Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lessons learned in foster parenting

Raising children can honestly be draining and rewarding at the same time.  Fostering to adopt is a process filled with a roller coaster of emotions that I could never have prepared myself for.  Just as with my biological boys, there are days where I feel like I have made no progress with some of the simplest things and I begin to doubt my ability to be the best Mom I can. There are days where I see a spark of hope or  I see a glimpse of progress with our girls. Little things like sitting at the table to have our meals and not in the corner. Or perhaps not eating stickers but eating squash for the first time.

I have learned that in order to be able to foster to adopt, you don’t have to be Supermom, you just have to be Mom.

Here are a few tidbits I picked up along the way (no particular order):

•    Let me be candid, fostering to adopt isn’t for the weary and it’s a full time commitment to the children. Children who need your help the most come from unfortunate situations to no fault of their own.

•    Do what’s in your heart. Don’t be misguided by other’s opinions and misconceptions of fostering to adopt change your commitment. Stay focused on how you are able to impact a child’s life and search within your heart and soul if this is right. This isn’t a decision you need to take lightly, the decision you make may change the life and future of another child.

•    You can’t possibly buy enough Barbies, bikes and tutus to help ease their pain of not being with a biological loved one. No matter how bad their situation was before the girls arrived with us, they still love their biological family members and sometimes often want to be with them despite what occurred in their past.  All you can do is listen and help them understand that you care for them and love them while they are with you. You never make promises that they will return to their biological family, for the future isn’t in your hands.

•    Be ready to hear almost anything. You really do have to laugh or it will really stress you out. You will get all kinds of comments like, ”Are you crazy to be doing this?” My favorite response is, I’d be crazy not do what I am doing, how can I not?  Or one of my favorite comments I get most often,  “Are all of those your kids?” I just smile and nod and let them try to figure out the math or sometimes I use it as an opportunity to educate them fostering to adopt.

•    If you are married, you have to both be in it together 100%. You can’t drag your spouse into fostering because he will no longer have privacy either. It seems like the only day somebody is not in our house when I get off work is on Wednesday night and that is our church night. I have to stay firm on at least one night where there isn’t somebody in our house!

•    Reach out to other foster-to-adopt families, your family, and colleagues for support or to lend an ear. You don’t have to do this alone. My family, extended family, my boss, my work colleagues, my teammates, preschool administration, teachers, and church have been so supportive with our process.  It’s their support which helps me keep moving along too on my rough days.

•    Be there for them when they have their meltdowns, listen to them when they are sad, make them laugh, be a strong parent, have boundaries, help them understand choices and consequences, give them unconditional love and be their #1 advocate.

Christy Benson is director of Clinical Informatics Analysis & Measurement for Texas Health Resources and Mom of four (two biological and two foster children).

1 comment:

  1. Christy and Ken are Super Heroes!! Proud to call you friends.