This is been incredibly enlightening Journey for me and I hope it is for you as well. You can see the first set of ten pieces of advice I had for you, written right here, last week.
Some of the first 10 important pieces of advice for foster parents really encompassed simple things that you would do for any person you had contact with such as not trying to change us or you know being able to show not just say what you mean. It was however tailored for the fact that it is more deeply rooted for those that have been foster children. But there are some more serious things to that are very specific to foster children and this time around we're going to take even a little bit deeper dive into other things that you can use for pieces of advice if you want to come to a foster parent.
Of course, this realizing that no child is a like so this can be insightful but never a sure guarantee.
Without further ado, I am going to jump right into it because there are some very important things you have to know if you are going to be doing foster care.
#11 We are Sentimental and Still Own, (even decades later), Things and Remember Who Gave it
A spin on #10, but very true. I STILL have things that I know exactly where it came from and it's like my own mini travelling time capsule. For example, I was given a ring from a friend in high school, and the gems fell out, but I still have it because it came from one of my best friends. It always takes me back when I feel down and I remember how his family almost adopted me and didn't because they didn't want me to lose the potential scholarships to go to college.
#12 If You Don't Treat Us the Same, We See it Clearer Than You Do
Oh.... this is ANOTHER big one. And we will resent it and you for it. There are so many ways we can see this that you can't even see it. We can tell if you are treating us differently. Regardless if there are other kids in the house or not. Believe you me!
Treat us the same. We deserve it.
When we see that you are treating someone with unequivocally more love, what we hear is that we are again, just a number, a check, and (like) a tradable commodity rather than a child. Period.
And the same doesn't always mean "the same". This is where people get it twisted. What works for one child doesn't always work for another. For example, if the rules are the same, even if the consequences are not. This is because every child is different.
The same means that you see children with a love from where THEY are at and you do it equally.
#13 Don't Try to Medicate Something You Don't Understand
Oh, another.... you will do more damage than good by forcing man made medication down a child's throat especially when you are medicating them for something they may not have in the first place.
Try the natural things first. Your child deserves it, right? So does the foster child.
This one may warrant another post from me because there is so much education behind this one, that simply isn't readily available or widely received.
A lot of the times, kids are medicated for things they don't have. And you would be surprised, though you should not be, that the rates are infinitely higher for kids in the foster care system.
Then the cycle starts that have untold effects on the child and on society.
So when you go into the school or into the doctor with the foster child, speak up for them like you would for your own child in terms of what can work for them and their experiences. They will thank you!
#14 Even if We Push You Away, We Need Your Love Even More
This means, that we have been hurt even more than you realise. Even more than those files can begin to explain. Pushing you away is a sign that we need our space, we need love, we can't trust, we want a family. It can be many things.
Love us where we are at. Hold us if want a long hug. Colour with us if we want to colour with you. Connecting is so important. It is incredibly vital in fact.
This is another one I can write a separate blog post on because there can be many reasons behind it. What you need to know for this "bullet point" post is that you can't try to label our behaviour- you cn meet us where we are at.
#15 If We Stash Food or Things, it's Because We Have Been Deprived
Like the squirrel who stashes nuts for the winter, even despite your plan to grow a plant and they dig in your garden (grr, ha ha), foster children do the same.
If we have known the unfortunate reality and have become those one or more of those statistics, you know that one of them talks about children and starvations. Unfortunately, a good number of foster children are part of that number of the children that go hungry every day in America, (yes, even here in America).
What this does is warrant a survival response in the child. It is the animalistic part of being a human being. If we were in the wilderness and have too experienced this, you too will fall into survival mode and grab food to store. It's natural.
So, also, don't punish a kid for this.
Side story, I was once beaten in foster care for this. It didn't change my behaviour whatsoever. In a survivor's mind frame, a beating may be worth the eating. So please understand, there may be other issues you need to address with a loving heart as you would your own child to help find out why. Who knows, it could be medical.
#16 If We Flinch, Recognise and Be Softer When You Talk to Us
Unfortunately, we are obviously foster children for a reason.
Not every child that enters the foster care system has been physically hurt or struck. Unfortunately, I did experience this, quite a bit. But that being said, it didn't break me as a person.
