Monday, September 11, 2017

10 Things the Foster Care System Needs to Do Now!

So if you have been following the blog, you know I have been writing about the foster care system. There was the post about what a foster child is here. This came after a surprising revelation that not everyone knew what a foster child was! Then there were the ten things a foster parent needs to know here after I was asked to give advice to a family member about becoming a foster parent. And there was so much advice to give that I did a follow-up post to foster parents with some more advice here. Now, I need to be well rounded in the posts and also share not just for the foster parents' sake when we all know that they are only under the umbrella of an already existing and overwhelmed foster care system. So they (the foster care system) need to hear a few things to help make better and more long lasting placements that benefit everyone from the (foster) child to the social worker to the system overall. Here they are... 

#1 Require at LEAST Monthly Meetings with the Kids

Every six months isn't enough especially when you are making LIFE DECISIONS on behalf of a child. You can also nip things in the bud before they get really bad in different homes based on what you find. This is if you are willing to work with both child and parent.

Otherwise, the communicating point coming across to the child and to the foster parent is that they child is nothing but a number and should be treated as such.

#2 Don't Just Go on the Word of the Foster Parents

Some of them are actually abusive and kids aren't usually making that stuff up. I am sorry to give the brutally honest truth here, but it is the way it is. I can't tell you how many foster homes where abusive and then told me to "shut my mouth or else" so I would actually lie (horribly I might add, because I have never been a good liar- I suck at it) to the social worker or visitor with the foster parents right there and say things were going well. And then low and behold, I find out they were talking horrible things about me behind my back. This is completely not okay.

#3 Have the Child (and Foster Parent) Take "The 5 Love Languages" Test

This is to better understand what their love language is at the core of who they are. If you can get to the bottom of this, foster parents can better connect with the foster children and this would result in less moving of homes. You can pair the foster parents and foster children together this way. For example, some foster parents may not be willing to get close to a foster child because they don't want to be afraid to lose them as soon as they get close. Some don't want to buy gifts for the kids for doing good things. Some don't want to cuddle. So you need to be able to pair well based on many different attributes and willingness on both sides.

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#4 Every Child Needs an Independent Mentor Outside of Foster Care

The reason I say this is because often times children are looking for someone to connect to long term. If a home doesn't work out, they need someone who they know is going to be in their court no matter what. I guarantee this will help tremendously for the welfare of a child.

This could very well be a scout leader, a CASA, anyone that wants to help mentor the child that will be able to be a part of their lives from the time they enter it until the child no longer wants that relationship.


#5 Stop Trying to Medicate the Child So the Real Issues Don't Get Dealt With

Setting kids up as drug dealers, anyone?! Seriously though... you unknowingly start the habits of drug dealers when you teach kids that they must be "on something" to be able to fix their problems instead of dealing with their stuff in a healthy way. Just saying.

Also, the above statement is based on the fact that some doctors are PAID to diagnose patients with something they don't have to benefit the companies or the system and not the child. Now, not ALL doctors or systems are this way and some kids really do need the medication. But not all.

Another post is going to follow this to really go in depth with this issue because it's something I feel very strongly about.

#6 Stop Blaming the Child-- Or Else They Will Take On What You Say As Real

This is NOT the same thing as having kids take responsibility for their own behaviour. This is well beyond that. This is telling a child they deserved to get hit. Or blaming a kid when they are honest about the fact that they were hurt or abused and then shaming the kid into believing the hurt and abuse was their fault.

This is very dangerous. If you see the kid as a child who is going to grow up to be a horrible person, you are likely putting that in the back of their minds and this is something they will have to battle the rest of their lives.

#7 Include the Children in What You Are Saying About Them to Others

Talking about kids behind their backs in such a derogatory way is not okay. This includes what you think would be intentionally trying to help or not.

A great example would be this: If you were to try to explain it to the child to their face, you would not say it so crass, right? Then try to explain it to the foster parent in the same way. You will be amazed at how what YOU say to someone translates to the person you are talking about. Even not verbally.

The transference of your opinion and stereotypes does make it back to the child, even if it is not in words. It is the actions towards a child through the foster parent or teacher.

Now, when communicated well, is super helpful! It can help kids grow and become better human beings. So what if we did this as if the transference of energy did make it back to the child? How revolutionary would this thought be to the child and their well being?

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                                           #8 Make Foster Parents Take "Training" From Former Foster Youth

Linked above is some advice I have given to prospective or current foster parents so they get the real deal from a former foster youth. It is different coming from someone who has lived in the system.
This is important and crucial to the success of foster children in foster care. If foster parents are in the know from foster kids themselves about how to be better foster parents, they will be more equipped.

Think of it like just another training that should be required for a foster parent to gain their credibility to be able to house other children. They really need to be painted a real honest picture so they can better serve the kids they are trying to take in.

This will help reduce the number of kids that go into care and then the foster parents can't stand being foster parents and then quite affecting many kids in care beyond just the kids in front of them but all the kids they had the potential to help.

#9 Don't Try to Push Stereotypes or Unrealistic Expectations On Them

This goes along with what I said with #1 & #2 here in this post. When I look back at some of the court records I have, I all see are how I didn't measure some to some invisible standard that they had that was indeed invisible after all because it did not exist.

A lot of the times, you have really super bright kids in the foster care system that need nurturing. When everyone is expecting a round peg to fit into a square hole, all they are going to find is trouble. And where there is trouble, it will breed when unrealistic expectations are set forth.

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#10 Expect More From the Parents Than You Do the Child

The interesting part of this is that I have seen things that leave me in shock about a 10-year-old child: "Well, the medication should work, but it didn't and she didn't work to get better." Well, okay, because you were trying to use medication for a problem that the medication wasn't meant for... duh! 101 *facepalm*! It makes no mention of what they or the foster parents did or didn't do to help or in a lot of ways, hamper, the growth of the child.

An example that every parent has done is junk food. They turn around surprised at how hyper their kids are when they forget they just fed their kids way too much sugar. Now for me, I was fed junk food for dinner on the daily in some foster homes and then all sugared up, they would get mad at me for being hyper. But that is a pin drop of an example. Another one of the examples would be screaming and be yelling at me for small things and then be expecting me to learn how to communicate based on that and do it right back then act all shocked. Which is also sometimes things that well-meaning parents do and then fix when they realise it. The point is, that if you don't teach a kid something, you can not expect them to flourish on even the basic of things let alone on more complicated things that take a great deal of social and psychological depth.

The foster care system can get lazy in thinking that training foster parents mean they can handle each kid which isn't the case. Which is why you have to make sure there is a good match for the child and parent. You can see above the advice about love languages and that is one prime reason. Love languages are important for good communication so children flourish and are reached at their level.

So we have to heighten the expectations of parents to treat kids like people and then you better the lives of the kids. There will be a follow up to this post! 

But in the meantime, what are your thoughts? Share with me below! 

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