Preparing for issues with foster children- Now that you have made the decision to foster children, one of the biggest steps to take is to ask yourself “what types of children can we handle?”
Foster parent training classes generally do a decent job of informing potential foster parents of the differing types of children that come through the system. Generally, the classes are designed to give you a real picture of what the children may have faced in their home, but your level of exposure is generally at the mercy of the trainer.
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I highly recommend reading “A Child Called It” and “The Lost Boy” by Dave Pelzer. He also has a book called “A Man Named Dave” which deals with his life as an adult. The first two are very easy to read and give a tremendous insight, not only into his abuse but the issues of many foster children in the system. Certainly, you will find reading them helpful you as you approach some tough issues with children.
All they need is love
One misconception is that foster children “just need to be loved”. Although it is true that they need love; what you consider love may not register as love for them.
Wounded children respond to the world differently than those who have not been abused or neglected. They require a great deal of patience and copious amounts of grace. As a foster parent, you will be tested in many ways with each new placement.
Learning is the key! Each child will come with a different set of circumstances and each will require a different parenting plan.
What else do they need?
When my youngest came to me at two months old, she had been neglected. She did not even cry to be fed and had gained only about two pounds since birth. Though people would tell me that she was such a good baby, my heart would cry “NO, babies are supposed to cry!”
It quickly became apparent that she had been left on her right side. Her muscles were atrophied and she had sores on the right side of her neck from the formula drooling down.
Though she soaked up all the love we could smother over her, she needed way more. She needed physical therapy for her weak muscles, occupational for her developmental delays, and feeding due to her mouth muscles not developing properly. And now that she is older, she has needed speech as well because her tongue doesn’t do the job it is supposed to do.
The following is a list I use when I conduct home studies. This is a section of an assessment we do with the families. These characteristics or issues are ones of high risk foster children that may need to be placed. Though the placement you take when you answer the call is up to you; however, these types of children may be among the list.
Types of Foster Children in the System
|Constant supervision required|
|Vandalism or destroying property|
|Sexually reactive behavior (a history of sexual abuse or reactive behaviors)|
|Substance use (nicotine, alcohol, prescription, illegal)|
|Cruelty to animals|
|Delinquent or criminal behavior|
|Fear of animals|
|Making false accusations|
|Extreme attention seeking|
|Negative peer association|
|History of family criminality|
|Danger to others|
I highly encourage my families to make a list of what they feel they can handle. Consider your own strengths and weaknesses. What types of children have you encountered? Would you be able to give grace to a child with tough issues? Are you willing to learn what the child needs? Are you humble enough to get help when needed?
Prepare for what they really need
Wounded souls need you, there is no doubt. It is true that many will come to your home and push you away. Some may fear allowing themselves to get close to you. Others may lash out when they begin to feel a connection. But they may also soak up every hug you give and be desperate for your attention.
These children need love, yes! But they need to be loved in a way that speaks LOVE to them and your job will be to figure that out together. The children need you to love learning about their past and how to help them cope. And they need you to love them enough to not give up.
Don’t take this portion of preparation lightly! It is highly important that you are emotionally and physically prepared for the issues of the foster children you bring into your home. Moving them is damaging! Know in advance what you can handle and determine to do whatever it takes to keep the placement and not move the child. Read! Ask other foster parents questions. Above all, pray to be ready for the call.