Bringing People Together

 

 

Your Transient Community

 

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We often pass the homeless and transients on the street or in the parks in our communities and make assumptions about how they ended up there. The number of people affected by homelessness is expected to more than double by 2041.

Homelessness is often the result of untreated mental illness. About 7.7 American adults experience severe mental illness and many never receive proper treatment. — Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC

There are a number of reasons that someone can end up homeless and as a member of that community, it is not your job to fix them or their problems but there are a number of things that you can do to bring people in the community together to offer support to those that need it.

 

It Is Their Story to Tell

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Assuming the worst is not uncommon when it comes to people making assumptions about the homeless and transient communities. However, the truth is, everyone has a story and it is not always as bad as one tends to assume.

Women showed a slightly higher risk than men (7.6 percent vs. 5.4 percent), and the risk of homelessness also seemed strongly linked to age. — Romeo Vitelli Ph.D.

Happy Ending For The Homeless Man That Lost His Memory

 

“Charles Ray lost contact with his family in Fayetteville about 10 years ago. During that time, he suffered a stroke that affected his memory, making it impossible for him to recall their exact whereabouts. And eventually, he ended up homeless on the streets of Raleigh. It was that which landed him at the Oak City Outreach Center downtown. Shameeka Newton is a student intern with Catholic Charities studying to be a social worker. She came to know Charles while working at the center and learned his backstory.

 

“It started with one question. I said, ‘what does happy look like to you?’ and he said, basically he wants to see his family. He hasn’t seen his family in 10 years and he knows they’re worried about him,” she recalled.

 

Charles couldn’t remember much about their exact whereabouts, but he did give Shameeka his brother’s name, Eugene, from Fayetteville, so she used that to start searching online.” Read More Here

 

The fact that Shameeka took the time to speak to Charles is what made it possible to reunite him with his family. There is so much more the aiding the homeless than parting with a few dollars.

 

The Benefits of Talk Therapy

 

Taking the time to talk with an individual who is experiencing homelessness is one of the most rewarding gifts of respect and dignity that you can offer them. Doing something to help someone that is homeless is not always about handing over a few dollars. There are a number of ways to bring communities together and form action groups that can work together to tackle the support needed for homelessness in their communities. Share a meal or simply a beverage with someone, taking time out of your life to share that with someone who least expects it is one of the most rewarding acts of kindness you can share with another human being.

For most of us, walking by a homeless person who is curled up on a tattered blanket, asking for spare change seems like a common enough occurrence. Our reactions may vary, with some choosing to avoid eye contact (because it’s just plain easier), while others dig some change out of their pockets or purses. But most of us have no idea how these people turned out like this at all. — Robert T Muller Ph.D.

How Can I Help?

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  • Give them a meal, buy the food or arrange with a local diner where you can pay in advance to give them a meal when they come around
  • RESPECT always, treat them with respect and dignity. It is not your job to fix them but you can encourage them by showing them they deserve better
  • Do not make assumptions, the people you are meeting can be there due to a number of reasons, the possibilities are endless.
  • Support ministries and shelters. This does not have to only mean monetary support, you can volunteer your time and skills
  • When possible, donate clothing, blankets and personal hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste, etc. It is best that these donations be made to active support groups in the communities.

How Fostering Makes A Difference To Your Married Life

According to Sharon Landis, MSW, with the County of Orange, California, the objective in foster care and adoptions is to strengthen families. However, she adds, “our primary goal is for family reunification, so we work to strengthen parents so that they can parent their children safely.” — Meredith Resnick L.C.S.W.

 The thought of becoming a foster parent right after tying the knot is very noble. There may be dozens or hundreds of homeless children who need a new home in every foster care facility across the country. If you can temporarily adopt one or two of them at a time, you are set to create a constructive experience for these kids.

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The question is, will it make a big difference to your marriage as well?

See the likely effects of fostering to your married life below.

It Teaches You How To Budget Your Savings

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Bringing a foster kid to your home means that you are willing to look after the child as if he or she is your own. You will feed and clothe them; you will send them to school without waiting for financial support from the government.

To well-off couples, the additional expenses won’t be a concern. For the regular working folks, however, it enables you to learn how to budget your money so that you can provide your foster child’s needs.

It Outlines Your Commonalities And Differences

The presence of a kid in the household allows the husband and wife to show facets of yourselves that never came up when you were still basically childless. Through fostering, you will understand if your views on parenting are the same. In case there are discrepancies, those will be obvious too.

The beauty of outlining such things is that you can immediately point out your lesser known commonalities and differences. In this manner, you’ll be able to retain the former and work out the latter for the benefit of your marriage and the family you may want to build.

The pros of kinship are that the caregiver is related to the child, and they probably feel a sense of family obligation to care for the child. They are probably known to that child, so moving to that household may not be a traumatic experience. — Jill Duerr Berrick, PhD

It Deepens Your Bond As A Married Couple

Fulfilling your role as foster parents may be challenging, especially if you take in a child who has a lot of angst to blow off. With you on their line of sight, they may snap at you a few times and act rebelliously no matter how much affection you give them.

During such occasions, the only rock you can hold on to is your spouse. While you may always return the kid to the system, you need your husband or wife beside you at all times to make fostering a success.

It Readies You For A Life With Kids

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Living under the same roof as a foster child gives you an idea of what it will be like once you have kids. There will be moments in which their happiness becomes more important than yours. You may get upset or feel joyful with their words too, depending on their mood.

The thing is, you won’t realize what all those instances feel like if it’s only you and your significant other in the house. You may not even consider bearing kids until they came to your life and let you take care of them. Thus, it’s a plus for newlyweds to register for foster care immediately.

Renowned psychiatrist and researcher Daniel Siegel (1999) noted, “The care that adults provide nurtures the development of essential mental tools for survival. These attachment experiences enable children to thrive and achieve a highly flexible and adaptive capacity for balancing their emotions, thinking, and empathic connections with others”. — Blake Griffin Edwards, MSMFT, LMFT

The changes brought by fostering, of course, are not always positive. You will practically go through the ups and downs that regular parents experience when raising children. There may be times as well when the foster kid may act up, and you won’t know at first how to handle it. But the more you stay in the system, the more you understand the youngsters and yourselves. Isn’t that a vital ingredient for a healthy marriage?

Find out if you are eligible for fostering today.

Blessed With A Heart That Cares

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What does it mean to care? Is fostering a child a wise decision? Some people are blessed with a good heart that they embrace other people in their lives, but what comes into their mind when opting to foster a child? We may think it is simple. However, for some, they feel more than just care. They feel cursed for having to feel the pain and suffering of children who have to go through not having a family. Yes, some people do more than just care. They have the heart that bleeds for others, and they cope with this feeling by opting to help, and deciding to foster a child is one of the ways.

One of the reasons that foster homes are not always healthy environments for their wards might be that foster parents have a financial as well as an altruistic motivation. — Susanne Babbel MFT, PhD

Things To Remember Before Opting To Foster Care:

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  • Fostering a child makes someone feel great. It is for a fact that helping is something we need to do to satisfy that sense of fulfillment inside us. There is a particular feeling of satisfaction when we know we can do good to others, and opting to foster care is something more than just giving temporary help. It is something that may create a difference in a child’s life.

Imagine if you didn’t have the emotional constitution to live with knowing that the little one you were attempting to adopt could, at any moment, be given back to his family of origin? And not feeling happy about that and feeling guilt over that. This was the downside, at least to some adoptive families. — Meredith Resnick L.C.S.W.

  • Opting to foster care has a risk. It exposes you to the feeling of being emotionally attached to a person you are not sure to have permanently. Although there is a process for this where you would be eligible for full custody of a child, it doesn’t ascertain anything. It would still make you undergo through a series of emotional and mental threat such as depression.

 

  • It is challenging to take care of a child whom you haven’t nurtured. He may not be able to follow through your lifestyle. His values may not be by your standards, and you must be ready for this. Most of us think that children are all adorable, but we may not anticipate that they could already be dealing with personal issues which are hard to address. We must prepare to be stronger and not to quit just because it didn’t turn out to be a journey to wonderland.

Complex trauma often results in chronic anxiety—internalized as depression, externalized as defiance, or both. Children may, consequently, withdraw or explode as they navigate difficult emotional territory, and they need safe relationships where they can test the bounds of trust as they navigate a path forward through grief, anger, and healing. — Blake Griffin Edwards LMFT

  • Some people opt to foster care because they need it emotionally. If you have the same reasons, you must understand that the desire to fulfill the child’s emotional needs outweighs yours. Remember that the goal of providing a foster home is to make a child feel loved and that he has a family who wants to see him happy. It is not about what he can do for you but what you can provide him in all aspects – physical, emotional, and mental.

 

Source: pexels.com

 

Foster care may be simple, but it goes beyond the provision of shelter, food, and other physical needs. It requires you to have the heart to desire nothing but the betterment of the child. Remember that the moment he would have with you is something that will be a part of him forever. It is way beyond that brief time he might spend with you as it might help him form his perspective. He might live a life based on what he felt when he was with you.

 

Treating Foster Children Experiencing PTSD

We went to Russia to adopt because parental rights were terminated, because there were no reunification programs for the broken families to bring kids back together with parents who had been unable to or neglected to care for them, like at home in California. At least those programs were not in effect once the child was placed on the registry. — Meredith Resnick L.C.S.W.

When mentioning Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the first thing that comes to people’s mind is the word ‘soldier.’ For many, veterans and soldiers are the most associated individuals in this disorder. Surprisingly, however, PTSD also affects a considerable number of children, especially those under foster care. Before dwelling into detail how foster children face this condition, let us first explore what PTSD is.

 

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What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The post-traumatic disorder is a mental health disorder which is triggered by an alarming and grim event which was either witnessed or experienced by an individual. Some of the prevalent symptoms of PTSD include the following:

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  • Severe anxiety or physical reactions when triggered by something which reminds you of the alarming event;
  • Uncontrollable thoughts and distressing memories regarding the traumatic happening;
  • Unwanted nightmares and event flashbacks;
  • Sweaty palms and fast heartbeats; and
  • Trouble sleeping and concentrating.

Acts of aggression may stem from undeveloped empathy and impulse control that reflect an attempt to understand how others react when experiencing pain or attempts to make sense out of harm that was done to them. — Blake Griffin Edwards LMFT

Most people who undergo traumatic situations often find themselves having difficulty in coping and adjusting to their present world. PTSD differs from person to person. Some experience this for only a few months but others’ PTSD last for years. This personal complication hampers their ability to accomplish their simple day-to-day activities.

 

Foster Care And PTSD

According to studies, 1 out of 4 of children who stay in foster care result in PTSD at some point during the first 12 months from joining the foster system. It is often associated with negative experiences, such as abuse and neglect, which the children faced before entering the facility. Their condition even intensifies because of the lack of parental support in the course of the traumatic event.

 

60 percent of foster kids exposed to any violence result in PTSD. The most common symptoms these children experience from this unfortunate event are obsessive thoughts and frequent nightmares.

 

If a child’s PTSD is left untreated, there is a substantial possibility that this will escalate to a more serious mental health issue such as panic syndrome, social phobia, and depression.

Even without citations of foster home abuse, foster children are subjected to constant stressors, including being forced to move from home to home and constantly re-acclimate to a new environment and a new family dynamic, while lacking the stability of having their own family around consistently. — Susanne Babbel MFT, PhD

Treatments For Foster Children With PTSD

To avoid more severe complications, it is best to engage in treatments which will improve the mental wellbeing of these children. In fact, according to a famous trauma therapist Ann Dimarco, PTSD is the easiest childhood mental disorder to treat. Listed below are some of the most effective treatments for PTSD.

 

  1. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a type of approach which relies on the patient’s rhythmic eye movements, instead of engaging them on talk therapy. Targeting the rapid eye movements of the child will eventually lead to a dampened power for the traumatic events to pop into his thoughts.

  1. Play Therapy

Play therapy is an approach to assist the child cope with his emotional trauma and stress through playing. This method can serve as a safe space for the kid to freely express himself. Play sessions usually last for about 45 minutes per week for a maximum of one year.

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  1. Intensive Trauma Therapy (ITT)

This technique is a combination of art therapy, externalized dialogue, play therapy, psychotherapy, and guided imagery to solve the trauma problem of the child. What’s good about this approach is that it does not require the patient to relive the traumatic event. ITT only helps the kid to process the trauma carefully.

 

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT assists in recognizing their thought patterns and identify where the trauma comes in. Once it has been pointed, the therapist guides the child to change the said dysfunctional thoughts to a more positive outlook through a variety of skill-building techniques and problem-solving strategies.

Source: health.mil

 

It is best for foster homes to cater to the needs of these children with PTSD. Engaging them in early treatments will be pivotal in these trying times and can result in better outcomes.

 

 

 

It Starts With Asking Questions

Support through Family Therapy

  

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Having three kids and fostering/raising some others years ago, there is an intuition required to navigate house rules and the individuals. One kid wilted if we corrected her, one rebelled and one being special needs, namely Autism, was another parenting manual altogether. —  

Seeking support and guidance for developing a nurturing environment for Foster Care families starts with a simple internet search. Typing “therapist near me” into any search engine will give you a number of results of active therapists in the area. However, choosing your therapist is not simply a case of taking the first name the internet search pops out.

The end goal of attending family therapy is to improve the dynamics and relationships of a family unit. Therapy is an important way of integrating the foster child into your already established family dynamics. Therefore finding a therapist that best suits your family unit is just as important as taking the step to attend therapy.

Education Is Key

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In 2013 (the most current data available), the total number of children and adolescents in foster care was just over 400,000, with 15% under age 2 and 25% between the ages of 14 through 17. — Glen R. Elliott, MD, PhD

Once you have taken the decision to seek out the support of family therapist you need to know and understand what form of therapy would best suit the dynamics of your family unit.  In order to find the right therapist, educating yourself is an important first step to knowing what you can expect from therapy and will also give you a greater deal of knowledge on what questions you should be asking your therapist before the family sessions start.

It is also important that the form of therapy you choose to follow is best suited for the child placed into your care. You have to take into consideration the child’s history, mental health and how best to integrate them into your already established family unit.

It Starts With Asking Questions

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When you seek out the services of a professional plumber or electrician, you ask questions. You want to know what they have to do, how long it would take and if it would provide the solution you desire. Seeking out the support of a therapist should be no different.

Historically, adoptions have been largely “closed,” with little to no communication among biological and adoptive parents. Times are changing, however, with “open” adoptions becoming more of the norm. — Rick Nauert PhD

Before starting therapy, you would need to be sure that what the treatment plan involves, or if it would meet the needs of your family unit. There are a few basic questions you should be asking a therapist but once you have determined what you hope to achieve through the therapy, you will have other questions relating to family dynamics, the needs and mental health of the child awarded to your care, or even the coping tools you can learn from the sessions. Here are a few examples of the basic questions you can start off with:

Ask about the Theoretical Orientation of the therapist. Not all therapists are the same when it comes to how they view the challenges you might be facing. You would need to know how they would approach a treatment plan. It is important that you understand, agree with and are comfortable with the therapy.

Ask about their experience. You would not hire a landscaper to repair plumbing so why would you hire a therapist that does not have experience in the therapy approach your family will need.

Ask about the therapy process. You need to know what to expect, how long it would take, what goals and objectives would be in place to measure the success of the therapy as it progresses. You also need to know what the end goal of the therapy might be or what coping tools you can expect to learn from the therapy.

Questions You Should Be Asking Your Care Worker

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It is also important that you ask your Social Care Worker questions about the background history and information about the child placed in your care. In order to prepare your family and know what to expect, knowing as much as possible about the child beforehand is important. Most often children placed in Foster Care might have suffered some form of abuse or neglect, knowing this type of information is important to ensure you are prepared to address or avoid any fears or PTSD triggers the child might have.

You Do Not Have To Be Alone

“People often hear about postpartum blues when having a baby, but the emotional well-being of adoptive parents once the child is placed in the home is not really talked about,” said Karen J. Foli, an assistant professor of nursing and an adoptive mother. — Rick Nauert PhD

Creating Communities with Supportive Culture

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I recently read a blog written by a foster parent about the challenges she and her family endured after deciding to foster children of a different culture. Her story had a happy ending, one where she found solace in an online community, however, it also got me wondering, how often does this occur? How are often are foster parents left feeling empty and alone? Her story, Adventures in Foster Parent Depression , goes on to share her struggles, the challenges she faced with depression but also how she found comfort and support through stranger chat and depression chat rooms.

After some recent research on forming support communities, there is one important thing I have learned throughout the entirety of the research project, that is that ‘you do not have to be alone’. There are other families, just like your own, why not come together and create supportive communities?

It Is Bigger Than You Could Imagine

 

A report issued by the Children’s Bureau in June 2016, shows the number of children entering the Foster Care Systems in the United States has risen from 397 605 in 2011 to over 400 000 in 2015. 45% of those children were in the care with of Foster Families. Close on 200 000 children were with non-relative families, while a further 30% were placed in the care of relatives. With those numbers, which without a doubt have continued to grow, it is safe to say, “You do not have to do this alone”.

Source: nomadicmatt.com

Being “allowed” to adopt is not the same as being recognized as equally valuable as heterosexual couples. — Abbie Goldberg Ph.D.

With the advancement of technology, bridging the gaps in communities across the globe has become a reality. With a few simple additions to your smartphones apps, you can chat in real time to someone halfway across the world. An article by The World Post has drawn attention to the fact that Foster Care is in an international issue.

  • According to STV, “Almost 63,000 children are living with more than 52,500 foster families across the UK”.
  • The executive director of the Child Welfare League of Canada, Peter Dudding, estimates between 76,000 and 85,000 kids are in foster care in Canada.
  • Data from the South Africa Social Security Agency showed that close to half a million children were informal, court-ordered foster care.
  • In Australia, in 2012, there were 39, 621 children living in out-of-home care.
  • A decade ago, there were 568,000 children in the United States living in foster care.

So you see, your community is bigger than you could imagine.

 Lend Them Your Voice

Becoming a foster parent is not the only way that you can give these children a voice. There are a number of a project such as Voices for Children where individuals can volunteer as child advocates.

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It takes constant monitoring and presence — [being in] the present moment to determine the scale of discipline given the latest offense. ABC, as my Dad taught me — Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence — What started the behavior. —  

Share Your Mind

Families with experience in foster care, social workers, even therapists can volunteer and share their experience while offering support on online communities. Just being there is often all the support someone might need. Sharing your experience as a Foster Care Family with others is a great way to offer valued information and shared resources.

Give Up A Few Hours A Month

Volunteering is a great way to offer support to Foster Children and Families. Put together a community support club within your community and come together to support families with the little things that count. Help with babysitting, preparing for exams, putting together care parcels or simply just arrange a family day or date night. A time out is a great way for foster parents to re-energize.

You Do Not Have To Do This Alone

The fact is that you do not have to do this alone. There are communities and resources around the world that you can use to your benefit. There are ways for you to create communities and bring together resources that can benefit others. All it takes is a little time and imagination.

Support Through Shared Resources

Creating an Emotionally Supportive Space

Source: lycomingfostercare.org

There are a number of resources that Foster Parents can turn to for support. Seeking support and guidance extends beyond Case Workers and Therapists. More recently we have seen the increase in shared resources through communities and ‘Stranger Chat’.

Sometimes you just have questions, or need advice or perhaps just want to vent or bounce ideas and having access to the resources to do that is important to families. Often, especially when the child is approaching or is already a teenager, you are faced with emotions packed onto an already emotional individual. Not to mention the challenges that come with a child that has had to endure emotional prior to being placed in your care. Trying to integrate the child into emotionally supportive space will be challenging but not impossible and with the right support and having access to resources, you can achieve the objective.

New research finds that for children who have experienced early institutional care, a strong relationship with their adoptive parents aids brain development and improves a child’s long-term mental health. — Rick Nauert PhD

Everyone Has a Stake

 

“Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care for and protect our people”.

Nelson Mandela

The care and emotional support it takes to raise children starts with parents or caregivers and extends to communities. Finding and sharing of support resources can be an invaluable gift to foster families and caregivers. Foster parents should look beyond the support they get from caregivers and therapists and seek out the wealth of resources right there in your own communities.

The experience, information, and support that can come from communities to help support foster families can take on many forms.

  • The first few weeks when new charges are placed with families can be a hectic, challenging time. You can consider dropping off a casserole, offer to come and help out to prepare dinner or simply assist with their grocery shopping.
  • Offer to assist with clothing or toys your own children have outgrown. Put together care packages, small inexpensive items put together by community members is great to start that bond between the child and communities.
  • Offer to assist with errands, babysitting or even helping with homework or carpooling for extramural activities.

Children in the foster care system are at risk for a number of both short- and long-term mental health issues. This is even more the case for kids who were maltreated before entering foster care. — John Smith Ph.D.

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  • Offer emotional support, even when you have nothing to offer in terms of advice, just listening already offers the foster parents support.

Community members and even foster parents themselves can start community support groups with the goal of supporting families in the communities. This does not only have to be aimed at foster families but can extend to anyone in the community that needs support.

‘Stranger Chat’- Resources at the Tip of Your Fingers

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The internet has become one of the most invaluable resources for seeking information, advice, and support. The effect that the internet has had on our lives has been amazing and still continues to grow as it bridges gaps between communities across the globe.

‘Stranger Chat’ has become a popular source of information and support for foster parents and internet users across the globe. Seeking advice and support from forums, groups and communities give caregivers access to advice and information that holds no personal judgment and you will get the views and suggestions from a number of people which makes it easy to look at the problem or challenge from a number of different angles.

Primary support provides the bedrock of the parent/child relationship because it is emotionally sustaining, contributing much to the strength of attachment by which the child feels secured. It never loses importance no matter how old the child grows. — Carl E Pickhardt Ph.D.

One of the most important things about online chat communities is that there is no expectation, you are not forced to follow advice and suggestions and can take from the conversation or advice what you need. There are a number of established forums and communities for foster parents and caregivers, not only do you have to take from these communities but will find that your experiences and what you share can help others.

Setting Up The Home And Family For A Foster Child

Bringing your first foster child into the home can be quite anxiety-provoking. There is so much to consider… You want to make sure you that the child has a smooth transition and also ensure that you are still able to keep up with your other commitments in life. You’ve done all the paperwork and have attended all the classes, but it can leave you wondering “have I done enough?”

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First, take a breath and congratulate yourself. Foster care can have a huge positive impact on the foster children’s’ lives and good on you for being prepared to take on this challenge!

Now to help you prepare for this challenge, we have compiled some tips on preparing your home and your family. Read on for these below:

The intent of the system is to place the child in the least restrictive setting compatible with good care, with the ultimate goal, when feasible, of returning the child as quickly as possible back to the parents or legal guardians. — Glen R. Elliott, MD, PhD

Preparing yourself:

  1. Gather as much information as you can about fostering. Attend the classes available and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Fostering can be a lot more complicated than raising biological children and no-one expects you to know everything straight away. It can be helpful to speak to others who have fostered before and gained an understanding of their experiences too.
  2. Through this process, find out what support services are available and come up with an “if all else fails” plan.
  3. Make sure you have a good support network. As foster children often come from a difficult past, it will likely take them some time to settle and this can put stress on yourself and your family. Make sure that you have some good supports in your life you can go to who agree with your decision to foster so that you can manage your own stress.
  4. Remember that there is no exact rule-book on this. It’s not going to be a perfect fit straight away and it’s unlikely that everything will go to plan. What is most important is that you are willing to learn from these experiences and use them to grow and become a stronger foster parent with time.

               

Source: abc.net.au

We can teach kids the skills they need to create and maintain lots of strong social connections, and we can rig their environment to make a dense web of relationships possible. — Christine L. Carter Ph.D.

Preparing your family:

  1. Before you even decide on becoming a foster parent, you should make sure that this is best for yourself and your current family situation. For example, if things are not very stable at home, maybe there’s been lots of arguments lately or maybe you have a newborn or challenging child yourself it may not be the best time to introduce a foster child into the home.
  2. Ensure you and your family are all on the same page and understand why you are bringing a foster child into the home.
  3. Explain to your children why foster care is needed and that it is not that the child is trying to take their mother or father from your children, but that you have stepped in because unfortunately their mother and father cannot help the child right now.
  4. Warn your children that the foster child is likely to be a little scared or nervous, to begin with, and may take some time to settle. This could cause them to behave in strange ways, lash out or become withdrawn. Make sure your children know how to welcome the child without impeding on their space.
  5. Keep open communication in the home so that if your children feel uncomfortable at any time they can come to you.
  6. Keep in mind that due to their difficult past some foster children can engage in some challenging behaviors such as inappropriate sexual or physical behavior or self-harming. Have clear set rules around what is acceptable and what is not and make sure your children have some tools to deal with this if they are exposed to such behavior. Most importantly, ensure they come to you or your partner to discuss this if they are exposed. Some really helpful tips around this can be found at https://www.thespruce.com/prepare-child-for-foster-adopted-sibling-27463

Preparing the home:

  1. Make sure they have their own space. Somewhere to place the things that are important to them. Given foster children often do not have many possessions, they can be very protective of those they do have. Ensure that your children are aware of the importance of this.
  2. Shut away anything dangerous (e.g. chemicals etc). Foster children may not have been given any guidance on the safe use of such things so it is best to keep them out of reach.
  3. Have some extra clothes, toothbrush, and toiletry items and some toys just for your foster child to help them feel welcome in the home.

You can establish structure for a child by implementing house rules and child-specific goals, by linking privileges to responsibilities, and by creating safe and private spaces for children to be and discover who they are. — Blake Griffin Edwards LMFT

Source: homes.winshape.org

Preparing your friends and others in your life:

  1. Tell your friends your intentions and why you are interested in becoming a foster parent. Be aware that they may not agree with this decision, and be prepared for some people to provide negative or unhelpful comments. This is why having your own support network is so important.
  2. Speak to your employer to let them know your plans. Foster parenting can involve a lot of tasks above what would be expected for a biological child (such as court cases and attending services) so prepare your employer that you may need some time off here and there.

For further information on preparing your family and your home for a foster child please see the links below.

