When Tim and I felt the calling to do foster care, 18 years ago, we had two biological children. Stephen was 9 years old and William was six months old.
We, as a family, must have been very sheltered from hearing much about this part of society, as we were not prepared to see the amount of abuse or neglect that we regularly saw. When we went to foster care meetings, we would talk to other families and hear the stories of their cases as well. It was almost over whelming at times.
Many of the children came with major issues. Who could go thru what they did and not have any? Being torn from the only family they ever knew, whether good or bad, is enough to cause great stress and emotional trauma. Then add to it what they had seen and experienced in the form of neglect and/or abuse and you have a child whose normal development is off. Their idea of love is off. There emotional structure is just not normal. There behavior can be all over the place and uncontrollable. Some hoard food. Many have trouble sleeping. Some scream and cry for hours on end with no way to comfort or console them. To our children who live in a normal loving stable home, these behaviors are hard to understand. We spend a lot of time talking to and explaining things to, our children that live at home.
So many people, myself included, go into fostering or adopting, thinking that faith in God, a stable home and love, will fix and heal all that is going on with a child. Very soon we learned that is just not the case. Those developmental years are so tender and the imprinting done on them will effect a child for life. Children can and will change and improve in areas over time but some will always just be compromised in many areas of their person, just by not having anything normal in those developmental years. They often also develop survival skills and behaviors that become part of who they are and can not be changed. Also, when doing foster care, the only form of behavior modification you can use is "time out" and in older children, restriction of some privileges. So for bad behavior, options are very limited.
Laying these thoughts and ground work for what I am about to discuss, allows you to see that there are many facets to the children that come into our homes in foster care. We have to take the good with the bad. What I am about to say is hard to do and practice but... it is best to embrace and love a child for who they are, the way they come and pray and hope for the best for them. Then the improvements and milestones they achieve will be so sweet and such cause for joy and celebration. If you take in a difficult child with hard behaviors and think you can "fix" or change them, you set yourself up to always be frustrated with that child and possibly never bond with them. It sets you up for a possible placement disruption and honestly, you will truly never be of any help to them at all. It really is so hard to put into practice with some children though.
We have certain rules in our home, in place, that can not be broken, ever. There are never boys allowed in girls rooms or girls allowed in boys rooms. Not even for playing. Tim and I are the only ones that change any diapers, ever. The only bedroom with a door on it, is the Master bedroom. No one is ever allowed to lock a bath room door. These are just some of the rules that stand in our home. Not just when doing foster care but also when we took a several year break. When one has special needs children in the home, in all stages of growth, development, cognition and back rounds, this is just best. It is better than having something very unexpected happen and have regrets.
Tim and I have been thru a lot in life. Every hard time brings us closer and closer and makes us more united and one. We try to serve God in all we do. When we know a foster child is coming to live with us, we sit down and explain the situation the foster child is coming out of, to the children in our home, that can understand. At times, Tim and I have been asked to take a foster child or children and we have asked the oldest child or children, in our home, if they think we should take them because in some situations, it would not only increase Tims and my responsibilities but theirs as well. It would be more work for everyone in the home and cause a season of intense stress. So, we often ask the older children, in our home, to get their opinion on the situation before acting. Since Stephen was the oldest child for many years, in our home, we often asked him the question about taking in one more child. He would always listen carefully to the background of the child and say, "No". "I don't see how we can take even one more." and go to his room. It was never even five minutes and he would be back and say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong." "How can we say no." "Where will they go." "Who will take them. We have to take them."
When doing foster care, there are constant conversations, with our children, about the foster children that we have in our home. We try to always be open, honest and upfront with our answers. Our children always have so many questions....why were the children taken from their parents? Are they staying or going somewhere else? Why does this child or that child do this behavior, hoard food or have night terrors? To explain why, helps our children give these foster children grace in their hearts, about the behavior they are seeing. A compassion. All of our children have at one time or another said to me. "Mom, I will never do drugs or drink and do this to my child." This is a profound statement. I could talk to my children about the addiction of alcohol, not doing drugs and pray that they understand and stay away from these things in society. I could preach to them about the damage they can cause in a persons life but them seeing the outcome, disabilities and struggles of the children exposed or neglected because of addictions, speaks volumes to their core. They see the broken families because of it all.
Now that I have spoken my heart on the heavier issues, I will share the precious side. The love. God has used the many foster children who have come thru our home, to grow us and shape us all. All of our children embrace all children no matter the skin color, ability or disability. They see the beauty in all children they meet. My older children are so tender and loving with the young foster children we have.
More specifically...child by child... I can say that doing foster care this time around...
Even though Stephen does not live home anymore, he comes to visit often. He loves to play with and spend time with his siblings. True to form, even though he questioned if it was wise we take in more children at our age, he is supportive of our decision and loves the foster children we have in our home. I believe it is because he understands the big picture of it all, as he was raised in it. He does special things for each child and spends time with them all when he comes. Even with baby "K".
Antonio loves the toddlers and baby. I can ask him to watch a toddler play in the living room while I cook dinner (I can see the living room from the kitchen) and he feels like a big help to me and tells me every move they make and what they are doing. He was the first one to ever see our baby "K" roll over, as I had asked him to watch her playing in her crib while I was doing something for a moment in the next room! He loves all our foster children.
William has a tender heart and understanding for what the children have went thru as he is older. William and I have had very long and in depth conversations about the state of this world and how and why these things happen to the children that come into foster care.
Carolyn LOVES children. On sunny days, she asks to take "T" out to swing, as it is his favorite thing to do. She will also watch "B" ride his bike or play on the playground.
Zeke has autism and does not like change at all. When we first talked to him about going back into foster care he told me one day he was praying the child we took in would be a girl. He told me this many times. I thought it was very sweet to want a baby sister. One day I asked him why and he said, "So he didn't have to have a baby in his room crying all night and smell the stinky diapers." :/ Ok...not so sweet. :) But very honest. When the foster toddlers came to live with us, they were a handful, very loud and screamed a lot as they were detoxing Meth. Zeke literally hid and stayed in another room from them for a few weeks. He would come and peek into the room they were in, watch them and then go and play in his quiet area on the front porch. He slowly started to warm up to them and now loves them very much. Zeke functions at about a five year old level in many areas, so he likes a lot of the same things that "B" does. So they actually play together a little. Zeke likes to play toddler games with "T" like chase me.
Elizabeth has deep issues with close personal relationships. She is a pleasure around strangers or acquaintances but can not act appropriately to the people that love her and are close to her. She deeply enjoys playing with the toddlers but because of her strong, stubborn, personality, she often ends ups squabbling or fighting with them while playing even though they are much younger. I have to supervise her with them at all times if she plays with them. So the rule is she is not allowed around them unless she asks permission.
We have a large, diverse and busy family. It is loosely structured.
|Tim and the foster toddlers playing Legos.|
Psalm 100:5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.