An Open Letter to our Family about Foster Care Part Two

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/

And if you are just tuning into this series, you can read part one HERE

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.

Here are more details about what to expect:

Pictures
DCFS policy is that pictures of foster children may not be posted online. We won’t be able to post or email pictures of the kids, and we’ll need your cooperation in not posting pictures that you may take of the kids. We will ‘get around’ this by taking pictures from behind or of just their feet, etc. And we just ask you to err on the side of not posting anything of our kiddos who are in care.

Inclusion in Family & Gift Giving Policy
Other than confidentiality issues, we will treat these children as members of our family. We must insist that everyone respect this policy. The kiddos who come into care in our home for a season  will be treated equally to how our biological children are treated, especially when it comes to holidays, birthdays, or other gift-giving occasions. We never expect gifts for any of our children. But if you choose to give gifts, you’ll need to plan to give equally to all of the kids who are in our care at that time.

Behavior and Discipline
While we are taking in relatively mild-mannered kiddos, you may still observe unusual or seemingly alarming behaviors from them. Accordingly, you may also see us utilizing some unusual discipline techniques (varying from very easy-going to very strict). We ask you to remember that we’re working with a team of professionals on a behavioral and discipline plan tailored to each individual child. If you have concerns that you feel the need to discuss with us, please bring them up in private, away from the child. Comments like “Oh, can’t she just have the ice cream,” when said right in front of the child, can result in a major setback that may make very little sense to you, but for all you know the child may have MAJOR food triggers due to having gone for days and weeks without food at home. Again, trusting us to take the lead here is key.

Also, DCFS law states that ONLY the foster parents are allowed to discipline the foster child. If you’ll be spending time with the kids, it will be very important for you to understand and adhere to this policy.

Meeting Their Needs

It is very important for these kiddos to learn healthy attachment. To make a long story short, this comes down to bonding through the hierarchy of needs at the most fundamental levels in order to promote healthy psychological growth. We as their foster parents need to meet all of their most basic biological needs. We must be the ones to feed them, clothe them, rock them to sleep, tuck them in, discipline them, hug them, hold their hands, and take care of their personal hygiene needs. When all their needs are being met through us, bonds of trust form that can actually begin the healing process for much bigger wounds they may have endured. We have taken many classes on this subject and Stacey has completed training on Trauma Parenting and would be happy to answer any questions you have about this.

Holidays and Special Events
We LOVE seeing all of our friends and family for holidays and special occasions and certainly hope to be able to incorporate any new kiddos in our family into these cherished events. However, some of them may have difficulty with the stress of large groups, new people, new food, and higher expectations for behavior. We ask for your patience and understanding when we may have to miss an event, arrive late, leave early, or perhaps one parent has to stay home with a kiddo who isn’t going to have a very successful time at that event.

What Do They Call Us?
Any new kiddos that come to stay with us will have the option of calling us Ms. Stacey & Mr. Tim, or “mom and dad,” or something similar. We’ll invite them to address you with the same terms that our biological children use (grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, etc.).

What Do We Call Them?
This is so important. No child wants to be known as “the foster kid.” We will refer to any children in our care as our kids, our son, our daughter. We ask you to please be sensitive to this, and do not refer to a child or introduce them as a “foster child,” particularly in that child’s presence, and to your own children – as that would get repeated. If you could refrain from using that phrase at all, that would be awesome. Feel free to refer to them as you would with our biological children (my grandchild, niece, nephew, etc.). Or, if that isn’t comfortable for you, you can refer to them as our child (my brother’s son, my friend’s daughter, etc.).

About Building Attachments
The question is sometimes raised with foster care if it isn’t detrimental to encourage children to become attached to their foster family. In fact, there was a time about 20 years ago when foster children were intentionally moved to new foster homes on a regular basis to avoid this attachment. We now know that learning to build attachments is one of the most important elements to living a happy and satisfied life. As children bond with us they gradually learn the joy that comes from bonding and how to trust safe adults, and it builds their sense of self-worth. If the child can learn to attach successfully, they can then repeat that attachment process with others throughout their life. This is a vital process, even if they are not with us forever.

The challenge is for us to bond, fearing the pain of losing the relationship when they leave. We expect that you may have this fear as well, but we ask for you to keep the children’s best interests in mind, and open your heart to them.

Stay tuned for Part 3: How you can help!

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