Thursday, December 8, 2011

Do you parent a foster child the same way you parent your biological children?

I have been asked that question in various forms over the years. Simply put, No, I don't, but my goals are the same......


 Our birth children have and always will live in a healthy loving environment. They have been parented by my husband and I from birth. They know that we will never hurt them. They know we will always love them. They know they will always have a home with us. They know food is always going to be served throughout each day. They have a lot of responsibilities in and around our home and business. Life has and will remain consistent for them, barring any unforeseen tragedies.

Our foster children have not always been safe. Some have been left unattended for long periods of time, never knowing when a parent would return. Some have been hit, locked in closets, molested, degraded, humiliated, and/or exposed to other situations I once considered inconceivable. With each new foster placement come a whole new story of an unhealthy life. These stories are sad. devastating at times. I have had to fight back countless tears as a child tells of the horrors he or she has been through. They talk about being abused and seeing violence in much the same fashion as my kids talk about the weather. Like somehow their lives have been like every other child, normal. Often times they don't talk about how they used to live. They are afraid of getting in trouble, some have been told that telling "secrets" can get them taken away forever, or that mommy or daddy will go to jail. Some feel very tor, on one hand they are fearful of their home environment or someone from their home. On the other hand they love their families and feel sad or mad for being separated. Some are led to believe it is at least partly their own fault, or that they have the power to put the family back together; if they keep their mouth shut, or behave in one way or another at their visits or in the foster home. The variables are seemingly endless. Consistency in love, discipline, safety, being fed, bathed, or with family are luxuries to many foster children, ones they can't seem to be given.

Given the variance in skill taught,healthy emotions demonstrated, and other valuable pieces in a child's upbringing, would it be fair to ask the same of each child? I don't think so. I will excuse my children from the table should they choose to pass gas, or belch, or chew with their mouths open.It wouldn't be fair to do the same to a child who was never taught proper (or even somewhat decent) table manners. Would it? If that was a true statement, it seems the same would apply to my birth kids, in that they receive special privileges; a later bedtime, a new toy, a larger allowance, freedom to play outside without direct adult supervision, these are earned though helping out around the house and business, and completing their school work, and other good behavior choices.  I can't allow the same for the kids who cannot share the same responsibilities. I would lose my motivators, the kids all need incentives. Some foster kids are old enough for such privileges, but lacking the skill to handle the daily tasks of life, We want to help them learn the skills they have missed. As the skills improve so do the privileges. That much is true for ALL of the kids. We love them enough to teach them right from wrong, how to behave in multiple situations, listen to their hurts and excitement, how to manage their feelings, how to express love in a healthy way, how to be kind even when you don't want to... and on and on the list goes. Some children have this training from birth, others are asked to climb on in and get to learning a little later. All and all, life is good, for us all.....

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