A Sharp View: A letter to a foster mom

Posted on: 09/12/2017 00:00

Dear Foster Mom: Congratulations on your acquired a foster child last week.  I understand of course that this is a great responsibility.

I am writing because I have also heard that you have had some experiences with your foster child that have been disappointing to you and your husband.  In fact, I have been told that you are already having second thoughts about keeping your foster child any longer, even though you acquired the child just days ago.

As soon as you start taking the classes that are required for your certification as a foster care parent, you will discover that you are not alone in feeling that you are overwhelmed at the outset. In fact, there are almost half a million children in foster care in America, and there are almost as many foster care parents.  Every sign has been showing for many years that both parents and children in foster care continue to struggle in the system.

Hundreds of thousands of these foster care children have has more than one set of foster care parents.  I understand that your own foster child has been transferred to you from a previous foster home.  Each such transfer has to have some effect on the child, and it is never a good effect.

But through your classes for certification, you will discover some common threads that at least will reduce your being caught off guard by the actions of your foster child.

For example, the transfer from one foster home to another will create more mistrust in the foster child the more these transfers are repeated.  After a few of these, or even after one such transfer, the foster child will stop believing there the more any insincerity in the smiling greeting given by his or her latest foster parent.

The foster child will also tend to believe more than any else around him that his or her separation from the natural parent is only temporary.  The separation may indeed be temporary, as it is in many cases under Child Protective Services.  But the child tends to see the estrangement as less strong than others involved in the case.

It is natural that the child can also blame himself or herself for the separation.  This is because an abused child has become conditioned to becoming blamed.  And  all this may work in the child’s mind as a need to get back to the natural parent and facilitating  returning to that parent by trying to make very life very difficult with the foster parent.

Understand I am not speaking to you as a child psychologist, which I am not anyway, but as a kind of foster grandfather, because my daughter has been raising a foster child with my son-in-law.  I have also had a little experience as a social worker in the Child Protective Services system.  The strongest impression I have of that experience is seeing the police at the CPS agency practically every week – sometimes more than every week – gathering information that would help them find another foster child who has run away from the foster home.

Again, they run away because they don’t trust the foster home.  The experience is that of foster care givers seeming to accept them and then as soon as the going gets tough dropping them like they are a too hot chili pepper.

Because of all this baggage the foster child brings into his or her new foster home, it actually takes genuine time to establish a genuine relationship with a foster child.  Unfortunately, most foster parents are inadequately qualified to understand even that much. That is because the American foster care system is desperate to find foster care homes, and too often it simply accepts a foster care parent who only takes on a child to use the extra money a foster parent receives from the taxpayer.

However, a foster care parent spends more crucial time with the child than the child spends with his or her teacher.  But the teacher has the benefit of years of formal training for the teacher’s job, and the foster parent tends to go into that job at home as an improvisation.

That doesn’t mean, new foster mom, that you cannot become a great foster mom, and glean tremendous professional and personal satisfaction from that achievement.

But you most allow your growing experience to be on your side, by giving it the time to build what takes time to build – a real relationship with a person. With a person.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.


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