Resources:

http://www.fccy.org/blog/foster-care-pa/preparing-a-bedroom-for-your-foster-child/

http://fostercareourlovestory.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/prepping-our-house-for-foster-care.html

https://www.thespruce.com/prepare-child-for-foster-adopted-sibling-27463

Welcome Home: How All Family Members can Prepare for Their Newly Adopted or Foster Child

Introducing Your Foster Child Into The Home

 

 

Source: swd.gov.hk

Bringing your first foster child into the home can be nerve-wracking for yourself and your family. However, it can be even more anxiety provoking for the foster child themselves. They have often come from unsafe and unstable backgrounds and sometimes have a history of trauma and abuse. So they don’t really know what to expect when moved to another home. Of course, you want to do the right thing by them and are doing so by providing a safe and supportive home life. Yet, no matter how wonderful the home or the family are, if the foster child is unable to settle it can be a difficult experience for everyone.

To help with this process, there are a few things you can do at the beginning of the foster relationship to try to help the child feel at home…

Children who have been removed from their parents can be cautious about trusting others, so allowing the child the space to talk about the situation on their own terms creates an opportunity for them to build trust with you. —  

On their first day:

  1. Introduce yourself
  • Only introduce yourself and the family members who will be living in the home on this day. Try not to overwhelm them by introducing extended family members or friends at this stage.
  • When doing so, get down to their level and make eye contact. If they look away, don’t force it. Try and pick up signs from their body language and give them more space if they seem to be pulling away.
  • If the child is older, give them an opportunity to decide what they would rather call you. If they are younger, it may be best you decide this for them.
  1. Give them something to eat
  • Often food has been a scarce resource for these children. Feeding them will not only show them that you are caring but also show them that they will never go hungry in your home.
  • You can use this as a bonding point to ask them some of their favorite and least favorite foods.
  1. Give them a tour of the home
  • Show them around the home and outline the common living areas and those that are for them alone.
  • When you get to their room, make sure you tell them it is their space and that if you have other children in the home, the foster child is aware they will respect this. This way, they know they have somewhere that they can go if they feel overwhelmed.
  1. Outline expectations
  • Outline the basic house rules.
  • Try not to overwhelm them with every single little thing you expect, but focus mainly on the essential do’s and don’ts in the house.
  • Often because these children have come from such difficult backgrounds we may be tempted to be overly lenient on them. However, setting rules and expectations can actually help them feel more secure in your home which is one of the most important things you can provide.
  1. Now take a step back
  • Give them time to explore their new home. They are likely quite overwhelmed and may wish to have some time to themselves. Make sure you respect this, but also continue to let them feel welcome.

Foster parents receive reimbursement, usually a per-diem rate per child in the range of $20–$25/day, depending on the state (the amount increases if more intensive psychiatric or medical conditions exist). As a clinician, you will want to have a sense of who the child’s foster family is so that you can assess the appropriateness of placement and adequacy of parenting, just as you would with any other child or adolescent. — Glen R. Elliott, MD, PhD

The first few weeks:

                     

       Source: thespruce.com

Be prepared to spend a lot of time at home in the next few weeks. Often children in foster care have been neglected or cared for inconsistently. They have then been taken away from everything they have ever known so naturally, it will take some time to settle.

During the first few weeks, you want to spend as much time at home and with the foster child as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean being joined at the hip. It is more a chance to show them that you will be a stable influence in their life. Use this time to bond with the child, make lots of eye contact when possible and if they like cuddles, give lots of cuddles. Spend some time getting to know what they like and dislike and play games with them. This may seem like spoiling them, but often these children have not had a chance to be just children. This plays a vital role in their development and by spending this time with them you give them the chance to experience childhood while also developing their trust.

                   

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: inclusiveschools.org

 

Remember…

These children have often come from extremely difficult and frightening backgrounds and they will likely take some time to work you and your family out. They may take some time to trust you and trying to force the issue won’t work. You need to be flexible and patient. Talk to the foster child and ask them if there is anything you or the family can do to help them feel more comfortable. If they don’t speak much, try and work off their body language. It’s about finding the balance between being loving and compassionate without being pushy or overbearing. Just trust that with some patience and compassion, they will come to you.

You can nurture a child by engaging them in playful as well as skill-building activities that facilitate opportunities to explore relationships and the world around them, heaping affection unconditionally, lavishing praise on every effort, large or small, and showing a genuine interest in their lives. — Blake Griffin Edwards LMFT

Given most foster children have difficult backgrounds, it may also be helpful to seek some counseling support around this transition. Contact your GP for further information on how to access this support.

