At Thanksgiving as we gather with family and friends we often take time to have each person at the table name something or someone they are thankful for. If group of social workers and other child welfare professionals were gathered around a Thanksgiving table here are some of things they might have to say.
I am grateful for the foster parents who are willing to take on the challenge of caring for an older youth. Many people who become foster parents didn’t start out with the idea of fostering a teenager. Yet when you learned of the need for homes for older kids you expanded your vision and opened your home to a teen.
I am grateful for those special people who “get” teenagers in foster care. They are the people who understand that the older youth they are caring for are apt to be angry and extremely resistant to joining a family. They are patient people who understand that the youth’s anger isn’t about them. It’s about the circumstances that have disrupted the youth’s life at a time when they desperately want to be regular kids doing regular things like hanging out with friends and spending hours on their phones. While you may be the target of their anger you know that they are really acting out because they have been let down by others so many times.
I will forever be thankful for the foster parent who would not give up on an older youth. The young person who came to your home expected that you would reject them. They had learned to do something to get themselves “kicked out” on their own terms before the inevitable happened. But then they met you, the foster parent who simply wouldn’t give up on them even as they tested limits over and over again. In doing this you gave a young person a healing experience which helped them understand that there are adults who stick with kids through very hard times.
I am really thankful for your ability to appreciate challenges. You have an amazing sense of humor which gets you through some very difficult times. You like these teenagers because they are never boring and they keep you on your toes as a parent.
For those of you who do care for older kids in care please remember this. We won’t all be showing up at your house for dinner and for that you can be thankful!
We really do appreciate all that you do for our older kids. We see every day what a difference you make for kids in care. So please accept our genuine gratitude for your caring and commitment. Happy Thanksgiving.
– Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW