Imagine a day when everyone tells the truth, despite obvious fears and consequences. It’s a day when everyone comes together and admits that they’re not perfect; that sometimes their first thoughts are wrong or unkind and that, every so often, they are scared.
It’s a day when veteran foster parents can be open about the things they feared when they first started. That day is July 7, 2014 – aka Tell The Truth Day.
Tell the truth- I was nervous
The decision to become a foster parent isn’t an easy one. It’s one that takes a great deal of thought and deliberation. But once you decide that you’ll take the step and take in a child, you are not suddenly calm and full of confidence. You are not simply ready to go.
No, you, like many foster parents before you, are nervous as the child first walks through your door. “Nervous?” one foster parent asked. “I had an all out panic attack.” But the very same foster parent said that 50 kids later, she’s still fostering. Other foster parents agree. Another foster parent said that she’s nervous with each new child that comes into her home. The nerves don’t disappear, nor should they. But that same parent also said it’s important to focus on trying to be calm knowing that the children are far more nervous and often terrified.
Tell the truth- I didn’t have all the answers (and I still don’t)
You don’t become a foster parent and suddenly know how to deal with every complex emotional and legal issue that comes your way from the children and the child welfare system. There’s no amount of preparation and studying that gives a foster parent all the answers. And you know what? That’s okay. That’s why embrella has Family Advocates and an entire support network dedicated to helping foster, adoptive and kinship parents in New Jersey find the answers they need when they need them. It’s alright for you not to know how to deal with something, as long as you remember you are never alone and help is a phone call or an email away. If you’re not from NJ, you can find out resources available in your area here.
Tell the truth – I thought all my foster kids’ parents were bad
One of foster care’s persisting myths is that all biological parents are bad people and that’s why the children were taken out of their care. It’s alright; you won’t be the first foster parent to have that thought. But it probably won’t take long to dispel that myth. Yes, there are undoubtedly parents who had their children taken away because of physical or sexual abuse. But there are also many parents who lost their child because they were unable to take care of them safely. Many foster parents have watched as birth parents try, sometimes fail and try again to do what it takes to get the children they love back into their custody. It’s impossible for a foster parent to see these parents work so hard for their children and still consider them bad. “Being hopeful about kids reunifying with their bio-family, I wasn’t afraid of letting go when I first started,” one foster parent said. “Then I had to actually let go and it was one of the hardest things I ever did.”
Tell the truth – I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to let go of the child in my care
“Why become a foster parent when I might have to give the child up someday?” is a question you and many prospective foster parents have undoubtedly asked before making a decision. It’s also an inevitable fear you feel when you begin to grow emotionally close to the child in your care. This is natural. However, it’s important to remember that foster care is by definition temporary care and that by becoming a foster parent you are providing support not only to a child but to a family with the hopes of reunification. But understanding that doesn’t always make it easier to cope with, which is why FAFS offers a home correspondence course dealing with the grief felt by foster parents after a child in their care has been removed from their home.
The important thing to remember as a foster parent is that you’re never alone. Whether it’s these same thoughts or fears, foster parents before you have felt the same way. They’ve found solace sharing these truths with each other and being honest about what they didn’t know. By being open and honest, they were able to continue to grow not only as foster parents, but as people and so can you.
Lloyd Nelson is the Digital Media Manager of Foster and Adoptive Family Services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.