Tricks and Treats of Foster Care
October brings thoughts of Halloween to mind. Here from the perspective of foster children and foster parents are some of the season’s tricks and treats:
For foster children, the tricks are way too many. Having to move from one home to another is very tricky. It’s very hard to start over with a new family, new school, and new community. Many of us have had multiple moves from our birth families to a number of group homes and foster homes. Because of this, Plummer is committed to keeping moves to a minimum and using foster care as a means to finding each child a forever family connection. Each move to another temporary home makes it harder for us to trust people. Life is very tricky for a kid who doesn’t trust grownups.
For foster parents, the tricks are apparent when we have to balance the energy and passion we put into caring for our foster kids with the reality that if we do our job well, they will leave us to move on to a permanent family. There is no doubt that it’s hard to see the child we have come to love leave our home. But we not only have to help them prepare to move on, but also be the biggest cheerleaders for their move. Our kids need to hear from us that we support their next steps whether it is return to bio family, to an adoptive family, or to guardianship. It’s tricky to let go gracefully, but we do so because we know that is truly in their best interests to do so.
There are many things that can happen in foster care that feel like treats. Being treated like a regular a kid, getting to do regular kid stuff like having a costume and going trick or treating is really a treat, even before we get the candy. We may have missed out on normal childhood experiences, like celebrating Halloween, because things were just too chaotic in our lives before we came to your home. So, doing this kid stuff is really a treat even if you won’t let us eat all of our candy on Halloween.
The treats are many for foster parents, but some of the less obvious ones feel really great. It is a treat to see a child who has been very guarded come out of their shell. So many kids in care have learned to keep a low profile in order to feel safe. They are very watchful and reluctant to be a part of what is going on around them. It is a treat when you see this sort of child begin to relax and feel more comfortable in the world. You see the signs when their sense of humor begins to emerge and they seek out opportunities to interact with others, especially their peers. Seeing a child who has been reluctant to do so engage in a lively game of backyard Wiffle ball is a very special treat.
Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW