You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your forefathers, as it is today. If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.
Deuteronomy 8:17-19

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Things We've Learned Our First Year of Fostering

So we began this journey almost a year ago..  We have had tears and stress, laughing and happiness, sleepless nights and sunny accomplishments.  Some days are SO hard- the hardest we've gone through and then you have a break through and it is one of the most fulfilling feelings that you can experience.
In just short of a year- we have had almost twenty beautiful children come through our house.  Most for respite (usually a weekend break for current foster parents, but sometimes a week or two as well).  We LOVE respite.  This is usually a great time to get to know new kids and do something really nice for them- like a big party weekend!  We usually take respite kids to a zoo, neighborhood farm, have a family game night or do something else fun with them. 
We have also had long term placements, some of those that we still have, and some that we just weren't the best home for.  The ones that we didn't have the best home for or were unsafe for our own children- those were stressful times, and we wish that we could have provided what those children needed- but God has provided homes that are better equipped for their specific needs.

Some of the things that we have learned our first year of fostering:

Here are some glorious moments:
1.  When a child does accomplish a certain goal and without being told to. This includes eating with utensils, potty training, speaking, sleeping through the night, taking their dish to the sink, praying at mealtime, washing their hands after using the restroom, saying sorry.. the list can go on and on.
2. When you can have a great relationship with bio parents.  This is definitely not the norm- but is so wonderful when it happens.  I am close with a certain mom right now and we have open communication about the kids- this is going to be SO important as we are transitioning kids back home.  This also helps because you know what kind of a home the kids are going back to, and can trust that the parent/s are doing the best they can for their child/ren.  I have had more instances where the parents don't like me at all, and pick out every flaw in my care for their child/ren; so it is really special when you do get a good working relationship.
3. When you work with people that you can trust and are easy to work with. This includes trusting caseworkers, your drivers, teachers, therapists, doctors, and Bair specialists.  You all make a team that are out to do the best for the child/ren in your care- and when you can trust most/everybody on that team- it is reassuring.
4. When a child opens up to you- and trusts you.  This is what takes work and diligence.  These children have been ripped from all that they know and are put in a home that is totally foreign to them.  A common thing for them is to close you off and to act out- to reject you once you start to get close to them.  They may seem well behaved or drawn to you in the beginning, but many have what is called a "honeymoon period" where after they get to know you and they feel safe in your environment- they show you a side of them you have never seen before by acting out and pushing you away, as they expect you to reject them just as they feel their parents did. Some children open up and trust sooner than others.  Be there and make sure to listen, it is amazing the things that these children will tell you.

Here are some of my pet peeves:
1. People thinking that foster care parents don't work..  There is an extreme amount of work that is involved with taking care of foster children.  Sleepless nights, appointments, having all of the agencies through your house on a constant basis, as well as learning about how to care for the child's special needs and then doing the actual care for them!
2. People thinking that you are fostering for the money..  My husband and I have a saying- "if you are a good foster parent, you are at 0 at the end of the month- so we must be great foster parents!"
We are given a stipend each month for each child.  This is to help with food, clothing (new clothing each month), diapers, supplies like bottles, toothbrushes, gas to take children back and forth to their many appointments, bedding, more hot water for baths and endless laundry..  We try to make this a great experience for the kids- we let them pick out new clothes, take them to zoos, take them out to eat once a week, and make sure that their needs are met and treated just like our own.
3. Caseworkers that don't always disclose things that are important or are hard to work with.. This is the biggest reason that I enjoy working with the Bair Foundation- a group that acts as the middle man for us in many situations.  (  Our Bair specialist is to us like family- and not only does she support us when we need a shoulder to cry on or help with a certain situation, but talks to the caseworkers and gets the answers that we need when we need her to.  We have had times when we were lied to or that we suspected certain things about a child that were not disclosed and our specialist was always quick to act for us for the best interest of the child.
We all look forward to her visits and when she is here every one is treated special.  She holds and feeds the babies, brushes my child's hair and paints her toes, and listens to all the funny and sad things from the week.
4. People saying that they couldn't foster because they would get too attached to the child in their care and wouldn't want them to leave..  And this is what would make you a GREAT foster parent- that you care and love the child as you are supposed to.  Being attached to a child is a very GOOD thing- and what the kids need- loving attention and care.  Investing in a child all that you can- and knowing that you did your best with the child while they were in your care is what fostering is about. 
Every child is special and worthy of love- no matter the circumstances.  They almost all are victims of abuse or neglect and as any "normal" child deserve a loving family and to be taught about God's love.  He loves these children as much as He loves you and I. 
SO-why not you?

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40 NIV

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