Tuesday, April 14, 2015

foster care: part 7

How long do you think you'll be a foster parent?
No idea!  Until it's time to be done. :)

How do you help foster kids deal with the trauma they've experienced?
Man!  I've been working on this question for half an hour!  This is a really hard one to answer.  Trauma shows itself in so many different ways.  I think a lot of people equate trauma with sadness or something? - I did before we became foster parents - but it's so much more.  It comes as aggression, lying, sadness, mistrust of adult figures, attachment disorders, ... And all of those are dealt with as their own issues.  but.  not the same way you would deal with them if they belonged to "normal" kids.  Our kids have a play therapist, and that helps.  She gives us things to talk about at home, like how to deal with emotions so you don't explode like a volcano.  But we also do other things differently.  We have more allowance for  certain behaviors that we wouldn't with biological kids.  

Okay, I need a little more time to think about how to explain this clearly... I'll try to do it justice tomorrow.

How do you talk to them about what's going on with their parents?
Sometimes the kids have bad days / nights / times when they just really miss home.  When she cries, "I want Mommy" (or some variation), we usually respond, "I know, honey.  She's not here.  I'm sorry."  If she's out of it, we leave it at that.  If she's pretty coherent, we usually follow up with, "Where is she?" and she answers, "At court."  OR We follow up with, "Why isn't he here?" and she answers, "Because he made a bad choice."  With this particular placement, that's enough to calm them down.  

"Why did you take me away from my family?"
"I didn't take you away.  Court took you away.  But it was because there were some bad things happening at home.  You know how Mommy ____? [or] You know how Daddy ___? [or] You know how ___ was at your house?"
"Those things make houses scary / not safe / not healthy for kids, so Caseworker asked if you could stay here until your house is safe for you."

"When will I get to go home?"
"When the judge has decided that Mommy / Daddy has made enough good choices."

"Why did you decide to take care of us?"
"We got a phone call from Caseworker one day, and she said, 'The two cutest, best, most fun, most awesome kids in the whole world need someone to take care of them.  Can you do it?' and we said, 'YES!'  And she was right!  You are the cutest, best, most fun, most awesome kids in the whole world!!"  

Those are all real-life scenarios that we experienced multiple times per day at first and now experience weekly-ish.  When the case changes, Caseworker tells us and it's our job to tell the kids.  That's a little harder.  I can't say exactly how we handle it because it would give away what's happening right now, but generally, we say that parent/s made a good choice (if the case improves) and what the good choice was or a mistake / bad choice (if it goes downhill), usually without saying what the bad choice was.  

They know that they're here because of bad choices.  We've talked about what those bad choices were and why they were bad (so hopefully they don't get perpetuated).  We encourage them to pray that their parents will make good choices, and we talk about how people can make bad choices without being bad people.  We also remind them how much their parents love them.  

We refer back to the judge / court all the time so they don't think it's our choice or the caseworker's that they're not home right now.  When court dates come up, we tell them a few days in advance and then, every time they / we say prayers, we pray that the judge makes the best choice.  

What route should I go if I'm looking to adopt through foster care? + If you wanted to adopt through foster care, how long would it take to get the child?
Sign up for foster care!  Let the agency know you either want kids who are already legally free or who are headed that way.  And then be patient.  Some cases go really quickly.  For example, if I'm a mom who's already had several children removed permanently and I just had a baby, it's possible that the baby be taken immediately and my parental rights terminated.  I know of a family right now who had DCFS call and say, "We have five kids ready to be adopted.  Will you take them?"  So, some cases can be quick.  The majority, though, are not.  I've heard of cases taking 2-3 years, sometimes up to five.  Tons of second chances to the parents, appeals... It can take a couple years to get to the point where parental rights could be terminated, and then some parents sign away and others fight.  The time really all depends on the parents and the judge.  Overall, don't plan on it taking less than at least a year.

Do you feel like you're really able to help the children in the long run?
I sure hope so!  We teach good habits like we would to biological children, but there are other habits we teach a little more aggressively because of the situation.  For example, I don't know how I feel about allowance normally, but we give it to these kids.  Money management can be linked to family life situations, so in an effort to help stop the cycle they're a part of, we give them a little bit each week.  Then if they squander it all at McDonalds, they did it with $5 instead of $5,000.  We also help them put 10% into savings and 10% toward a charity of their choice.  This morning, one decided to spend his money on breakfast at McDonalds.  As we were driving away, he was ECSTATIC about his purchase.  We all celebrated with him - it's fun to spend your hard-earned money on things you love!  About ten minutes later I said, "Your chocolate milk cost $1.  Do you think that's a good price?  There's no right or wrong answer, I just want to know what you think," and also talked about his hash brown ($1) and sandwich ($3).  He decided that the hash brown and chocolate milk were totally worth $1, but $3 was a little too much for a sandwich.  And then we talked about how it's good to recognize that but also know that it's okay sometimes to pay a little more for something you really want.

When the kids say something nice about one of us, we say, "Make sure you marry someone like that when you grow up, okay?  Someone who's (whatever they said nice about us) and makes you feel safe."  

We probably talk daily about who's in charge of whose body, what to do if someone does something you don't like, and that it's not your fault if that happens.  Our kids don't have personal experience with that, but you just never know.  

We've also introduced them to religion, and they're passionate about it.  One loves praying so much that the idea of forgetting when he goes home worries him.  We teach a lot of religion generic-ly ("read the scriptures" instead of "read the Book of Mormon"), since we don't know whether they'll go to church or to which church when they grow up.  

Basically, we try really hard to parent offensively, if that makes sense.  Probably moreso than we would normally, even, because I think it's easier to assume (even if mistakenly) a safer future for bio children.  And we're praying that they'll remember something of what we're doing.  Maybe they won't save or donate 10% of their paycheck, but maybe he'll remember that he doesn't want to spend $3 for a sandwich every day.  If nothing else, they'll see temples during the rest of their Utah lives and now know what they are.  Or in 20 years when they're remembering that they were in foster care, maybe they'll think of a family that had fun together, loved and helped each other, went to school every day, got angry without yelling, cleaned up messes, and played Mario Kart instead of Grand Theft Auto.

the rest of the trauma question, What are the rules about religious exposure?, Are you allowed to get a babysitter? and some more :)

Previous posts on this topic:


Neville and Luna alone of the D.A. had responded to Hermione’s summons the night that Dumbledore had died, and Harry knew why: They were the ones who had missed the D.A. most . . . probably the ones who had checked their coins regularly in the hope that there would be another meeting.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Zach Cordell said...

You're so good

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