BY JILL RIPPY
Making the choice to foster comes with many fears. Fostering isn’t decided upon lightly. Fear is natural when considering fostering. By far, the most significant fear my hubs and I faced was how fostering would impact our daughter. Are we damaging her by fostering? How can we keep her safe? What if they give us violent foster children? Will she grow up to resent us for having to share us?
These fears are common and legitimate.
What if they give us violent foster children?
You are NEVER obligated to take a child with a history that you are not comfortable with. Truth is, you will probably say no 10+ times to your licensing representative before you ever say yes to a child. When the hubs and I were licensed, our daughter was 2 ½. Without a doubt, she was our #1 concern. We agreed to never allow our fostering to damage her and if we ever got a feeling that she was becoming damaged, we would stop.
Having a young child, we were extremely picky about the histories and behaviors we would allow in regards to a child joining our home. We preferred school aged girls with no history of violence and who had never perpetrated (acted out sexually) on other children.
That doesn’t mean the agency didn’t call with children who didn’t even come close to fitting our criteria. Again, we said no probably two dozen times before we ever said yes. AND THAT’S OKAY!
Be picky. If you have children to protect, then be as picky as you need to be. Know that case workers don’t always know a lot about the child, but they get a pretty good gut feeling and should tell you everything they can about them.
How can we keep our children safe?
Keeping in mind that your children are your number one concern, there are measures you must take to ensure the safety of your children. We chose to wait until our daughter was old enough to talk before we welcomed foster children into our home.
We are pretty much listening, watching and discussing all the time. We have a home safety plan that includes basic house rules that all must follow. These include speaking respectfully to one another and all the basics, but also includes no sharing of blankets, knocking before entering a bedroom, only one person in the bathroom at a time, etc. These are common sense practices that we have to enforce so we can ensure we never have a situation where anyone is unsafe. For the first several weeks when a new child joins our home, our bio-children sleep in our room with us. This is just a safety measure in the event that we have a sleep-walker or a child who is looking to act out on a younger child. Once we are comfortable with the new child, our dog has been conditioned to sleep outside the door of our bio-children’s room. So if the dog stirs or senses anything odd, we will hear her.
Sometimes it can be exhausting, but we are always aware of where all the kids are in our home. If our daughter is watching a movie with the other kids, we are always in earshot. We know what’s going on at any given time.
As for our toddler son, only Daddy and I change diapers and the understanding is that we are the parents, not our teens. If correction needs to happen, that is our responsibility and no one else’s.
We also talk. A lot! We have regular family meetings where we talk about any household issues. Family meetings are a safe place for our kids to talk out any issues with others in the household. We also have private conversations. Our daughter knows about having privacy and we have frank discussions about her body parts being hers and no one else is to touch them. As a parent who has decided to bring foster children into our home, we have to talk openly about safety and we have to review it often.
Are we damaging our children by fostering?
I certainly hope not. If my children were being damaged or growing resentful, I hope I would see signs. I’ve read a lot and asked a lot of questions. Though I was a single foster mom prior to marrying my husband, we have been fostering together for five years and we have the most compassionate, loving daughter that we could ever wish for. She knows our teen girls haven’t been cared for the way they should have been. Her basic understanding is they need a Mommy and Daddy; we want to help them because we love them and they deserve a good home. She doesn’t remember life before fostering, so this is all she knows.
Spending intentional time with our bio-children is important also. Though we take a family vacation once a year with all of our children, we also make a special weekend just for our bio-children. They share their Mommy and Daddy without complaint and they deserve some alone time with Mommy and Daddy, on occasion. We are the only Mommy and Daddy our bio-children will ever have whereas our foster children have us and their bio families. Our littles need special, intentional time with Mommy and Daddy too.
There is a lot to consider before making the decision to foster. The safety and well-being of your bio-children should be your number one concern and please, make no apologies for it.
It is my deepest hope that fostering has a positive impact on our children. We want to instill compassion and a sense of service into them. Fostering is a huge blessing to us. We have this unique opportunity to change lives. Most people don’t understand it and it’s perfectly understandable that you and your extended family would have concerns for your bio-children. With safe guards and common sense, it is easy to ensure the safety of your children
Thank a Foster Parent HERE
Thank a DCS Professional HERE