3. Biological Relationships will Always be Important – Working with your child’s biological family (bios) will be awkward at first, but with each experience you will develop skills that will help you manage the next time. Bios come in all different types. Some will be on their game working their plan, others will drag things out, some just won’t comply and some will disappear. Some will complain about perceived lack of care you provide their child and others will thank you. Managing these relationships will often require you to be the better person and that is what you will do. You are not God, judge or social worker; you are the child’s caregiver and those bios are more times than not, extremely important to the child. For that reason, you will hold your tongue, expand your acceptance for the different ways people live, and support biological connections.
4. The rumors are real, the system is exasperating! – The foster care system is as diverse and complex as the cultures of the world. System policies and politics will be frustrating and can be the root for some of those challenging days. There will be times when your view will be the complete opposite of the system and these divergence of viewpoints will hurt because of the impact they’ll have on the child you’ve come to love. There’s no use trying to predict a pattern. Each case, every magistrate, every social worker and every child –they will all be different. Just learn something from each case and carry it with you; it will help you play the game a little better.
5. Take Time for Yourself – Make sure to take moments to recharge, it’s important! Dealing with traumatized, special-needs children is going to be hard. You will cry, yell, get angry and swear you’ll quit but, you will get up the next day and do it all over again because you’ll feel that you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. That said, celebrate yourself! Get an (approved) sitter, schedule some time and get together with friends. Drink grown-up drinks, eat at a restaurant with tablecloths or simply take a quiet walk. This fostering thing you’re doing, it’s a big deal, and you’ve earned time for yourself.
The fostering journey will have navigational challenges but; the simple joys that hide around the corners will ensure you stay the course. Be strong Foster Parent, you are going to do great!
Have you ever thought of being a foster parent? The “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Make a call today to start your voyage.