In Canada, there is a gap growing between the youth that are in government care and the number of families that are able to foster them. The children’s numbers greatly outnumber the foster homes, leaving maltreated children in existing hostile living conditions. People that work in the system or are foster parents; are wondering what they can do to close the gap.
For people that are thinking about fostering, attachment to the children and usually the main concern. The simple answer is that usually, when a child is leaving a foster home it is usually because they have been adopted; they are going to their forever family. When this is said it seems a bit clearer that you are but a stable stepping stone in this youth’s way to their path. Forever homes are very well screened and government approved. It is an exciting time for the children to meet their new parents, or be reunited with extended family. Observing these instants eases the separation and worry that you have for that child when he/she leaves your care.
However, not all circumstances are not glorious. Kids might get returned to the homes you judge to be unsuitable and fear for their safety. Or a child might leave you after being cared for by you, for an extra extended period of time. The emotional to each foster child is different, but your grief is always intense. Every foster parent has felt these emotions at different times with different children. Knowing that you’re fostering is making a difference, in providing loving stable homes to the most vulnerable youth; helps you work through all of these emotions.
Attachment aside, another challenge for foster parents is working with system. When a child is a ward of the government, a social worker is their legal guardian. You must have the workers permission for everything, signing school forms, dental visits, trips and vacations. Many simple tasks require a little extra effort and creative planning.
Another reality of fostering is the sense of living in a glass house. Everyone has an opinion, about your foster children, your family, your parenting skills, and your decision to foster. This is your chance to educated people, especially those whom have never fostered. Understand that most of the time it is ignorance, they don’t understand the special training that you have gone through or the variety of special needs that you might be dealing with. There is no appreciation or comprehension of the exceptional provisions you have to take concerning security or attachment and it is hard to understand until you are inside the glass house yourself.
Finally, you should understand that most of the youth that are in foster care struggle with some degree of special needs. It could be a number of special needs, some more extreme than others. It could be trauma, fetal alcohol syndrome, attachment, attention deficit disorder, or developmental delays. First time foster parents, have navigate the tricky pathways of parenting a child with special needs is never easy. But, with the support of other foster parents and the social workers; it much easier than one might think. There will be days when you just want to pull your hair out and then all of sudden your heart melts; because the child that you are fostering has learned a new skill, and you feel like you are making a difference. While kids with special needs are demanding, they are not impossible to care for. Especially with support and experience comes comfort, and with comfort comes diminishing of fears and frustration.
Fostering is not always easy. It comes with challenges. However, fostering also provides you with the joy of giving our nation’s most vulnerable youth a chance to build a foundation and start to thrive, in a loving secure transitional home. It is honestly one of the most incredibly powerful experiences that you can bless you and your family with.