How to support foster children: a 5-step guide

Hello faithful readers!

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Today I’m going to talk about how you can support your local foster children with a handy dandy guide! Hopefully, you’ll find some useful information on how you can make a difference, especially if you can’t become a foster parent yourself.


  1. Let go of the guilt. If you know that you can’t become a foster parent, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, your awareness of your inability to be a foster parent is commendable. There are a lot of ways you can still get involved.
  2. Get in contact with your local DHS (Department of Human Services). Most likely, they are looking for people to volunteer at events or help out in other ways.
  3. Get in contact with with any foster parents you may know and ask them how you can help. Parenting is hard. Parenting traumatized children is even more difficult. Chances are, your foster-parent-friends would love for someone to do any of the following for them:
    1. Babysit. As long as the babysitting time period doesn’t exceed four hours, babysitters don’t need special certifications, training, or licensure.
    2. Clean their house. Between cooking meals, transporting kids to and from school, therapy, counseling, and visits, basic household chores get left by the wayside. If you really want to help out a foster family, this is probably one of the best ways of doing so.
    3. Make or buy them dinner. Like #2, time is something that foster parents simply don’t have the luxury of anymore. Buying a pre-made meal or making one yourself and bringing it to them will go a long way. If you plan on doing this, make sure to ask about their child(ren)’s preferences, allergies, and any food restrictions the parents might have on their kids (for instance, in our first placement, we didn’t allow our 3 and 5-yr-olds to have anything sugary after 6pm because sugar made them “crazy”).
    4. Offer to do their grocery shopping for them. Again, time is a luxury foster parents don’t have. When we first took in kids, between both my husband and I working, we rarely had time to do the grocery shopping and were forced to use our precious weekend time for that task instead. I realize this is a problem for most families, but foster kids have so much on their plates that it can become ridiculous at times and foster parents are pretty much powerless to change it. Those weekend hours are better spent on creating happy memories (see my “On Creating Happy Memories” post for more info on that) and providing a family-like dynamic with their foster kids. Don’t worry about funds; if you offer to buy their groceries for you, they will probably bend over backwards to make sure you have a list and money.
    5. Ask if there’s anything specific they need. Knowing is always better than guessing. If you’re unsure if your local foster family would appreciate any of the above, ask them how you can help. They will appreciate it!  Get in contact with local charities and nonprofits that support the foster system. Charities and nonprofits are always looking for volunteers. If you don’t know of any near you, Google is a great resource. I guarantee there is at least one organization in your community that supports the foster system.
  4. Get in contact with local charities and nonprofits that support the foster system. Charities and nonprofits are always looking for volunteers. If you don’t know of any near you, Google is a great resource. I guarantee there is at least one organization in your community that supports the foster system.
  5. Donate. If you don’t have time to volunteer, I understand. If you really care about the cause, chances are you have funds you’re willing to give away. Donating to the local organizations mentioned in #4 can go a very long way in supporting kids in foster care and making sure they have what they need. Recently, I led a fundraiser with a local nonprofit to make sure that kids in foster care could dump the infamous garbage bag for a brand new backpack of their very own filled with all sorts of goodies such as gift cards, blankets, artisan hand-made journals, socks, and so forth. I was really proud of this work, and I know you would be too!

Image result for how can I helpI hope there is at least one point on this guide that has helped you to feel more empowered to support foster children. Remember, the system is set up to protect the children in it, so don’t be immediately discouraged if you don’t get to hang out with the kiddos. Sure, feeling appreciated by the people you aim to help is super rewarding, but most of these kids either don’t know how to show their appreciation or flat-out don’t appreciate it. Why? Because no one would appreciate being ripped from the only home they’ve known. Exercise empathy for all parties involved – the police, the county, the foster parents, and most importantly the foster children. That will be an excellent guide for you as you decide how you can best help!

Cheers, and thanks for reading!




Differentiating between “normal” behaviors and “trauma” behaviors

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Parenting is hard. No really,  it is. If you’re a parent, you understand this very fundamental truth. If you ever want to be a parent, recognize this very fundamental truth now and save yourself a lot of frustration later.

