Wednesday, September 14, 2016

15 in 4: Foster Parenting Challenges and How Not to Help.

15 appointments in 4 days. This is not the first time that the appointments for my foster babies added up to double digits for less than a week's time.  I don't think it will be the last. It is crazy; border line insane. And every day an appointment gets changed or rescheduled to the next day or cancelled and its slot filled with something else. But we do it. This week we are doing it while Dare Bear got hit with a nasty virus. We had to add in a trip to the doctor, making three trips to the doctor in three days. Next week I'll have two more trips.

Parenting two under two is hard. Parenting two foster babies under two is basically a great way to develop an ulcer. Between the day-to-day challenges, the worry for both their situations, the paperwork and the meetings (oh, the meetings, visits, appointments!!), there are many days that I don't eat until nap time. Then I don't eat again until bed time. Not healthy, but we are in survival mode. Because this too shall pass. Much too quickly it will pass and, unlike other, more permanent parents, all we will have are memories. Sweet memories of sweet babies with crooked smiles and sticky fingers.

Foster parenting is challenging. It is a challenge that needs to be accepted more often. Children are worth it, but they don't make it easy.

So how can you help? Well, today, I am going to be venting on how you can NOT help, how you can add to the challenges of foster parents. Because this is what we are dealing with right now.

Today's post is made possible by the culture of death.

How Not to Help a Foster Parent

1. Share Your Opinions about Foster Care
So many people THINK they know what foster care is.
Comments like, "I couldn't do that, I would love the children too much!" (Really? What does that say to me? Do you think that I don't love them? Do you think they aren't worthy of the pain that comes from love?) or, "Children's Aid just steals children from poor people" or, my least favourite, "Parents that have their children taken away should be sterilized." (Really, which child shouldn't exist? Which of my children's siblings shouldn't exist? And are you going to be the one to decide which person you are going to treat like an animal?) are common occurrence in our life. Please keep your uneducated opinions to yourself. They are not original and they are not helpful. We also really don't need to hear about your cousin's neighbor's best friend who was a foster parent and the child *insert crazy violent action here.*

2. Share Your Opinions about Parenting
Foster children have experienced trauma, pain and loss. They need consciously chosen and connecting parenting techniques. Tantrums mean they are sharing their feelings. Crying means they are expressing a need. What they don't need and what foster parents also don't need, is quick 'advice' without context or relationship. Yes, my child swears, screams and tantrums. We are working on breaking the bad habits without breaking him. Move along.

3. Judge How We're Coping
I had heard from other parents that they can run into conflict between their work and their families. I suppose a certain amount of this is understandable. But the idea that work has to come first and, if it doesn't, you have to justify yourself to your employer, is becoming a huge issue in our lives. I have heard that I (as the caregiver primarily at home) need to "let G-Man sleep more" or "handle appointments and sickness all myself." Now, I do the majority of the night watch and take care of most of the appointments, but I can't do it all. And G-Man, as a good and (becoming) holy man, doesn't want me to. Family needs are not "just my responsibility." And the community's children in need are not only for a select few to take care of. But my wonderful husband gets threatened to have a letter written to HR because he is using his holidays for children's doctor's appointments and he has his daily calendar reviewed since April because the manager was convinced that he owed the company 'time.' (He didn't!) He gets micro-managed because he is loving and caring for children. I get judged, as the mother and wife, for not doing 'enough.'

4. Assuming
Assuming they are healthy, assuming since we 'asked' for this we are fine, assuming we do it for the money (ha!), assuming my children's parents are horrible (THEY AREN'T!), assuming foster care only happens to other families, assuming foster parenting is just like permanent parenting, assuming we'll get to adopt them, assuming that is our intention, assuming we 'must be saints,' assuming we don't grieve for long when they leave, assuming their trauma doesn't become our trauma, assuming we have all the answers, assuming every family you see is biological and permanent.

5. Discriminate Against Us
Recently, we have been looking for a new apartment and we kept running into issues when the landlord would find out that we have two under two and even bigger issues when we found out they were foster children. Basically, we were denied the rental because of our family. I also know of foster parents who have had a hard time getting apartment or car insurance because they are foster parents. G-Man right now is facing issues at work because he is a foster parent. Please respect that we are a family. These are my children. I will fight for their good until my dying breath, regardless of how long they are in my home. They are not disposable or exchangeable. Never make me feel like I have to choose between you and my children. You will lose. Every time. Support my family and welcome my children.  My children don't need to deal with your issues. You are the adult. You deal with your issues.

So, I guess to end on a positive note:

How TO Help a Foster Parent
1. Pray. Pray. Pray. Please. The devil attacks the family. Please pray for protection for foster families and for all families that are involved! Pray for healing.
2. Become an approved babysitter for a foster family you know. It isn't typically hard but there are a few steps. Foster families can really get stuck when they need child care help and there is no one to call.
3. Become a volunteer driver! We have had to use one since having two children and our driver, M, such a wonderful help to us! Volunteer drivers drive children to their visits with their biological families. Since I can't be everywhere, M is an invaluable resource.
4. Get involved in a community organization. Find ways to step out of your safe bubble. Figure out what people or behaviours you are most likely to judge and start breaking down the walls.
5. Smile at children and believe that all parents are doing the best they can!