By Dr. John DeGarmo, foster parent
Okay, let me be honest with you. My wife is much better at this than I am; working with the birth parents of my children in foster care. You see, there are times when I am not as welcoming as she is. There are times when I am a little frustrated with the birth parents, due to the abuse and neglect they may have inflicted upon the children from foster care living in my house, and a part of my family.
When a child from foster care is placed into my home, that child becomes a child of my own; a child that I love unconditionally, and one that I will fight for with all my strength and resources in an attempt to protect him from further harm and trauma. With this in mind, I sometimes have a difficult time getting past my own judgmental nature, and that is so very wrong of me. I know this, and I work hard at getting past this weakness of mine. As I noted above, my wife is much better at this, and is a very loving and caring person; more so than I am, and this is one of her strengths. Yet, I understand the importance of creating a healthy and positive working relationship with the birth parents of my foster children. After all, the end goal is that of reunification between the child and the parent. As foster parents, we want to ensure that we do the best we can with the birth parents so that the child has a happy, healthy, and safe home to go back to. It can be difficult enough having a foster child in your home. He may have been placed in your home because of abuse or neglect from his family. Perhaps he was in danger from parents who were abusing themselves. Whatever the reason for his placement into the child welfare’s custody, your foster child has most likely come with some emotional problems, and is struggling with the loss of his family. As a foster parent, it is part of your job to help your foster child deal with these issues, and help him adjust to his new environment, as well as develop a positive and loving relationship with him.
What can be more difficult, though, is another part of your role as a foster parent; Co-Parenting. When a foster parent shares the nurturing of a foster child alongside the birth parents and caseworker, reunification tends to happen at a quicker and more successful rate. Co-Parenting sees you, as a foster parent, working alongside the biological parents of the child living under your roof, and with your family. This may be the more difficult part of your job. To begin with, these may be the people who abused or neglected your foster child. Helping them might just be the last thing you wish to do. Therefore, it is important that you do not prejudge them before you meet them. Indeed, your first inclination may be that these are people who do not deserve to have their child back. What is important to consider, though, is that many biological parents of foster children were abused themselves, and know of no other way when raising children. Also disturbing is that some birth parents were foster children, as well, and are just repeating the cycle they went through as a child. Certainly, there are reasons why their children are in care that we may never understand. What is best for your foster child, though, is that you work alongside your caseworker, as well as the birth parents, and try to determine what is best for your foster child’s future, as well as how to best meet his needs in the present.
It might not always be easy. It might not always be pleasant. Yet, your role as a foster parent is not only to help the children in need, but also work towards reunification. This means, as you know, the reunifying of the child with his family. Does this always happen? No. Should it always happen? Well, I have seen occasions where the child was placed in harm when returning to his family and to his home, and with him being better off with another family. A tragedy on many levels.
As foster parents, we have the opportunity to help bring families together, to help children heal, and to help biological family members be better parents and care takers. Through our actions and our words, through our questions and our answers, and through our compassion and patience, we can help in the healing process for all involved. As a foster parent, you are a role model not only for the child, but for his parents; not only for your friends and family, but for society. As a foster parent, you have the ability to give words of comfort and love to both the child and his family. As a foster parent, you can teach life lessons and help both child and parent learn new skills. What a great opportunity, and at the same time, a big responsibility. I know you are up to the task! I know you will do a great job!
Thank you for what you do. Thank you for being a foster parent and caring for children. Sadly the need is strong, as there are so many children placed into care each year. Yet there are so few willing to be a foster parent, as it is not an easy task. Truly, it is the hardest job you will ever come to love.
For much more, order Dr. John’s BRAND NEW eBook-Foster Parenting 101: Foster Parents and Birth Parents-Working Together. Visit Dr. John DeGarmo’s website http://drjohndegarmofostercare.weebly.com/blog