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Reprint Article for Fostering Families Today-Advocating for your Child
Issue for Oct/Nov 2015
Denise Rice, LCSW, LAC

Is your foster care “Village” on the same page as you?

Part of advocating for all children in foster care is to make sure that your extended family, friends and social support network, aka the “Village,” are all on the same page as you. On one hand it is important people know that you have decided to embark on this journey, but the “Village” must also have a deeper understanding of what this journey truly involves. Here is an example of a way to communicate to your “Village.”
Greetings to All,

As you are aware, we’re nearing the completion of our foster parent training and certification process! Thank you for the role you have played as we embark on this new and sometimes trying road. We are grateful and so appreciative for your support and (even if you have lots of questions and concerns).

We know that this decision to foster will impact not just us but all of you as well. Our goal is to lay a solid foundation that promotes awareness and success for all involved. If you read this and have any questions, please let us know – we know this is A LOT to take in!

Placements to Expect
We anticipate being fully licensed/certified and waiting for a placement very soon! We are approved for _______foster kids, ages ________, including siblings. We have been very thoughtful about what children we feel most equipped to handle. Please know that we have not taken this step lightly and have spent many hours trying to identify the needs of children that we feel we will be able to effectively meet. We don’t know how long it will be before we get a call, but we know you are just as excited. The children could be staying with us anywhere from a few days to several years.

When we get a placement we will share with you the children’s names, ages, birth dates, personalities, and other such details. However, the family history, reasons for placement, medical status, and other aspects of the foster children’s story are confidential and we will not be able to share these details with you. We appreciate your concerns for us and these children but the child’s history and story is not for us to share, its private and we all need to respect it. If you would like to become a certified/approved respite provider for us, then you will be allowed to know a bit more and you would help us be able to take some breaks in the future…Just a thought!

Human Services policy is that pictures of foster children may not be posted online in any format. We won’t be able to post or email pictures of the kids, and we’ll need your cooperation in not posting pictures that you may take of the kids.

If you do take pictures of the children, these would be extremely helpful to have as I will be creating or building a Life-book for all the children placed with us. Let us know if you would like to know more about Life-books and how you can contribute.

Behavior and Discipline
You may observe unusual, bizarre or sometimes alarming behaviors from the children as a result of their trauma (abuse and neglect). Accordingly, you may also see us utilizing a variety of parenting or discipline techniques. We ask you to remember that we’re working with a team of professionals to address the child’s trauma and behaviors. This is a process and takes time. We will have to parent differently that we did with our biological children. We have read books, taken webinars online and attended some amazing training’s on how trauma impacts brain development and understanding the functions of behavior from a trauma informed perspective. We would encourage all of you to do the same. We are happy to suggest some books, websites, online training or in person training’s coming up if you are interested.

You may not agree with what we are doing but please know that we are also working within the parameters of regulations and rules. If you have concerns, please bring them up in private with us, away from the child.

Holidays, Vacations and Celebrations
We enjoy the time together with you on holidays and vacations. However, some foster children may have difficulty with the stress of large groups, new people and environments, travel and a change in routine. We ask for your patience when we have to miss an event, arrive late, leave early, or one parent has to stay home. We are committed to meeting the needs of these children and that means we will not be able to attend everything we did before. This may be only temporary. We have already learned that FLEXIBILITY is a major key to success in the world of foster care.

What Will They Call You/Us?
Our foster children will have the option of calling us by our first names, “Mr. and Mrs.” or “mom and dad,” if the child chooses. We’ll invite them to address you with the same names that our biological children use (grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, etc.). If you would like to discuss this ahead of time, we welcome the discussion.

How Do We Address Them?
No child wants to be known as “the foster kid.” We will refer to any children in our care as “our kids”. We ask you to please be sensitive and do not refer to a child or introduce them as a “foster child,” particularly in that child’s presence.

Supporting Attachments
We understand that the primary goal on all foster care cases is return home or reunification. We have also learned through training and in talking to other foster parents, that the children have far better outcomes when they are placed with adults who know the benefits of attachment for the children. We also know that a child’s connection or attachment to just one adult (does not have to be a family member) increases the child’s capacity to develop resilience. As children attach to us they gradually learn how to trust safe adults, and it builds their own sense of self-worth.

The challenge for us as foster parents is to connect and love the child, fearing the pain of losing the relationship when they leave. We have learned that the more people who love these children the better, even if for a short period of time. We are planting seeds that convey the message that connecting to adults through relationship is “Ok” and can be safe. The children will take these seeds with them and hopefully repeat that attachment process with others throughout their life.

Thank you for joining us on this journey. We will all help children who have been traumatized in a RELATIONSHIP, begin to heal in a REALTIONSHIP!

*Adapted from Foster Care Q&A, How do you explain foster care to your friends and family?

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