Our placement...he is an amazing and energetic middle schooler who just turned 13 a week after moving in with us. Yes, we have a teenager now. He also has siblings all living in different places and has lived in many different places over the years himself. He has become attached to many people who have been taken away from him throughout his life and has only had one year of his schooling where he began and ended the school year in the same school. He has had many different people telling him who and what he should be all with conflicting ideas of what that means. His short life has had more loss and challenges than many adults that I know and he deals with it better than most of them, especially since he has had no control over any of these decisions. Even though he has only been living with us for 3 weeks, he is our kid and our number one priority. We want nothing more than for him to be happy, healthy and succeed in life (success does not mean rich, success means self confident, physically and emotionally healthy, having healthy relationships feeling in control of his situation and able to support himself in the long run).
Some of the questions running through our head are:
- How do we deal with school and the multiple appointments along with work, especially given that many people in our life and work do not treat growing a family through fostering the same as growing a family through having a baby (many people thing it is plug and play which is not the case)?
- How do we help catch him up at school?
- How can we get him to fully trust us and let him know that we want him to stay long term if that is what he wants?
- Who is he and who does he want us to be? I feel like we know him somewhat well but there is always something to learn.
- How do we keep up with all the paperwork and required training?
- How do we maintain his current healthy relationships, especially since we do not know anything about the people he has had in his life (friends, etc) if they are people we should maintain contact with or discourage?
We also now have long term questions such as how do we get to the point where we can try to get his sibling(s) and how fast is too fast for Travis and us while weighing the other's welfare?
One of my biggest frustrations lately has been work and how if I had a kid I would have been granted a maternity/paternity leave. I do not need a long time, just enough to get through the initial several weeks of appointments and change. Yet here I am completely out of PTO and if I take any unpaid time off (can't take FMLA due to only being here 11 months) they can post my job. We really need to work on doing more to support foster kids and foster families. It is hard enough putting kids into a new home with all the stresses involved (not to mention any historical stresses that are probably still affecting them) yet to increase their stress level by making it even harder for foster parents who are already struggling with change and doing everything in their power not to take it out on the kids.
An additional thing I struggle with is all the comments other people make about us as foster parents (both out of kindness or assumptions about the system/kids). For some comments people make: here is a great blog post: http://www.ourgoodfamily.org/2016/02/what-foster-parents-dont-want-to-hear/
The system is a challenge, but all the restrictions, paperwork, training, rules, and appointments are there for a reason and most foster parents completely understand this within a short time because there are so many things about a child's (or adult) behavior where it would be hard to identify cause without seeing the tiny patterns. We do daily and weekly logs that help us see this and not just fall into bed at the end of the night thinking today was a challenge, maybe tomorrow will be better. We have to discuss what actually happened that day. Kids in foster care are amazing kids there through no fault of their own. They are struggling with the challenges of growing up compounded by the challenges of losing everything at least once and often over and over again. No matter what happened to these kids before foster care, their family was their family and world and they loved them. It was all they knew. Some of them had really good parents who were lost due to death, illness, or imprisonment.
People make assumptions about them being behavior problems, but how many people did not have a friend who grew up with their parents who had behavior issues (or maybe you were that friend). Not all of them have behavior problems just like bio families. My son is no different that your son or daughter except that we know we need to get to know each other and all our firsts are happening at a different age. I can't make assumptions about who he is based on his history, we have to talk about everything and don't have habits (both bad and good) that have been built through years. I wish I had memories of his younger years, but we have the rest of our lives to make memories.
Getting to know my son and his brothers is one of the best things to happen in my life!