If you’re a foster parent, differentiating between age-appropriate behaviors for well-adjusted children and behaviors that are only associated with children who have trauma pasts can be a difficult and confusing path to follow. That’s why this post includes several charts for your reference!

The big problem in telling the difference between “normal” behaviors and “trauma” behaviors is that often they look really similar. The best advice I can give you is to remember that your traumatized child is still a child and, despite having gone through some things that he never should have at that age, more often than not, he will act his age. That being said, if you’re child has a traumatized past, always choose the trauma-informed parenting techniques. They work for well-adjusted kids as well.

Let’s take a look at Lucy, an 11-month-old foster child. Lucy was recently removed from her bio-parents’ home when reports of neglect caused the police to make a visit to her home. When the police found Lucy, she was wearing dirty clothes, acted hungry, and seemed to be very inactive as far as crawling around the space. She was extremely quiet for her age, and though she responded to someone directly talking to her or picking her up, she didn’t seem to know her own name. Take a look at the chart below to see what the police should have found upon meeting little Lucy:

Age (0-2 years) Developmentally appropriate behavior

0-3 months

  • Reacts and turns toward sound
  • Watches faces and follows objects
  • Coos and babbles
  • Becomes more expressive and develops a social smile
  • Develops a general routine of sleep/ wake times

4-7 months

  • Babbles chains of sounds
  • Responds to others’ expressions of emotions
  • Grasps and holds objects
  • Regards own hand and explores objects with hand and mouth
  • Sits with, and then without, support on hands

8-12 months

  • Changes tone when babbling
  • Says “dada” and “mama” and uses exclamations
  • Imitates sounds and gestures
  • Explores in many ways (shaking, dropping, banging, poking)
  • Pulls self up to stand and may walk briefly without help.

2 years

  • Says several single words and two- or three-word phrases
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Points to things when named
  • Finds hidden objects
  • Scribbles
  • Stands alone and walks well

Chart Credit: Child Welfare Information Gateway – chart credit website link.

Developmentally, Lucy should have been actively exploring her environment. She should have been able to respond to her name and been able to “talk” to others via babbling, changing her tone, and imitating sounds.

If you jumped to dirty clothes and acting hungry as an all conclusive sign of neglect, think again. Babies are extraordinarily hard to keep clean. It’s perfectly acceptable for a parent to not change their baby’s clothes in many circumstances. Acting hungry also is not a good indicator. Now, if the police noticed that she was ravenous and tried to look around for age-appropriate food for Lucy and found none, there we have a problem.

Lucy’s behaviors are really what gave away signs of neglect in this case. These behaviors developed over several months in the same way normal behaviors develop over several months. One day or even a week of neglectful actions on the parents’ part isn’t enough evidence to conclude that Lucy had been neglected.

Trauma can take many forms, however, and can happen in a moment. Consistent acting out behaviors, however, come from consistent trauma or a lack of guidance and healing from traumatizing moments.

Let’s take a look at Thomas, a six-year-old boy whose parents were just tragically killed two months ago in a car accident. Thomas had been a part of that accident as well, but was the only survivor due to his location in the car. Thomas refuses to go anywhere near a car anymore. His kinship family (foster parents/ family who happen to be related to the child in someway) has been struggling to go anywhere or get any place on time because Thomas throws a huge temper-tantrum every time it’s time to get in a vehicle. His kinship parents understand why he’s so afraid of cars, but they also know their lives need to move on. Thomas has been making that very difficult. The moment it’s time to go, he’ll scream, kick, bite, cry, and thrash about; he seems to lose his entire sense of self, others and the environment. Obviously, these are not normal behaviors and need to be approached from a trauma-informed perspective. Let’s look at the chart below to see how Thomas should be acting:

              Age (3-7 years)    Developmentally appropriate behavior

3 years

  • Uses four- to five-word sentences
  • Follows two- or three-part instructions
  • Recognizes and identifies most common objects
  • Draws simple straight or circular lines
  • Climbs well, walks up and down stairs, runs

