Internships are stepping-stones. They provide real world experiences for students transitioning from academic to professional careers. I know all about transitions. As a child, I transitioned from Spain to America and then one placement to another, never knowing a sense of stability or a sense of belonging. Then, at the age of 18, I transitioned from ward of the court to emancipated adult. The transition from dependent child to independent adult could have done me in, as I have seen it do others like me, but I vowed to overcome it, to thrive, no matter what.
As a child who grew up in multiple foster homes, I can honestly say to this day that I still have a void in my heart for parents of any form and I’m 36 years old! No matter the person, we all want that feeling of being loved. I know that bringing a unique child into your home can be uneasy, but all they want is YOU! I would like to share with you a few tips on what it takes to open your home and becoming a foster parent through a former foster child’s perspective.
Here’s 5 tips on why foster parents ARE No Ordinary Parents
1. Routines and how that is important to predictability – We all need that sense of security in our lives. When a child has been removed from his/her home, they are leaving behind what they have known and with that goes security. For new parents, it’s important to build that foundation right off the get go and help the child develop self-discipline. Once you do this, you’ll start to see a change and for the better!
2. Building trust and relationships – Don’t get discouraged if you have a child in your home and feel they are distant. These children are coming from all walks of life and are put into uncomfortable circumstances. My advice, for the first few weeks, you should take the time to get to know them on a personal and deeper level and mean it. Be in their moment and let them know you are there for them. Listen to their wants/needs. Smile often and share hugs. Trust and relationships don’t happen overnight. It may take months or perhaps years before you gain their trust. Work on building the relationship and trust will soon follow.
3. Having fun – They say that laughter is good for the soul. I believe it. After the trauma that these children face, laughter could possibly be the best medicine for them. Carve out time in their routine to have some fun as a family. Communication is key in asking what the child wants. Depending on the ages, entertainment can vary. When a child is having fun, they are more accepting, active and enjoying life with YOU!
4. No labeling – I’ve never been a big fan of the word “foster” before child/parent. But it’s there. One of the biggest ways to make a child feel like they don’t belong in/out of the foster care system is putting a label to their name. Be careful how you introduce your child. NEVER put the disorder before the child. You should always address the child first such as ” Liz, my foster child vs my foster child, Liz.” Make him/her feel like an individual and that they are worth a million bucks. Please don’t label them. Labels belong on cans.
5. Acceptance into the family – We all want that one thing, to be accepted. When a child has just had their world turned upside down, the most important action to take is to make that child feel like they belong. Help them see their value and what they can contribute to your life as a parent. Never exclude the child from family activities and make every effort to introduce them to your whole family. Help them find a place they can call home.
Disclaimer: This post is written from the heart! Some of these sentences are exerts from my story found in the powerful book by Waln Brown, titled Growing Up In The Care Of Strangers; All opinions are my own.