Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Foster Parenting: Expectation Verses Reality
Please note that I am not writing this as a foster parent, but as a former foster child. As an alumna of the foster care system, I am often approached by foster parents requesting my advice.
As parents -- whether foster, adoptive, kinship, step or biological:
- We work to empower and invest in our children, and hope they make wise choices in the future.
- We provide our children with stability. This means sometimes saying no. This means having personal boundaries.
- To be a parent (foster/adoptive/bio) is not to be a "victim" -- but rather, a role model.
- The goal is not to "rescue," but to reflect on experience and to serve as a lifelong resource for our children
- When we help our children, we are making that investment not so they will be grateful, but as a conscious choice.
Being clear and direct about expectations is particularly important when it comes to offering post-emancipation support. For example: ""If you move back in with me, let’s talk about what we can both expect from each other."
Let's say you parent a child, and that young person makes self-destructive decisions after moving out on their own.
For example, one foster parent was concerned about a young lady who she adopted who cheated on her husband and is facing divorce...
My response was:
- The situation is definitely not ideal, but it is a life lesson. If I were talking with that young person, I would explain that: "Marriage comes with its own set of boundaries. In marriage, you are committing yourself to the other person - and if you violate that trust, then divorce can be a consequence of that choice."
- But one bad choice doesn't have to determine a person's entire future. It can be an opportunity to make better relational choices in the future.
- I would NOT come to the conclusion that this young lady is forever broken, or that she will never be able to commit to another person.
- This was a misstep, a wrongful action, a mistake - and this is an opportunity for a parent to offer love and support. Not to excuse the action. Nor make excuses. It was a violation of a commitment, and consequences have resulted.
- But to love the young lady, and continue to believe in her potential as a loving, caring human being. To challenge her to be the best she can be.
- Not to expect less from her as a "foster" child.
When those times come, it's important to take time out in order to:
After taking time out to process and heal, we often find our physical and emotional energy levels returning.
We remember WHY we do WHAT we do in the first place -- and where our sense of joy comes from...