Foster Parents Make a Difference: Part 1 of 2

mother and sonDo Foster Parents Matter?

Foster parents may sometimes wonder if they made a difference in a child’s life. Because fostering is temporary, children are with you for a limited time.  Although some foster parents decide to adopt their foster child, more often foster children move on.

It’s not surprising then, for foster parents to wonder whether what they did mattered.  We assure you that foster parents do matter.

We heard this loud and clear in an earlier blog post by former foster youth Kristina.  Among other things, she said “I’m 21 now.  I’ve graduated from high school and I have a good job that I enjoy. I could never have gotten this far without the support of my foster families.”  Her remarks can be found in full here.

Kristina keeps in touch with the family who fostered her up until she turned 18.  For them the answer is clear; they mattered.

But what of those foster children who are younger when they live with you and then move on? How do you know you made a difference for them?  You can’t help but wonder.

Several months ago a former resident of Plummer’s group home wrote a deeply personal reflection of this topic in the blog Main St Rock. In his post, called Years in the Fog of Ignorance, he reflects on time spent being fostered by an Aunt in California, 3,000 miles away from his parents in Massachusetts.

As an adult looking back on that time, he has come to understand the profound commitment made by foster parents, including his Aunt.

In a time when she could have continued right on living the life she had built for herself, the children of her adopted brother needed someone to help them. So she got a new apartment, took foster care classes, made arrangements, spent money, and turned her entire life upside down for no purpose other than to provide a safe place for [me and my sister].

And he is humble in his thanks:

[Fifteen years later, I am] …. truly speechless. I can understand and accept the fact that in my anger and confusion as a young child, it wasn’t possible for me to see these things. But I had grown up a lot since then. How had I been so blind to everything she gave me? How had I not acknowledged publicly or even privately how much it meant to me that she was willing to do that? How had I been so oblivious and ignorant?

Today David is struggling to find the courage to call his Aunt and say thank you.  Like many people who have fostered, no doubt she is wondering if she made a difference.   The answer is a resounding yes.  We hope that in her heart, and in the heart of so many people who foster, the knowledge that their fostering did indeed matter remains steadfast and true.

Interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent? Click here.

Birth Children and Foster Children – How Do They Mix?

One concern voiced by many prospective foster parents is, “How will my [biological] children adjust to having another child in my home?”  The answers are as varied as the children themselves, but here are a few insights offered by a Plummer foster parent and an adult who grew up with foster siblings.

Terri was a foster aunt to her sister’s foster children for 20 years before becoming a foster parent herself, three years ago.

“Having another kid around seemed like second nature,” she remembers.  “I have three teenagers of my own – 13, 17 and 19 years old.  They have been a wonderful help in this journey we embarked on as a team; it was actually their encouragement that got me started fostering.”

Terri’s first placement was an emergency. Ordinarily, there is a time of transition when a child may be introduced to a foster family through a gradual process – meetings with a social worker, visits that become more frequent and then overnight stays.  This was not the case for Terri and her family.

“A social worker called, I answered and three hours later they were introducing us to an 8-year-old boy,” recalls Terri.  “I often think our introduction [to fostering] was better that way.  He was the youngest kid in the house and I believe that was the best way for us to begin.  My kids got to be the big brothers and sister and we were able to give him individual and family attention.”

That didn’t mean it was smooth sailing every day. Because her foster son was younger and required attention, Terri’s teens sometimes felt jealous.

“But thorough explanations, examples and details about why I had to do x, y and z more than made the difference,” explains Terri.

Offering a child’s perspective, Greg D. was 10 years old when his parents took in their first foster youth – a teenage girl.

“I remember Mom took her [foster daughter] shopping for clothes and we were jealous,” he admits.

When he and his sisters complained, their mother explained why she and Greg’s father became foster parents.

“Kids who can’t live with their own families need to feel safe and loved. We have a lot of love in our family. By sharing it, maybe we can help make a difference.”

Over time, Greg and his sisters learned that sharing their parents’ love and affection didn’t have to take anything away from them.

Greg laughs, “Eventually, I really didn’t mind sharing my bedroom!”

Terri sums up her family’s experience:

“We had bad days and good days, like everyone, but one of the things that made it all work was that there was never any separation.  My foster kids are only that on paper.  I treat them just like I treat my own kids, which has made a world of difference.  This is why I can say the experience has been very positive.”

Although this blog includes the perspectives of just two families, the importance of honest communication is key for any prospective foster parent who already has children.  Professionals can help guide you in understanding your children’s feelings and addressing your family dynamics successfully, so that everyone realizes how important and rewarding fostering can be. For more information, call Plummer Foster Care 978-935-9555 today or fill out the short application on our foster care page.  No obligation – just information!