4 years

  • Uses five- to six-word sentences, tells stories
  • Understands counting and may know some numbers
  • Identifies four or more colors
  • Copies or draws simple shapes
  • Walks/ runs forward and backward with balance

5 years

  • Speaks in full sentences, tells longer stories
  • Draws circles and squares, begins to copy letters
  • Climbs, hops, swings, and may skip
  • Tries to solve problems from a single point of view and identify solutions to conflicts
  • More likely to agree to rules

6-7 years

  • Reads short words and sentences
  • Draws person or animal
  • Takes pride and pleasure in mastering new skills
  • Has more internal control over emotions and behaviors
  • Shows growing awareness of good and bad

Chart Credit: Child Welfare Information Gateway – chart credit website link.

At age six, Thomas should have more self-regulatory ability to control his emotions and behaviors, which he clearly lacks; Thomas is acting emotionally on par with a two or three-year-old. It’s important to know that kids are resilient and with the proper help and guidance, can and will find healing. Since Thomas knew a loving home before the accident, it is very possible that his emotions will stabilize after he has gone through the grieving and recovering process. It is also possible that Thomas will have a difficult time getting in vehicles for the rest of his life because the trauma associated with such an event is the type that adults sometimes can’t even handle. As long as his emotional needs are being supported, Thomas can conquer his fears and be able to function at age-level once again. Trauma of this type, or really any type, takes time and patience to overcome.

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Now let’s talk about Sarah. Sarah is 16-years-old and has a decent social life. Recently, her parents have had a hard time with getting her to talk to them. She’s moody, is constantly on her phone, prefers the company of her friends and is sleeping in a lot later than she used to. Sarah’s parents are worried that she might be getting into some trouble at school with peer-pressure, but they haven’t heard any negative reports from her school and her grades have remained steady. Their only evidence is that she’s not as open with them or as talkative as she used to be and it doesn’t feel right.

Take a look at the chart below to see if Sarah’s parents need to be concerned:

Age (8-18 years) Developmentally appropriate behavior

8-10 years

  • Reads well
  • Multiplies numbers
  • Expresses a unique personality when relating to others
  • Solves conflicts by talking, not fighting
  • Is able to “bounce back” from most disappointments

11-14 years

  • May have frequent mood swings or changes in feelings
  • Gradually develops own taste, sense of style, and identity
  • Has a hobby, sport, or activity
  • Learns to accept disappointments and overcome failures
  • Has one or more “best” friends and positive relationships with others the same age

15-18 years

  • Begins to develop an identity and self-worth beyond body image and physical appearance
  • Is able to calm down and handle anger
  • Sets goals and works toward achieving them
  • Accepts family rules, completes chores and other responsibilities
  • Needs time for emotions and reasoning skills to catch up with rapid physical changes

Chart Credit: Child Welfare Information Gateway – chart credit website link.

Did any of Sarah’s recent behaviors pop out as abnormal? Probably not. Sarah is in the process of becoming an adult. She’ll start sleeping later and staying up later at night (known as “late phase preference”) because she’s still growing and her body is still changing. According to the chart, 11-14 year-olds are known to have “frequent mood swings”, due to hormonal changes. Often these changes don’t stop at a specific age, rather, mood swings caused by physical and social changes may occur until Sarah is completely finished with puberty. What about Sarah’s parents’ concern about her recent lack of openness? While it’s no fun for the parents, and probably a bit harder for Sarah herself, this is also normal behavior. Hopefully, Sarah knows that she can trust her parents enough to talk about the really tough things she might be going through. That trust comes from years of her parents talking to and listening to her about the small things: the things that adults don’t find important but that kids do. So, when Sarah has a real issue, she can feel safe talking to her parents or even an adult at school such as her favorite teacher. Sarah is beginning to form her own identity and self-worth. Part of this process is separating a bit from parents. Again, this is normal. Sarah’s parents, however, aren’t helpless. Signs of something wrong can come from a variety of places: are her grades slipping? Has she lost interest in hobbies or activities she once loved? If she’s on social media, is she being bullied? Is she bullying others? Has she stopped eating, or has she been excessively dieting? Have her hygiene habits changed drastically? If Sarah’s parents are aware of the signs that something isn’t quite right with their daughter, then they have the power to step in before things get worse or before Sarah makes a life-threatening decision.

