An Open Letter to our Family about Foster Care

Dear Family –

As you know, we are in the process of getting licensed as foster parents. If you would like to read more about our decision to pursue fostering, please read:

https://justameasureofgrace.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/a-journey-of-love-heartache-and-hope/

Thank you for all of your support and love through this process. We are so blessed to have family and friends who have helped see us through to this point. Very soon the real work begins, and we’re going to need that love and support more than ever.

We know that our decision to foster will affect you as well, and we are hoping that this series of letters will help to answer some of your questions and set us all up for success in helping these little people through this rocky patch in their lives. In fact, YOU are one of the reasons we are doing this in the first place. We know that any child who comes into our home doesn’t just come into our little home, but rather, they step into a large, loving family and suddenly their bench becomes very deep. They will forever have a humungous team of people on their side, ready to cheer them on when they succeed, cry with them when they hurt, and pray for them when they struggle. Thank you for being our ‘bench’ – and thank you for opening your hearts to the littles that need you so very much to be on their bench as well.

We’ll tell you now that we’re sorry this is so long, and we’re sorry it sounds so bossy. We were trying to keep it as brief as possible, so it may sound a little “short” in some places. But know that we love you, and we don’t mean for it to sound “short.” If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask – we love talking about this stuff! Otherwise, we’ll let you know as soon as we get our first placement!

Placements to Expect
We anticipate being fully licensed and waiting for a placement in the next couple of weeks! We are open to one to four kids, ages birth through ten years old. We’re open to any gender or race. We could get a call for a placement the day that we’re licensed or it could be several weeks or even months before we get a call. The kids could be staying with us anywhere from a few days to several years.

Confidentiality
When we get a placement we will of course share with you the children’s names, ages, birthdates, personalities, and other such details. However the family history, reasons for placement, medical status, and other aspects of the children’s lives are confidential and we will not be able to share these details with you. It’s just not our story to tell. We ask you to trust us when it comes to this information. We would never knowingly put any of our biological children, or yours,  in harms way. The screening process is incredibly detailed and rigorous, and we have been very clear about what types of behaviors we would be willing to parent. Of course this list is pretty personal, but to give you a basic run down, here is how we have classified things:

We will accept green flag behaviors/situations

We have to think/discuss/pray about yellow flag behaviors/situations

We will absolutely not accept any red-flag behaviors

So what are these flags? This was Tim & I’s personal classification system that we came up with while we were in the 13 week formation of foster parents/adoptive families. Here is a sampling of our flags, which will give you an idea of what types of kiddos might be placed in our home:

Green Flags: wetting the bed, lying, ADD, asthma, not sitting still in school, talking back, swearing, wears glasses, etc.

Yellow Flags: more serious medical needs, stealing, hitting, subjected to physical abuse, etc.

Red Flags: abusive behaviors, sexually acting out, starting fires, harming pets, destruction of property, inability to attach, etc.

So as you can see, we are really on the list to take in larger sibling groups who have suffered (typically) some form of neglect, as opposed to severely abused children with extreme behaviors – we know that there is a need for these types of foster homes, we just don’t feel as though we are in a place to provide that right now.

What Do We Tell Our Children?

This is where we let the kiddos really amaze us. It can be quite simple.

You: Uncle Tim & Aunt Stacey and the kids are coming for Thanksgiving and this year they will have 2 new kiddos to spend Thanksgiving with us! They are 6 & 7 and they love to play sports & legos.

Your kid: Well, who are these kids? Why are they coming?

You: They are just two little boys who needed a family to spend Thanksgiving with and isn’t it great that we have so much family that we can share it with others?

Your kid: Yep. Wait…. are they adopting these kids? Will they be our new cousins?

You: Well, we don’t know anything about adoption so lets just not worry about that. For now, you can treat them like you would your cousins because they are living with Aunt Stacey & Uncle Tim and they are being loved and cared for just like they are family – so that’s how we will welcome them, okay?

Your kid: Sure. Where are their real mom & dad?

You: That’s a tough question, kiddo, and one I don’t know the answer to. Maybe we can talk about that some other time. But I do know this, it might make them sad to talk about it, so do you think you could not ask them about it while we are at Thanksgiving dinner?

Your kid: Yep. Can I have some goldfish?

Kids amaze me at how very wise & resilient they are. And they can ask questions directly to the kiddos that are placed with us – we often take their lead and let them answer – it’s important if you overhear a conversation like that to just send me a text or let me know privately what you heard – so that we can know what ‘story’ they are telling – gives us a LOT of insight into how to best love them. Like if mom is incarcerated but they tell everyone she is dead, I would need to know, obviously.

What about you & your interaction with the new nieces or nephews? It’s simple. Just introduce who you are (how you would like them to address you) and what your role is. And then be super casual. Please don’t offer them food. Let us do that. But offering to show them where to go play is perfectly fine.

You: Hi, Wolverine, my name is Aunt Susannah, and I live here. I am Tim’s sister. These are my kiddos: Spot, Daisy, & Willy. My husband is Uncle BillyBob and we are really happy you are here. Would you like to see where the toys are?

Wolverine: Hi. Yep.

I have many books that I will send links to if you are interested in getting your kiddos more comfortable with the idea of temporary cousins. 🙂

Flexibility is the name of the game – more than anything, just know that we are all going to navigate it together.

Stay tuned for the next in the series…. with some more practical tips.

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