Keeping Things in Perspective as a Foster Parent

How can I make up for all of the pain this child has suffered?

Am I really the right person to do this?

Can I stick with this child over the long run and give her the stability and security that she needs?

These questions come up for almost every foster parent at some point in their fostering journey.

Obviously, there are no easy answers to these questions.

But there are some things to keep in mind.

Remember that no one can undo what happened to your foster child in the past. But you can offer a variety of corrective experiences which will help her heal and grow.

These experiences happen mostly within the context of your normal family life. Being safe and cared for in a loving home does wonders for kids who have experienced trauma. The everyday predictable routines of getting ready for school, meal times and hanging out with family give children a sense of security. As they feel more secure, they can begin to develop trusting relationships with the people around them.

woman-538396_1280If you’re caring for them, you are the right person to do it. If you can provide the safety of a strong family, you have what it takes to parent your foster child. Like all children, your foster child has the simple human need for things like for love, consistency, discipline and guidance. And those are things that you can provide.

It may be that your foster child has some special needs that you and your family can’t meet without outside support. The social worker from your foster care agency should work with you to help address those needs. That is the promise your foster care agency makes to you when you take the extraordinary step of fostering a child.

Sticking with your foster child through her inevitable ups and downs will show her the unconditional commitment that is the foundation for healthy human development. When foster children begin to believe they are secure in their home and family, they can let go of some of the pain which has made life so difficult for them and, sometimes, difficult for those who care for them. The young person who came into your home with so many fears and reservations can begin to relax and start to become a happier and more confident person.

Hanging in there with your foster child isn’t always easy. But rest assured, you are helping her move past the pain. You are the right person. And chances are, you can stick with her. 

At the Holidays: Foster Kids on the Outside Looking In

Christmas Party 2013Tradition looms large for most people in December. Some of us get out a menorah and light Hanukkah candles. Others put up a Christmas tree. Most of us take for granted that we will spend time with family.

Not so for thousands of kids in the foster care system. These kids, especially those in group homes, feel as though they’re on the outside looking in on things so basic that most of us never stop to consider their fundamental importance to us.

“Christmas is a time where everyone comes together as family.”

So said a youth in Plummer’s group home. The thing is, this young man hasn’t lived with his family since he was five – he is 18 now. And yet, he identifies family as the defining element of Christmas. Not presents, not food, not decorations. Family. 

While nothing can substitute for belonging to a forever family, thanks to people who care, Plummer and other agencies can help build and maintain holiday traditions that perhaps our kids will carry with them as they grow up.

At Thanksgiving we have a big meal with lots of turkey and pie. The dining room is set nicely with tablecloths and flowers. Before dinner, we each say what we’re thankful for.

At this time of year, we also ask our kids if there are particular gifts they’d like. The generosity of the community means we can get lots of things on these lists. Our group home becomes very busy as people deliver gifts that we hustle off to the attic before the boys get a peek. Day after day, people’s kindness is revealed.

Several days before Christmas, we have a big party. Before opening gifts, we read Twas the Night Before Christmas. You can usually hear a pin drop.

And then the present opening begins. Staff members circulate among the kids — oooing and aahing at their gifts, holding shirts up to see if they’ll fit — all the things a parent does.

This is one of the happiest and saddest days in Plummer’s group home. Like all children, our kids are thrilled to get gifts. But at the end of the day, the most important piece is missing from this tradition. Family.

We work hard every day to reconnect our kids with family. We are challenging the notion that teens don’t need families, or that somehow they don’t want families, because we have seen that this is not the case. And when we are successful, we know that we have provided the best gift of all, the gift of family.

Perhaps you will honor the tradition of giving during this holiday by becoming a foster parent. You don’t need to be rich, married, or own a fancy house. You just need to open your heart to a child who needs a family, like all children do.

Call today for more information, 978-935-9555 or visit plummerhome.org.

Thank you and happy holidays!

Words from a Plummer Youth in Foster Care

boyI had a rough life growing up.  My biological mom was addicted to heroin and my dad was in jail most of the time. With four sisters and incapable parents, I was left with the burden of being the man of the family at a young age.  I was my family’s caregiver throughout my childhood, scrounging for food for my sisters and me, picking out the clothes we were going to wear to school the next day, or worrying that my mom was not going to pay the bills.

But I was one of the lucky ones in these situations – lucky because God answered my prayers and Plummer Foster Care found a great mom and dad to take me in.  I’m blessed that my [foster] mom has a kind heart and does not judge a troubled kid by his past.

Unfortunately, there are more kids out there who aren’t as lucky.  Many are not seen for their potential, as people who can go somewhere in life.  I am blessed to have a [foster] dad who treats me like a son and who gives me the advice I need to become a man.  He teaches me things my biological dad did not, could not.  I will be the first person in my family to graduate high school and pursue college to become a social worker because of these opportunities.

Agencies like Plummer Foster Care can help more children to have what I never had as a child.  An opportunity like the one I was given is what we are missing in our communities!  We are missing the love and compassion that my foster parents showed me, even as a total stranger.  Many kids who don’t have that turn to gangs, drugs, and even suicide. Truthfully, a lot of people could have seen me as just another kid from the ghetto throwing his life away.

I am writing to tell you that these kids out on the streets are more than that!  They want to be children, too. They want to be able to live normal lives, but they can’t because they feel like they’re the only ones to take care of their brothers and sisters.

That’s why Plummer Foster Care is so important.  Plummer can help get troubled kids off the streets by finding foster families who can care for them the way my mom and dad care for me.

This blog post is from a youth in a Plummer foster family.  To learn more about foster parenting, contact Plummer Foster Care at 978-935-9555 or visit PLUMMERHOME.ORG.