Thursday, July 07, 2016

What I Can Tell You About Fostering

**Every month or so I write about being a foster parent.  It's an important message and it's not fun or entertaining and I can't share details so it's tricky.  I don't even know if this is anything new (ha, I'm really "selling it" ) but I just ask that you read with an open heart.  We've been foster parents for one year now and I don't know what the future holds but I hope that we will be able to welcome other children into our home and hearts for years to come.  We can only help one child at a time and many more homes are needed.**

"You'll be so happy! You'll look and feel great!  Your life will be easier!"  I wish I could say some of these things to entice you to consider being a foster parent but unfortunately the reality is a little less exciting.  Somehow "You'll be tired, frustrated, confused and hurt!" doesn't quite have the same ring to it. Okay, so you will feel joy and love and other great things, but to be clear: it's not easy.



Now before you click that "x" button on the top right to close this thinking that this has NOTHING to do with you, just give me a minute.  Why are you here?  Like, on Earth.  What do you want for your kids?  For me, I believe we are here to love and that is what I want my kids to experience–being loved and sharing that with others.  What does this look like? Being kind, teaching our kids empathy, volunteering, donating money, smiling and saying hello to the person we pass on the sidewalk–these are examples of love.  Could we all do more? Yes, I believe so–big or small, we can do something.

It's easy to get into a groove and feel comfortable. Why would we want to push beyond this?  Sometimes we feel like we've been treading water for so long and are finally floating, why would we go back to trying to stay afloat?  We're finally sleeping through the night–why risk that?  We finally have some freedom as the kids are past the nap and diaper stage–why go back?  We finally have some predictability–why mess with it? Believe me, I feel these things too.

Why make things more difficult? Why tip the balance when things are working well as they are?  Well, as hard as it might be for us to make a change, there are kids that need us– children need a safe, stable and loving home.  If we keep thinking someone else will provide that home, you can bet that many others are thinking the same thing.  More homes are needed.  And just because life will be more difficult doesn't mean it will be worse; harder can mean character building and as cheesy as that sounds, it's the truth.

Here are some things I can tell you:
  • Your eyes will be opened to an entire community (or more) that you may have not known about.  Or, maybe you've "known" about it but never really experienced it first hand.  I'm thinking poverty, disabilities, social workers, addiction, infant development workers, speech therapists, mental health and more. I still have so much to learn but I have been made aware of these individuals in my own community–those that need support and those that provide it.  You might not think this is a benefit but closing your eyes to the reality around you isn't going to help you get to know your neighbour more; seeing those around you will help to build your understanding and empathy. 
  • You will change a child's life.  Whether the change is big or small–you can impact their life forever.  The evidence in our own Little One is unbelievable and I am most certain that we have also had a positive impact on our Little One's biological family as well which is priceless. I am unable to share details but will say that our foster child came to us locked in fear and has experienced so much freedom through safety and communication skills.   This fear has been cast aside to make room for peace and joy–isn't that beautiful?!
  •  You may fall in love.  Who doesn't love that feeling of looking at someone and feeling your heart bursting with love?  Yes, it may hurt down the road but it's worth it for them.  You will likely be loved in return–I am told daily in words and hugs how loved I am by our Little One. 
  • You don't need to have special skillsYOU can do it.  You will realize that you are enough.  Connecting with other foster parents is invaluable and will help you when you feel overwhelmed and unsure.
  • You will give your own kids the opportunity to grow.  This one has surprised me the most: my kids have opened their hearts and home to a temporary sibling.  They love their cute little buddy and the nicknames are aplenty. They've shared their toys and time and attention with our Little One and I'm so thankful for this. Don't get me wrong, adding a fourth child to our home with some extra needs means there is more noise, stress and conflict, but there is also more love and laughter. 
  • You will acquire new skills.  I have added so many more ideas to my parenting repertoire with the help of other foster parents and professionals.  I have learned new ways to communicate and discipline and transition. 

I don't know about you but I am a fan of love and family and learning.  In no way am I trying to guilt you into feeling like you should be doing this, I just want to nudge those that have considered it to think about it again.  When Gary and I were married 11 years ago, the idea of being foster parents was far from what our plan was.  Yes, we had considered adoption but the foster system seemed way too overwhelming and scary.  Well, here we are as a foster family. We are doing it and will continue to do so.  It doesn't mean that we're not nervous about our next child, however we will open our door and our hearts to whoever is placed with us next.

Please ask me any questions you may have.  A Little One is waiting...maybe for you!

Love,
Louise

4 comments:

  1. So, so, true! You said it so well! I was talking about being a foster parent a few weeks ago, and I said that I didn't have any special skills. All I did for our little one was talk to him and love him. Normal behavior for many families, but absent in his. Simple, yet transforming!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Kae Lee! It's so true, I "just" parent and that's all I need to do :) AS you said, simple yet transforming.

      Delete
  2. Great post Louise. Your family is such an inspiration to us on how to live and love. I have never considered fostering before but what you are doing is so compelling. You have opened my eyes to this great need. Thanks for being an example of what fostering can look like and for sharing your experience with us here.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Having a child with special needs pushed me into that community unexpectedly. It is a part of my life now and has given me the opportunity to meet many amazing individuals that have taught me so much. They have been invaluable resources. But as you say, unless you are a part of it, you can easily be unaware of it and even pretend it does not exist. For those who require it, it can be an incredibly frustrating system to navigate. There are limited resources and the need far exceeds what is available.

    ReplyDelete