However, when you are talking about a child, you MUST note to yourself that you are needing to take a little extra love to them. If they flinch, ONE of many reasons may be attributed to actual physical harm that they have experienced. It could be their internal battle of never feeling good enough. It could be that they are just sensitive for no particular reason. (Honestly, sometimes it is that). But with foster kids, you don't know. Don't try to piece it together just love them where they are at. Also, don't question them, what they need is love.
Either way, take extra care that if you see that, to be a little extra slow and loving with both your words and actions. As they begin to trust, their walls and the flinching generally dies down.
There are some easy unfortunate stories I can tell in regards to many things but not limited to things that happened, my own health, just wanting to be heard, that needed to happen when I was a kid.
Believe it or not, with my surgeries, I had to go to UCSF a lot to get check ups. I couldn't tell you all the street names until we got there, but I could lead you and give you directions by heart from the age of 8 or 9 from the central valley to the bay area. If you know San Francisco, you know how huge this is. So it was a boost of confidence when an adult who was taking me there, would listen to me, even down to what hills were the killer (way too steep) hills.
As I got older, I could tell you what was going on with my body easily because I was able to train myself to know my body. This includes medical terminology.
When a child says they need to go to the doctor, trust them. They have learned to watch out for themselves and a foster child isn't going to want to go to the doctor for no reason. This was really upsetting when I kept saying how bad my ear infections were (part of the cleft palate) and then my ear drums would be super severely affected and I would need tubes... all because my foster parents thought they knew better than me.
Now, this goes for normal kids but especially for foster youth. They have learned that they have to be in survival mode constantly so they know themselves pretty well and they know when to ask for help generally speaking.
#18 We May Ask for Chips and Ice Cream, but Teach Us Healthy Eating
This may have your head turned a little bit but stay with me.
A lot of foster homes kids go to they don't always consider them anything more than orphans. So their planned mode of food for those kids.... comes from a box or is a bag of chips.
There were many times I was given a bag of chips and a bottle of soda and was told that was my dinner. No joke.
The issue of hunger is very real and I would be interested to see in the numbers of hunger and kids in America, how many are foster children. And of those numbers how many are intentional malnutrition of the child?
Now, not every home is like that, but if a child comes into your home, teach them the difference between snacks and dinner. Teach them what it is to eat healthy because their long term health, even when they are fifty, has been shown to be dependent on even how they eat as kids. While these habits can be changed through out one's life, it is not easy and not everything is reversible. Good news, most is and you can help aid that for this child.
#19 Don't Hold Us To Basic Growing Milestones... in the Beginning
What could I mean by that?
Would you believe that some kids are not even taught how to brush their own teeth in foster care? Yes, people, this is disgusting but it's a very real truth. The objective first and foremost is a bed to sleep in. And sadly, this is even up to the state level. They want the kids to learn these skills, but their objective is based on heads in beds.
So if that is the case, guess how some girls are learning about feminine hygiene when the time comes for that? Now there is something to cringe about. And guess where some are learning about these things?
The point of that to be though if you have a child that is not able to tie their shoes at the age of ten or twelve, don't assume. Teach them how and why it is important.
This could be on basic manners, a milestone that are markers of growth, social cues, basic life skills, and so forth.
You could be saving this child a lot in the long run and how satisfying is that?!
#20 Don't Assume the School is On Top of Our Education
This is going to sound odd, but there were many times I had to ask my own teachers for help and tell them I was not understanding something. Not all kids are Type A and it would be naive of us to assume that about kids.
I think that it is great to be able to ask the teacher when you get the foster child, about them, if they get the same teacher or to have a meeting with them. You don't have to tell them they are a foster child, and in fact, I would suggest not. But the most important thing would be to establish standards of education for the child.
This is even more crucial since your foster child has likely seen multiple teachers and schools within one school year. Not always the case, but it was for me.
So make sure you know the assignments and spend extra time with your foster child and help them with the homework. If they are still struggling, then you need to take the time to ask the teacher for help as well. Just as you would if you were a parent.
So that is it for now. I will have more coming but these are some good starters! Hope they are helpful.
If you were a foster child, refugee, or ward of the court, I would LOVE to have you help share your story as part of the series "Foster the People" on this blog!