Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Dear Foster Parent in Your First Week
Dear foster parent in your first week,
Exhale. You did it! You probably have very limited time to read this so I will keep it brief. Over the past two years we have welcomed three young children into our home and each child was unique in their response and needs. I want to share some ideas on what to do but first I want to encourage you.
If you feel overwhelmed, I completely understand. The first week of each placement was the hardest for us. My husband and I have often wondered if we could do it – can we provide all that is needed and maintain our sanity/marriage/family life? It is hard. I know. I've been there. I am there. But each day does get a little bit better as you adapt to a new routine and find out what does and doesn't work. You might feel like you can't do it all but providing routine, safety, and love is a lot. It makes a difference – you will see! Keep up the great work.
Here would be my tips for you:
1. Try to piece together what routines they had to maintain some consistency. Right now that looks like Calliou before bed and drinkable yogurt for breakfast. These are not things we normally do but we will continue with it for now to keep as much familiarity as we can.
2. Take a break. Make sure both parents work on building relationships with the child(ren) so that one parent is able to leave the house if need be without a complete meltdown. Right now we try to share the bedtime routine so that there isn't a complete dependency on one. Find relief workers. There are steps that they have to go through such as Criminal Record checks but it is worth it.
3. Ask for and accept help. I was not good at this until we went from three kids to five overnight. I didn't even know what I needed but most appreciated were meals, snacks for the kids lunches and one on one time spent with one of our new Little Ones. Encouragement from texts, emails, and in the form of flowers was also a boost when we needed it. Clothes are always welcomed as children often come just with what they are wearing and there isn't time or energy to go out and find it yourself.
4. Let the children make choices. Bring them to the store and have them pick out their sippy cups or new socks. In a world where everything is turned upside down and there seems to be such a loss of control, let them know they have some.
5. Be aware that life will look different. We cannot go to our son's hockey game as a family right now and I need to be okay with that. I can't force it. I can't change it. One of our Littles is just not okay sitting and allowing free reign to run around is not safe. With another Little One, nap time would not happen in a bed and so each afternoon we took a walk with the stroller. Sometimes instead of fighting for what we want, it's easier to just adapt to the situation.
6. Offer hugs and stay close. One Little One wanted to be hugged all day from the very start and the other two took almost four days before they would allow me to hug them. They all love when we can sit closely together at the dinner table or on the couch. Often it is during their sickness where the greatest bonding and attachment has occurred. So, although the chicken pox or the flu are not ideal, they allow you to provide much needed comfort and security.
7. Answer their questions. If they are missing their loved ones, it's good to acknowledge it and then move on. Yes, we miss Mama. I hope she gets better soon! We can pray for her or call her tonight or draw her a picture. (Only promise what you can do). Hey, should we go play outside?
8. Stay in close contact with your resource worker. I did not utilize ours the first time around and was so overwhelmed. Now I know that my resource worker is there to support me in whichever way she can. She can advocate for me and my needs.
9. Connect with other foster parents. Whether it's in real life or a Facebook group, I highly recommend connecting with others who know what it's like.
Being a foster parent is hard work and we can't share the details of our daily lives with others which makes it even more isolating. Not knowing the plan is extremely hard for someone like me with a Type A personality–will they be with us two weeks or two years?! My hope is that you do feel supported and that you are able to see and feel the difference you are making in each child's life.
As always, I'd love to see you over on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!