Entering the Season of Leaving: When Foster Parents say Goodbye

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Our days are numbered as our time with one of our foster teens is nearing the end. She has been in our home for over 6 months and sadly, she will soon be leaving. This is not our first time saying goodbye to a foster kid. It’s actually our sixth time saying goodbye.  But this time may be one of the hardest.

This dear girl came to us with amazing behavior but a lot of baggage. Ironically, I saw her in a dream about 4 months before I ever knew she existed. I still remember the day she got out of the car and I saw her through the window. My heart dropped because that was the same girl I had a dream about. I didn’t know what our relationship would be like but I knew it would be special.

Over the last 6 months, Steven and I have had the chance to show her love, teach her about God and watch her grow. She is not the same girl who came to live with us months ago. She has a happy facade now. Even though she is still struggling in some areas she has learned a lot. She even gave her life to Christ and got Baptized while here. I would like to say we can take credit, but it was a group of people who really showed her what life can be like when you have God.

Fostering is hard, especially when you have to say goodbye to kids who have impacted your life. She has become like a daughter of mine and it’s hard to see her leave. But I also have a peace about it. I feel ready to let her go because as a temporary mom — I feel like she is ready. We have taught her as much as we can while she was here. She has learned how to have God as her foundation — so I am proud to see what she will do as she gets older.

I have many people come up to us and say, “Oh, I couldn’t be a foster parent. I would get too attached. It would break my heart when they had to leave.” It’s funny because when people say that it’s as if they think we some how are NOT impacted by it. That we have a characteristic that allows us to say goodbye with ease. I am here to tell you we don’t. It hurts us all the same. But you know what, I don’t regret showing them love in the small amount of time they were in our home. Our home may be the only place they ever feel that love or are taught what a real family looks like. Why keep that from them? It will forever change their lives. Like our foster daughter — this experience has and will change the outcome of her future. Because we chose to love her and teach her about God.

As parents, we get 18 years with our kids. Yes, that’s a long time but your days are still numbered with them as well. We have a small time to make an impact and prepare them to leave. Yes, God calls every parent to prepare their children to leave their home. To teach them how to handle their own battles they will face as grownups. That’s why it is crucial to take every moment for granted. So really, fostering isn’t much different than parenting your own kids. You just get less time with them.

I am ready to see our girl enter her next journey. She will always have a seat at our table. She knows she is always welcome in our home. Even when she grows up to have a family of her own. I’m so thankful for the time God gave us with her. I pray that we really did make a big impact. That she will always remember us as a good memory in her life. Truth be told, foster kids need that so much. Many have childhoods filled with trauma and they need to see there is hope.

Even though it hurts to see her leave — it also opens ups another opportunity to love another teen girl who needs to hear she is worthy. I will always pray for all the girls we’ve had in our home and the ones yet to come.

I encourage you to open your home to kiddos who could use hope. Don’t be afraid of getting hurt because you have to see them leave so soon. Just love them and teach them as much as you can while they are with you. You never know how much their life may change.

When I Doubt, God Sends a Sweet Reminder

5 Ways to Introduce God to Foster Kids Without Being Pushy

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

 

To Foster Parents Who Take it Personal

“Don’t take it personal.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard more than a dozen times in the last few months. I hear it when I call my agency for advice. I hear it when I cry about the recent attitude my foster kiddo got with me. It’s a phrase I grew to hate. How could I NOT take it personal?

To me, fostering and raising kids is one of the most personal things I will ever do. I pour my heart into these kids daily. I wake up and immediately hit the ground running. I go to bed after everyone else. I make the meals, clean the home, haul kids where they need to go. I sacrifice my own wants and needs for others. How could I NOT take it personal?

Foster parents, this job is personal. Loving these kids is personal. But there is a difference between taking the attitudes to heart and the job to heart. This is something that has taken me several months to realize. The actions of these kids have nothing to do with us. They’re just being kids. But it doesn’t mean it won’t hurt along the way.

I finally see that the outbursts and yelling has nothing to do with me. Like any family or close friend, foster kids will let out their frustrations towards you.  Why? Because we are the closest people to them. It also means that they are comfortable enough to be vulnerable. They may not scream their actual struggles but they are telling you in their own way that they are hurting.  Consider it an honor that these kids feel like they can say what they feel.

Now I’m not saying yelling and cussing is tolerated. You do need to let them know they need to be respectful. But remember it has nothing to do with you. I wish I had understood that sooner.

