A network of adoptive families, birth families, and adoption professionals which exists to improve the lives of children and others touched by adoption through support and education. UFA is actively engaged in community outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of adoption as a loving option.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Making Your Fostering Experience Better

Final goodbyes to Ashanti* before heading on a plane with her Dad.

In 2006, Brad and I took classes to become foster parents. The classes were great and we learned a great deal - more than I counted on. But one of the most important things I learned was the importance of being a positive Foster Parent.

This can be hard sometimes, especially when your ultimate goal is to adopt a child.

You don't want to have to say goodbye to a child you love and saying goodbye is even harder when you see that the level of care they are going back to is not the same level they get when they are with you.

This is hard. There is no other way to say it... it is hard!

Here are a few things you can do to help make 
your fostering experience better.

1. Remember each child is a son or daughter of God. No matter if they stay with you or go back to family what you do with them while they are in your care makes a difference in their life! Each act of love and service you give to them is building a better future for them.

2. Remember that a child is not "yours" until a judge tells you they are. Take in each child with love and respect but also with the idea that they will leave. Don't tell your other children that you "might" get to adopt this child. Help them learn that it isn't a bad thing if they go back to their family....help them plan on it happening. Then if the child happens to stay with you they will be excited. If they go back to family your children will be prepared. We continually told our children the different alternatives...but to plan on them going back home. We learned when we went through saying goodbye to Ashanti how important it is not to set up expectations within yourself or in your children. Even if a caseworker says that it is starting to look like the case is going to plan b (adoption) just move forward like you are still on plan a (reunification).

3. Think of the biological parents in a positive light and develop a positive relationship with them. Look for their good qualities. This may seem impossible but it isn't. When you can develop a positive relationship with the bio family you are helping not only the child but the parents, too. Some people just need someone to believe in them...believe that they can change. I have a brother who changed from a drug addict of many many years to a very hard working citizen who loves life and is trusted once again by those around him and by his family. It doesn't matter what drug they have been doing or the bad decisions they have been making....anyone can change. If you are having a hard time finding something positive try to think of someone in your life who has struggled with addiction or something difficult and treat the bio parents as you would have wanted your family member or friend treated during their hard time.

(I realize there are a few situations where a good relationship will not happen and change will probably not occur...safety is always number one when deciding how to interact with the bio parents.)

image by adamr
4. Help the caseworker work the reunification plan. Don't hinder the process. Be as flexible as you can without jeopardizing your own family. You will find your caseworkers appreciating you more. We have had this experience and had caseworkers thank us for being flexible and for not causing problems with reunification. They then told us they would keep our family in their minds if they had a child who needed an adoptive family. When you are honest and are kind and follow the plans that are made it helps things move forward which is important to all involved.

5. Keep in very regular contact with the child's attorney. The court will appoint a "Guardian Ad Litem." They are so very important to the child and the case.. They ensure the best interests of the child are being met. Email them once a week to give them an update. Email (in my opinion) is better than calls or in-person meetings because you have a record of what was addressed. This would also be true for corresponding with caseworkers or anyone involved in the case.

6. Most of the time a child is placed in your care before you ever meet Mom or Dad. If this is the case write a letter to the parents telling a little bit about you, how you will care for the child etc. Then ask the caseworker to forward it on to the parents. This will put the parents mind at rest and start a positive relationship from the beginning.

Last picture of Ashanti with my kids. Isn't she beautiful?!
In the end you need to make your fostering experience a positive one for the child or children that come into your care and for your own family.

Not every situation is going to be easy or perfect. You are dealing with hard issues and matters of the heart. But I know if you focus on creating a good experience you will touch many lives....and your life will never been the same!

-Brenda Horrocks, adoptive mom, adoption and foster care advocate
*Although photos and names of foster children are not usually shared publicly, 
Brenda has permission from Ashanti's father to do so.

We'd like to hear from you. What are some of your tips for improving the 
foster care experience? Leave your comments below, or submit your own post.

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