The new year is upon us! Before you get out your pen, paper, vision boards and scrapbooking tools, take a look at 2014. What worked for you? What didn’t work for you? When you are in the trenches, it can be easy to forget why you decided to do this. When things get hard you need to remember all of your reasons WHY.
What worked for you in 2014?
Sometimes we look at the new year as a time to wipe the slate clean and start new. The truth is that there are some things, goals and transitions that take much longer than a year to accomplish. We have to be honest with ourselves and see the progress that we have made even if we have not reached the end goal for ourselves or our children. Keep what works for you.
What did not work for you in 2014?
Are their areas that need to be revisited? Are their systems that you need to streamline in your home or parenting? It is best to focus on small, steps that can be taken daily, weekly or even monthly to accomplish goals for you and your family. Over shooting your goals can be a discouraging as not setting any at all.
Fostering Hope is Your Job
Many do not like to look at fostering as a job. The truth is that the most important jobs in the world are jobs that care for the hearts of people. Pastors, counselors, therapists, moms, dads and foster parents have some of the most important jobs in the world. They are so important that setting goals and making improvements are critical. How do we give this job all that we have and juggle everything else as well?
Who wants to be average?
Do you think that McDonald’s got into the game hoping that people would think their food was “ok”? I don’t think any of us ever start a job or undertake a major project with the intention of falling or being average. It is time out for being perceived as a holding place. Your jobs are important and valuable. We need to strive to be excellent in how we care for and nurture the precious children in our care.
Strive to add dignity, worth and value to every life you touch.
Take your job seriously. Any job you have ever had has required you to get organized and have a system to complete that job in an efficient manner. It may seem trivial but organization can free up your time to give your attention to those entrusted to your care.
• Organize your home- create a system and a place for everything.
• Organize your records/pictures-
This makes it easy to find everything you need both personally and for your children.
• Create a system/process- How will you handle each of these scenarios? How can you aid in your kids having a smooth transition into the next phase of their lives no matter what their permanency plan is?
1. Receiving a new placement
2. Reunification with parents
Who’s on their side? Talk to your kids. Find out their “love language” (The Five Love Languages of Children by Chapman & Campbell) and what makes them feel supported. In what areas do they need the most advocacy? That answer may be different for each child. That child needs to know that you will have their back. Fight for the services they need. In what ways can you advocate for them differently: Physical therapy, IEP’s, Counseling, medication, insurance, medical attention. Children cannot fight for themselves in all of these areas. That is where you come in.
The last thing we want to do is add to the trauma they have already experienced. Be fluent and familiar with all the information regarding each child’s history. That information will help you navigate the rocky areas to make sure that each child’s needs are met.
What can you do to help them begin healing?
• Providing a sense of safety
• Taking their fears seriously
No matter how long they are with you, you can make a difference. Being an agent of healing should be your number one goal. Help them through the rough spots. They should not have to go through things emotionally alone. Be There!!! Share yourself and your experiences with them.
Inclusion not Exclusion
They should not feel like the black sheep because they are in foster care. They should have the same privileges as anyone else in the family unless they have proven untrustworthy in an area. Even then they need the opportunity to regain trust. Recognize their potential and encourage them in areas of talent and skill.
YOU ARE NOT A HOLDING PLACE! You are a place of preparation for the next stage of their lives. What is your role in their life? How can you prepare them?
If you are simply fostering and not adopting, your role is healing, parenting, support, safety and stability no matter how long they are in your care.
When a child looks back they need to remember their time with you as safe, pleasant and loving!
If you are working to help your children reunify with their first families then you r goal is to help with visitations, healing, safety, support and preparation to return home. How can you help reunification with their family smooth and comfortable?
If you are adding to your family permanently via foster care adoption you’re your role is healing, parenting, and transition into a permanent member of the family as soon as placement takes place with all rights and privileges of other family members. What is your plan to make the transition smooth and welcoming?
Is this an emergency or respite placement? Your role is equally important as you help a family in a time of distress or transition. Your role in this case would be safety, support and preparation for the next step in their life. Establish a connection that will be with them long after they are gone.
Don’t blame them for their life’s circumstances.
Don’t make them feel like 2nd class kids who don’t deserve happiness or nice things.
Don’t disconnect emotionally…even when their behavior is difficult to handle.
Don’t speak words that hurt and cut deeper into their present wounds.
Don’t be lazy.
Don’t move their belongings in trash bags.
Love them if only for 1 day, 1 week or 1 month.
Let them know that they matter to you and others.
Give them words of encouragement for their future.
Keep their story to yourself.
Find out how to do their hair….it is very important.
Love them, love them, love them.
Take lots of pictures no matter how long they are with you.
Work well with others during transitions (parents, agency, casa, etc.)
As you look at 2015, consider what areas are working great as you embark on another year as a foster parent.
This is also a time to review your WHY and to improve upon any areas that can allow you to make a bigger impact on the lives of children you have the privilege to touch this year!
You have the most important job in the world. Happy New Year!
Editor’s Note: Mrs. Williams has informed Foster Focus that this will be her last Family Adventures column.
Certainly understandable considering she homeschools the many children in her household.
Foster Focus would like to thank Karla for outstanding work over the last year and welcomes her to write at anytime.
Thank you very much Karla Marie Williams, you are appreciated.