In those tough moments I want you to remember that you are probably one of the few people fighting for them. Even if they feel like you’re against them. Remember, on top of all of that trauma — they’re just kids. It’s normal to get eye rolls and whining. I know I did it when I was young.

Most importantly, be kind to yourselves. If your foster kid calls you names or says you suck as a parent — know that it doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. The fact that you opened your home to love someone else’s child is reason enough to know that’s not true.

Don’t take the behavior issues personally. Instead, take the job personally. Keeping loving them. Show them you’re not giving up.

5 Ways to Introduce God to Foster Kids Without Being Pushy

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

Looking Beyond the Mess

What Foster Training Taught Me About My Own Trauma

Looking Beyond the Mess

In less than two weeks I went from being a mom of a 2-year-old to being a mom of two elementary school girls and pre teen. It’s been interesting for sure. Among the many changes is dealing with the extra mess.

I’m used to my toddler leaving a mess of toys but glitter, paint and glue is a whole other animal.

I came home last night after work and saw that the girls did some art work. I briefly glanced at their masterpieces because I was too focused on the glitter covering my dining room floor. Honestly, I was mad. Frustrated because I did not want to see the mess. Why didn’t they pick it up?

This morning I woke up and saw the mess again. I was still frustrated because I knew I would be the person to clean it up. I started complaining to myself about the extra work. But then I realized I’m overlooking something. I’m forgetting what this mess represents.

The mess is more than spilled glitter and dry paint. It’s a beautiful, messy picture of kids being kids. Kids that come from a home where they’re used to being the adult. It’s proof that they were having fun in our home.

I started to feel guilty about my attitude towards the mess. Especially knowing that these two little girls will be heading to another foster home tomorrow.

You may not be a foster parent but all parents get frustrated with their kids. With the mess they make while having fun. Even though kids should clean up after themselves…we as parents should not look at it as a negative. But a positive that they are experiencing joy, happiness and love.

If you find yourself frustrated just take a step back and find a positive. Be thankful for those messes. Remember they are temporary. There’s plenty of time to have a clean house when you’re older.

Making Dinner Chores Fun For Kids

A Cup of Tea and a Whole Lot of Grace

When I Doubt God Sends a Sweet Reminder

Preparing a Place for Our First Foster Child

Making Dinner Chores Fun For Kids

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As  parents it’s our job to teach kids to learn life skills. Yes, even boring chores. That’s also one thing as foster parents we are called to do. These kids either came from a home where they had to take care of themselves, were never taught how, or maybe they came from a home where their parents did everything for them. But here are some ways we are teaching our 3 foster daughter how to do everyday chores with a twist of fun.

*Side note: When I was a Girl Scout Camp Counselor we had our girls do the same tip of chores after every meal. I would love to say I am smart enough to create these ideas on my own. But it’s all thanks to the Girl Scouts.

“What’s for dinner?” A phrase that parents hear daily from their kids. Instead of letting them watch TV or play have them get involved in the process. This can also help with picky eaters.

(I’m terrible at drawing straight lines on a board.)

I created this chart and assigned each child a different task each night of the week. Once again life skills that everyone needs to know. This way there is no arguing about who does what. They know every night around dinner time this is their job. Kids take these seriously. They get a feeling of satisfaction too when they help out with these chores.

Setting the table: This chore includes setting the table with plates, utensils, napkins, glasses and anything else needs for dinner. For example, if you’re having bakes potatoes for dinner and need butter or other toppings. Then they put that on the table too.

Helping with Dinner: Depending on the child’s age you may want to pick an easy job where they are not chopping veggies or cooking over a hot stove. But if they are old enough you can teach them. If they are a little younger then help them mix, pour or shake. Don’t be afraid to teach them how to prep the meal. Even talking about what foods they are eating, where they came from or how they help our bodies grow. Don’t forget to have them wash their hands before helping. You can also give them a cool apron they get to wear.

Getting Drinks: I was struggling with a third chore but I thought this would be a good one. This person is responsible for making sure everyone has a full glass. So when you sit down at the table everything is ready to go.

Cleaning up after dinner

When I was at Girl Scout camp we had this plastic cup with popsicle sticks inside. So after every meal we would all draw a stick that would list our chore. Everyone would work together to clean up and in about 5 minutes the tables were clean and we were outside singing songs.