For more information on welcoming a foster child into your home see the links below:

Resources:

https://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/to-foster-parents-top-10-things-to-make-a-foster-childs-first-day-easier/

https://thefosterlife.com/2015/03/13/foster-care-the-first-30-days/

https://www.thespruce.com/first-weeks-home-with-foster-child-27536

Connecting and Bonding with your Foster Child

Foster care children can have an array of behavioral problems and specific psychiatric disorders. The process of being taken out of one’s home and separated from parents and siblings is stressful, even in the absence of a specific traumatic event. — Glen R. Elliott, MD, PhD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: mydeal.com.au

As a foster parent, all you want to do is provide a safe, supportive and loving household for your foster child. The fact that you have chosen to become a foster parent shows that you are a very caring person and have a lot of love to offer. Sometimes though no matter how much love you give, it can be quite difficult to connect with your foster child. You may find yourself continuously putting yourself out there, trying to connect but getting nothing but a brick wall, anger or fear in return. This can be extremely upsetting and I can certainly understand if you’re ready to throw the towel in…

But don’t give up!

Due to the unique environment of a foster relationship and the experiences foster children have been through before coming to your home, there could be a number of reasons why you just aren’t connecting. Before you can even try to connect, it is important to work out why your foster child may be reacting a particular way. Then, you can look at ways to get around this.

From children being separated from parents at the Mexican border, to the rising rates of anxiety and depression in children, to the growing research on how adverse childhood events (ACEs) lead to symptoms of trauma, there is no denying children are suffering. — Hilary Jacobs Hendel LCSW

Understanding their background:

Source: expertbeacon.com

First, it is very important to understand the background of your foster child. They may have been neglected, abused physically, mentally, sexually or had other traumatic experiences. This is certainly not something you should bring up with them (unless they decide to bring it up themselves and want to talk about it) as often they want to “forget” or “block out” these experiences as their way of coping. So you may not have all the ins and outs of this information. What is important though is to know is that all of the things above impact the development of attachment and this will likely be what is causing the difficulties connecting with your foster child.

So what is attachment?

Source: essentialbaby.com.au

All parents have responsibility to nurture both attachment and autonomy. Children need to learn how to bond emotionally with others, navigate appropriate boundaries, and self-soothe difficult emotions.  — Blake Griffin Edwards LMFT

Attachment is the relationship that each

a person develops with their caregiver as they grow through infancy. As this is the first person we interact with in life it sets the tone of how we interact in all our other relationships. If the attachment is healthy, then later in life we are able to connect well with others, if not, we may tend to be guarded and find it difficult to trust others.

What is considered a healthy form of attachment is called “secure attachment”. This is where the child is attached enough to the caregiver to become upset when separated from them, but calms down once the caregiver returns and comforts them and still feels the confidence to explore and play with other children while the caregiver is present. A secure attachment is developed through the caregiver being consistently available and responsive to the child’s needs while not being overbearing. It provides the belief to the child that they are worthwhile and valuable.

Unhealthy attachment styles develop when the caregiver neglects the child or is inconsistently responsive to the child’s needs. Due to this, the child develops the unconscious understanding that others cannot be relied upon and they may develop strategies such as being emotionally guarded towards others to try and manage this.

What can I do?

Source: verywell.com

The amazing thing is that if your foster child has an unhealthy attachment style you can help change this. Just by providing a safe home, food and basic care you are already showing this child that you are consistent and are there to care for them. Other ways that you can help them connect with you include:

  • Spend time getting to know them, what do or don’t they like?
  • Plan activities around their interests, show them you don’t have an ultimatum, you just want to spend time with them.
  • Be consistent, set up a routine in the home and stick to this.
  • Set boundaries in the home and give them an understanding of your expectations. Make sure you stick to this. Although you may feel cruel at the time, by providing appropriate boundaries you can actually help the child feel more secure and cared for.
  • If they are open to it, use safe touch to calm them or comfort them.
  • Is there anything you can teach them that will help them in the future? For example, can you teach them how to cook? If so, spend time doing this.
  • Above all, know that consistency and reliability is the key.

Most importantly…

Know that just because they might pull away, become angry or upset when you try and interact with them, that this is just their way of protecting themselves. So far, their caregivers have let them down, so they are scared to be open to anyone else. No matter what happens, try not to give up or pull away from yourself as this just reinforces their belief that eventually, everyone will let them down.

If you are having significant difficulties and feel as though nothing is helping it may be beneficial to seek counseling. However, try and make this an activity that you can do together so the child does not feel as though they are being ‘palmed off’ to the counselor. Contact your GP for further information on accessing counseling.

To read more on connecting with your foster child and attachment, please see the links below.

Resources:

02. Attachment theory and research

http://therelationshipcenter.us/family-therapy/parenting/cant-connect-foster-child/

http://www.scie.org.uk/publications/guides/guide07/carers/profiles/simmonds.asp