Friday, March 21, 2014

"I could never be a foster parent"

The number one phrase people use when finding out I'm a foster parent. Its like they immediately feel guilty for not taking in kids so need to tell me why they couldn't. I'm not entirely sure why this reaction is so common. So here are a few suggestions to hand out to folks when that phrase strikes.... because my motto is to get them when they are weak ;)

Just kidding.

Sort of.

1. Donate items to your local foster parent association group. Clothes, books, toys, baby supplies, games, school supplies, and sports equipment are all expensive items when you are starting from scratch. Most foster parents keep a stash on hand of these items for all their approved ages but most will still jump at the chance to fill in the holes.

2. Create intake baskets. These will be given to kids the night they are taken away from their homes. Sheriff offices, DFCS offices, and the foster home could all use them. They are filled with practical items like a toothbrush, a comb, a blanket, stuffed animal, socks, and a snack/juice box. These are all comfort items for the kids, they seem so simple but can make a huge difference in that first night/day. 

3. Be a backup babysitter. This isn't as simple as it seems- it takes work! You need to be fingerprinted and background checked with DFCS. Finding friends who are willing to make the effort to get that done is HARD! Don't wait for the foster parent to ask you.... go find them and tell them you want to be their backup when you can. Eternal gratitude is your's my friend.

4. Be part of our community. Being a foster parent is a lot like entering a very isolated club, there are so many rules and the lifestyle is different from a "normal" family dynamic that many times you feel like you're in this on your own. The more people who make the effort to get involved in our kids lives, support us as parents, even stay in touch with the details of the case (as much as the laws will allow us to share anyway) are all ways to help bridge the gap and keep foster families surrounded by a community of support. That alone makes a huge difference.

5. Be patient with us. Did you know that none of our kids can have sleepovers unless it is at another foster parent's house? That we can have anywhere from 1-3 appointments per week (per child!) that DFCS requires? That we have a handbook 2 inches thick of rules and regulations concerning our kids? That we sit in a hallway at juvenile court for 6 hours without ever actually going in and have to keep the kids quiet in chairs the whole time? That before our kids get haircuts we have to get the parents permission through our case worker? That we have to get permission to go on any trips with at least 2 weeks advance notice? That case workers can call that day and say they need to come inspect our house but then show up an hour late and we can't do anything about that? None of these things are me complaining about the system- they are just a fact of life in a foster home but we need our community to understand that life with us takes patience and understanding. 

Here is my fail for the week: someone donated two bikes for the girls to have. They have been sitting at my church since Tuesday morning but have we found a way to get there yet? No. First up I have to borrow a bigger vehicle to get them and then this week every single night we've had plans. It's looking like it will be Saturday night before we can get over there.

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