Make sure to put these in a plastic cup not a clear one. Otherwise the kids will try to pick their favorite chore. Another tip is to only let the parents hold the cup. So you let them pick but you still have control. That way there are no arguments on who gets to hold the cup. (Yes, that happens a lot.)

Every person has to do their job. If someone gets done early — instead of letting them go off and play — ask them to help the others finish their chores. Adults you should draw a chore too. This helps you guys all work together as a team. You can teach along the way and lead by example. That way you aren’t making them clean everything but you’re also not the only one picking up after everyone else.

Other things you can do is turn on some music. Don’t be afraid to dance or sing into a broom. Have fun and use this time to grow closer as a family.

A Cup of Tea and a Whole Lot of Grace

Preparing a Place for Our First Foster Child

Parenting Through Grace

This Is Us: 4 Takeaways For Foster Parents from this week’s episode.

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*SPOILER ALERT* This post contains many details of the episode “The Big, Amazing, Beautiful life” from the show This is Us

I have been watching This Is Us since the beginning. I don’t like many shows these days but I would say it’s probably my all-time favorite. I think I love the show so much because it’s about real life. The exact opposite of what reality TV presents on most channels.

This week’s episode had me thinking about the foster system, the kids in it and all those included. As you may know, my husband and I are in the process of becoming foster parents. Even though I haven’t had any child in my home yet..this episode reminded me to keep an open mind. Here are 4 things I learned from this week’s episode.

  1. Not all parents are bad. This episode really showed the story from Deja’s perspective. I can agree that her mother was selfish in her actions…she tried hard to give her daughter the best life. The episode revealed that Shauna was 16 when she had Deja. An age where girls are already struggling with life change. Not to mention now she is a new mom. It also shows that Shauna had her grandmother in her life. A great woman who worked hard and spoke truth into her when she needed it. But quickly that relationship ended when her grandmother passed away. Instantly, Deja was the one who began to take care of her own mother. Despite Shauna’s flaws she really did try to get back on her feet.

You may remember in episodes before — Shauna seemed like an awful mom. I’ll admit…I judged her. Randall even judged her. But he…like many of us (yes, including foster parents) didn’t know the full story. I know, I haven’t been through this process yet. I soon will understand the heartache that comes with the job. HOWEVER, Foster parents it is not our place to judge. Before assuming that parent is awful — try to get to know them and find out what the real story is. I know there are many parents who have done more than we can imagine — but there are those that are just lost. Think of it like this. Many of those parents would have been your foster kids 20 years ago.

2. Not all Foster Parents are good. One of Deja’s first placements was with a foster dad who abused the children in his care. Honestly, I don’t know how people like that get through the system. But it’s true that not all foster parents are doing it for the right reasons. These kids have already been through enough. So to think of them going to a home where they are no more safe than they were with their parents…makes me mad. Deja’s fellow foster sister talked about how he wasn’t as bad. To think a child has to pick between the lesser of two evils. To the foster parents that do provide a safe home I thank you. To those who don’t…all I can say is you’ll be answering to God one day.

3. The child’s actions is NOT always what it seems. Many children who go into the foster system may find themselves making bad choices. For example, when Deja stole makeup from the store. She stole because she didn’t have any makeup to wear to the dance. It wasn’t right, but I’m sure her Foster Dad wouldn’t have been helpful if she asked him. We have to remember to teach and lead these kids to make the right choice. Instead of the foster dad hitting the daughter — he could have found a better way to handle the situation. Give the children consequences for their actions. Make them pay back the amount of what they stole. Maybe even have them help out the store owner. Kids make bad choices. I’m sure you made mistakes as a kid. I know I did. I wrote on a bathroom wall at school when I was a kid. I thought it was cool. I wasn’t a bad child and nor did my mom make me feel like I was.

4. We can make a difference. For foster parents who are in the trenches I want you to read this closely. If you are providing a loving home for the children in your care — then please know you will make a difference. Even if the child is in your home for a few days…YOU can make a difference in their lives. If that child is in your care for a long time or you adopt them…understand it may take a while for you to see the fruits of your labor. Don’t give up on these kids. They are testing you. They want to see if you’ll push them aside. Don’t do it. I do understand circumstances are different with each kid. Not every child is easy to care for. (Once again, I’ll soon experience this first hand.) but remember you are making a world of difference in the lives of these kids.

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