About 7 years ago Dan and I adventured out into this fostering world, we had to begin with GPS class we took at our local DHR classes. These classes guided us through many subjects areas. One of them was 12 skills for successful fostering and adopting. These skill gave us many topics to discuss.
7 years later I could only remember for sure the first one, and was kinds sure about the others. So I pulled out our training folder and found the 12 skills.
1. Know your own family- This is so important. As ours grew and we adopted we keep in check what is working and what is not working. The last time we fostered we had two wonderful boys, but they were each the same age as two of our other boys. It was good as they had instant best friends. But it was like we gained twins, two sets and that presented many challenges. Like Robby was already set up to do certain things that Brandle was not. He had a hard time understanding why he couldn’t do everything that Robby did. And if something is not working in your family, you need to tell DHR.
2. Communicate effectively When you bring in a foster child to your home, you do not just add that child to your life. You add their social worker, GAL, counselors, teachers, Biological parents. It is key that you affectedly communicate with them. But also you as husband and wife, need to keep that communicate going, cause it will get crazy and hard. Don’t let it catch you unexpected.
3. Know the children-the kids that come to your family are being ripped from the only things that they know. Even all the “book” knowledge you have will not prepare you. Each one is different and unique. When the first come, be gentle and set guide lines. Watch and listen. In our family my two older boys would report to me anything they thought was important that the kids told them. Know why children do different things. Make list of what you see in your kids. List strengths, areas of weakness. Things that concern you, things they say. Know their needs and make sure you communicate them to DHR.
4. Build strength, meet needs-Every child is going to be different. Some may speak non stop and others you may not get a word out of them. Most will seem older than their age, or younger than their age. Find what they are good at and build on it. If they are good at cooking, have them help you. If they like sports, find a team. Some thrive in school and others will need lots of help. Skill 4 builds on 2 and 3.
5. Works in partnership Remember just a bit ago that when you brought in a foster child you bring in many other people into your family. There were some months I had social workers in and out of our home. We would have in home therapist come once a week. Sometimes a visit from the GAL-those were rare! Our goal in fostering is to help parents get their lives back in order. We feel that it benefits everyone for us to work with the foster parents. I have sat in ISP meetings telling a mom that going into a drug program will be the best thing for them and their family. And that their daughter isn’t going to look down on you, but look up at you for being brave and making that change to get them back. Sometimes they have to hear from foster parents that you are on their side to get their lives back together. This is always my goal till it is evident that it is just not going to happen.
6. Be a loss and attachment expert-I never understood how important that was. But the more I foster, the more I understand this. These kids first loss everything they knew when they come into foster care. Each once responds differently. Know about loss. Read up about grieving. Read the stages. This is important, cause look where the anger part is. Then know about attachment. Know about RAD. Research. We carry all our babies in a sling. Helping them form attachment at such a young age is super important and a gift we give them. Helping any kid with attachment is important. And understand attachment may explain some of the behavior the child is displaying.
There are six other parts to the list. I will touch on those tomorrow.