The fostering system in America is not perfect. It has so many problems and loopholes that at times if you are in the system, as a social worker, health care professional, court personel, foster parent, biological parent or a foster (child) the system appears to resemble swiss cheese!
Still, the need for foster homes is always there. Foster homes do great and mighty work when done correctly and for the right reasons. Most of the time, we only hear the negative stories on the news. It is horrible.
Success stories in foster care are rarely heard on the news.
Foster homes are only a stepping stone ( to adoption) in cases where negative biological family issues can not be improved. It is usually the goal to use fostering as a temporary bridge to heal families. There are foster homes that are broken too; where healing does not take place. It is devastating for a safe place to be found to be unsafe. It adds to a foster child’s pain and misery. Still, too many children are at risk and need a safe place to live.
The news is full of horrible reports lately. My heart tugs when i hear of the four young children thrown over a bridge to their deaths by their biological father. Or the four young children who’s mother murdered them in their home because she believed that they were demon possessed. The authorities missed it on that particular case because reports had been made and not followed through to completion. These situations should never happen! Again, the swiss cheese image appears and lives are lost and destroyed.
I fostered for over 18 years. I can’t do it anymore because of my own special needs children (who were adopted). They have to be my focus. However, the desire to help doesn’t go away so i find ways to help when i can. I know there are others out there who can reach out and do what needs to be done. I also know that it hurts to take care of them and love them only to have to let them go. At least when you love them and send them to their destiny they go knowing that they are loveable; some children have never known that they are loveable.
Still, if a person can’t find it in their heart to foster, with all of the demands of that way of life; there are still ways to make a difference.
You could be a support to a foster family. Offer to drive the children to appointments, plan a meal and invite the family over…funds are always limited to a foster family; or, take the children for a few hours and give respite to the foster parents long enough for them to recharge their batteries. Spend a little time validating a child’s self-esteem…it can have a lifelong impact.
I know a teen who is in the un-eviable position of turning 18; but, still needs a year more of high school after this year. He wants to quit. Break free of the restraints of being a ward of the court. Like any other teenager he wants freedom to make his own decisions. It may or may not be possible. Is it a choice that would be in his best interests? Is he properly prepared? Probably not; but there are alternatives.
It is not what he would like to hear…but the advice is freely given; talk to your worker, your foster parents, your court appointed lawyer and express your concerns and desires. There are options available to transitioning to adulthood. However, it must be approached in a mature way; not with rebellion and petulance. Discussion is a stepping stone to the idea that along with adult freedoms comes adult responsibilities.
Responsibilities including expressing yourself in an appropriate manner to be able to negotiate expectations on both sides. Transitioning to adulthood while in foster care is more than difficult. There are some who are not allowed to ease into that position, they are thrust unprepared; no money, no plan, no place to be and no support system.
It is a scary world; and, even more so when your childhood has been damaged by abuse or neglect and then controlled by the legal system.
This becomes a cycle. Freedom is craved but fear can rule and cause the foster child to act out in ways that end up limiting their freedom. The foster home is a safety net in some ways and the thought of leaving it can be just as frightening as it was to enter the foster care system in the first place for the child.
A wise worker, foster parent, court personel, medical professional, counselor, teacher and biological parent recognizes the importantance of allowing that foster child (nearing adult age) to take some control in the decision making process, as long as it doesn’t endanger their well being.
With each “good” decision comes confidence in themselves. It also builds trust between the foster child and those who are looking to their well being that maturity is taking place. Guidance during this time is critical to teach them consequences from each choice they make. Better that mistakes are made in small teachable moments then in life’s big life- long decisions!
If someone else makes all of your decisions for you and then sets you free they are setting you up to fail. That is unacceptable! * See previous posting on Sept 22, 2007