Friday, August 11, 2006

What I wish I knew before

If I could go back in time and give myself some advice/information this is what I would say:

Every single child who comes into my home will have some behavioral or emotional problem which I will not know about for at least several months.
In my agency we are lucky because we get to read their files if we like. I do. I go in and read everything that they have saved. If the youth is newly from the state then the file is not going to be all that helpful. There will be copies of IEP's (Individual Educational Plans), offical psychology reports and assessments from social workers. There maybe be copies of police reports. Everything will be official and uninformative.

IF the child has been in the program for which I work the file can be a gold mine -- though that is probably not the right word. There may be copies of emails sent by previous foster parents, emails sent from one social worker to another. There will documentation of the goals the youth wrote with the social worker every six months and notations about whether the youth met them.

Anything a child has done somewhere else, he or she will do at my house.
So, if one of the child's goals is "I will work to rebuild trust with my foster parents" or "I will do 10 hours of yard work to repay for the damage I caused," then believe that his child has a problem with truth or destructiveness.

Maybe, just maybe, you will be better at dealing with the kid than the last parents were, but whatever they did then, they are going to do again. They are going to do it multiple times. They are going to do it even if they don't need to in order to get what they need and want. It doesn't matter if you would have given them the money or permission if they had just asked. If it has been something they have done regularly somewhere else, they will, at the very least, "test" the behavior on you.

-I am capable of dealing with behaviors that I had never thought I would have.
There will be training necessary and lots and lots of deep breathing, but it is amazing what I can cope with.

I am incapable of dealing calmly with some behaviors that I thought would be easy.
That is actually too strong, but the point is that just because it seems like it is a minor thing does not mean that it will feel like a minor thing. Sometimes a minor thing that happens every day can really get under my skin.

Never delay in asking for help.
Feel overwhelmed? Don't know what to do? Call someone. Ask for respite. Find a support group. Join a 12-step program. ASK FOR RESPITE.

My kids can cope with almost anything if I can.
If I can stay calm while a child throws a tantrum or fails classes or refuses to do chores or stays out all night or whatever, Andrew and Brian will be okay.

Converse: My kids will cope poorly with anything that makes me crazy.
The kids are little stress sponges. If I loose my serenity, they are upset. If I ask them now to tell me what were the hardest points, they are always the times when I was stressed out. What is interesting about that is that I know that sometimes my stress levels were not objectively predictable. In other words, I handled objectively bad things calmly and my kids were fine. I fell apart with objectively not so bad things and my kids were stressed.

Foster kids rarely fight with bio kids.
Foster kids understand that the fastest way to get ejected from a home is to be mean to the bio kids. So they are careful. Some foster kids avoid conflict with the bio kids the entire time that they are there. Some are just very subtle about it. Watch out though...if a kid decides they really don't want to be in your home, it can get very ugly very quickly.

So instead they will try to get you to do the fighting for them.
The less safe the kids feel about fighting with each other the more they will try to resolve every little problem through you. This happens with birth kids, it just happens MORE with kids who did not grow up with each other. Advice: don't play. Give them permission to quarrel with each other.

Some bio kids figure out that foster kids will be ejected for hurting them and so use that position of power to terrorize them.
No advice here. You just have to know it happens and be prepared to deal with it. As far as I know, this has never happened in my home.

My love and attention however unlimited it may actually be, will be treated like a scarce and precious resource to be fought over.
Every child will be able to give a detailed accounting of everything I have done for everybody else. Everyone will be convinced that I would NEVER do that or allow that if they were the child in question. Kids who have been around for a couple of years may relax and believe that I really do love them and really will do for them the things they need, but new kids won't. Some foster kids never will. Bio kids have the same issues. It is likely to be a big deal in the beginning and will crop back up and the most inconvenient times.

The harder you work at making everyone feel equal the worse it will get.
Some games you can only win by not playing.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this list! I learned alot by reading it :)


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