The Rollercoaster Ride That is Foster Care - Navigation Guide for Parents

Foster care is no easy journey. Having a helping hand along the way o show you the ropes could be just what you need. Experience the twists and turns of fostering in the eyes of the parents and kids.

Child Arriving

Behind the perfect perception of the world we live in lies mass amounts of information that a majority of people are uninformed about; many are shielded by media consumption and joyful portrayals of multiple aspects of life. In better understanding the world we live in, more specifically foster care, this ultimately helps put things into perspective for many. Foster care life is often a blurry subject in people’s minds, with most of the information we know stemming from media or movies.

Foster care, known by many, is a system put in place to install a minor into the care of a foster parent, usually done through government arrangement. For many, once the complicated steps of foster care registration are complete, it is just a matter of playing a waiting game to meet their first foster child. Each child’s history on how they got there varies, but once at your doorstep, it is time to get to work!

Foster parents say that a “call for a placement [usually] happens in the late evening” and the child will arrive sometime later that same night. Following this call is a routine of preparing the house, clothes, or any necessities you see fit to welcome the child upon arrival. Once you see the gleaming headlights of a car drive onto your home, you know what is soon to be expected. The only aid you are given on this new journey of discovery, for both you and the child, is a small stack of papers neatly tucked into a folder explaining the complete life history of the child. “Do you have a design in mind for your blog? Whether you prefer a trendy postcard look or you’re going for a more editorial style blog - there’s a stunning layout for everyone.”

Aside from the somewhat underwhelming history files, a multitude of resources are still available to assist parents in the arrival process. Programs like ARC Reflections aim to provide support in trauma management for foster children as well as arm parents with problem-solving and de-escalation skills to deal with possibly traumatized foster children. Dealing with potentially hurt children is no easy feat, so as a caregiver it is your responsibility to know how to handle every curveball that comes your way.

Essentially, foster parents should know that proper tools and readily available resources exist to help them alongside this transformative experience. Understandably, this can seem overwhelming so do not be afraid to look for help elsewhere, especially in a scenario as serious as foster care.

Getting to Know Foster Children Little by Little

In the eyes of a foster child, adjusting to a new home can be just as challenging as the adjustment of receiving the child. Remember, this certain individual is not in the system by a mere accident. Being a foster child comes with its own unique set of troubles, life experiences, and baggage which potentially contributed to how they wound up orphaned. As a foster parent, you must dip your toe in the water when it comes to getting to know them, and not dive straight into an interrogation process.

Be mindful that even with the best intentions, this child came from a biological family of their own, meaning they have their own unique perspective on what it means to be a family. Although not the opinion of all foster children, some often long for the family they once had; many claiming, “our parents aren't perfect, but they're ours”. Try not to be offended that a child may hold on to a disheveled picture of their biological families. At the end of the day, they also long for a family.

"The adults messed up, we didn't.”

Additionally, the complexity of the removal process is far too varied to simply assume that a child will accept separation from their biological parents without a problem. Of course, in a lot of cases, many foster children are placed in the system because of cruel actions done upon them such as neglect, abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional), or even incarceration. However, this does not exclude the foster child from having feelings, and as a foster parent, it is your responsibility to try and navigate them. Although cliche, patience is a virtue.

Cultural Shock and Consequences

In this country we live in, we are blessed with rich cultures and heritage from all parts of the world. Foster care is no exception, as its system reflects the children residing in the diverse world we see in front of us. Thus, over half the children in care are minorities. However, dealing with parents from different backgrounds, it is likely that they might not match up in terms of cultural backgrounds as the foster child. As a foster parent, you must set aside what you thought you knew and be open to a new set of experiences, cultures, and possibly even languages. The world around is going to be filled with diverse experiences, people, and places, so be prepared for the reality that not everything is the same as your small bubble of normalcy. As for the foster child, it is equally as important when being transferred to a family that they will be accepted, and this has to include all parts of them, including traditions and ethnic values.

Foster care is no easy journey. When depictions in media and television portray a fairy tale ending of happily ever afters, it is important to differentiate the real struggles of children in foster care and their life experiences. As a foster child, normal means bouncing around from home to home, meeting a new set of faces each time. This repetitive and unstable environment of packing up and moving ever so often leads to detriments in the child’s life with education being just one example; in fact, “it comes as no surprise that only half of all foster care children fail to graduate from high school, and only 3 percent will graduate from college.” Everyone must remember that just because a child has a stable family to go home to, it does not mean that the child’s goals and aspirations are all checked off. At the end of the day, foster children are still just children with the same passions as their peers, dreaming to go to school, work, and college in the future.

“We have dreams and ambitions”.

Doing Your Best

Countless stories exist in which people have heard in one form or another. These stories have taught us that foster care can become a toxic set of ups and downs, full of both amazing and heartfelt experiences as well as questionable and dreadful ones as well. Still, with all the gloomy information presented, remind yourself that foster care still offers plenty of children the truly stable and loving family that they need. Stories of countless children have been shared that show these kids growing up to be just as successful and capable as the next person. Intentions are what truly make the difference in experiences-- for both you and the child. Many know that foster children carry enough burden and guilt as it is, but a major difference can arise if you just take every day step by step and with a smile on your face offering foster children the truly positive family life they desire.

Personal Experiences to Look At - Foster care experience and 8 common types of homes. - Ways that failed as a system, and what you can do on your end. - First-hand experience from a foster child.

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