Staying informed and up-to-date on current trends, parenting techniques, and what trauma looks like in kids 0-18 is a crucial step in raising happy, healthy, and successful adults. Be sure to check out the resources page on this blog for valuable information and educational materials that are widely accepted and available.

As always, thanks for reading!

On Creating Happy Memories

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Sometimes a case can get really stressful and it is SO easy to get on that train and drag your whole family down with it. Stressful situations, however, come up all of the time in everyday life, not just in foster homes. How we handle those situations can make or break our family. How we handle those situations as parents teaches our kids how to respond likewise. If a parent always responds anxiously to a stressful situation, their child will learn that responding to stress with anxiety is a coping mechanism. See the problem?

Decidedly, our kiddos’ case has gotten really difficult and the kids are unfortunately old enough to understand what’s going on. Young children can feel stress also, even though they don’t understand. Instead of being able to communicate that they are scared or angry or feeling pressured, they will act out (See: “It’s a Cheetos Thing”), because they simply don’t have the proper communication skills they need. This is true of young children who grow up in well-adjusted homes as well.

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As a pre-adoptive home for our older kids, when we took the placement, we also unwittingly accepted all of their therapeutic services.

{Bunny hole warning}: Piece of advice for aspiring foster/adopt parents: get used to having lots of people in your home and let go of that “to do” list of chores. Frequently there are dirty dishes in our sink that literally piled up in a two-hour period the day before and sometimes I don’t have time to rinse them off and put them in the dishwasher. Moms, you know what I’m talking about! I had to learn to let that go. Whenever I’m feeling embarrassed by my semi-messy kitchen when half the county is in my house, I simply have to take a deep breath and remind myself that dirty dishes in the sink means I feed my family. {Leaving the bunny hole now}.

So, when we got the kiddos, we also got a family therapist. He’s great, we love him, but it was an adjustment for sure. See, when you bring in kids who need therapy, you will often find that a family therapist is one of the best resources for your family because those kids will cause you to need your own therapy if you’re not careful, but I digress…again.

Anyway, when our case started getting difficult it was really easy to become overwhelmed by the stress of it. There’s a lot of legalities at play, a lot of language that’s hard to understand, even for someone with a master’s degree, there’s a lot of social nuances that are present that equate to walking on eggshells, and so forth. Of course, in a pre-adoptive situation, we as the parents want what’s best for the kids, but so does everyone else on the case, and sometimes the others have drastically different ideas of “what’s best” than we do. That being said, Brett and I have been feeling it and not always responding in a way that is helpful to the kids because we’ve never been through this type of stress ourselves.

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One of the things our family therapist recommended was to forget about the case (for now) and just focus on creating happy memories for the kids. It was a huge wake up call for Brett and me because we realized that in the midst of getting bogged down by the stress and the “ugly,” we’d forgotten about the “being a family” bit, which is the fundamental essence of fostering — this idea that while children’s bio-parents are working through treatment or the case is becoming complicated (few cases are simple), the kids still get to experience living in and being a part of a family.

It’s not easy. But it certainly is better. I get it, now, why there are some foster parents who don’t do much more than provide a “safe” place to sleep. It’s because the stress of these cases can be daunting and even destructive. Parents sometimes only have time to provide the basic survival tools to foster kids when the cases become challenging.

The happy memories matter though. Those are the moments that get families out of a stressful situation and back into a healthy family dynamic. It teaches kids that, despite these rough situations, we are still a family and we are holding onto each other.

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So, after a super rough weekend, we took our kids to a famous restaurant that features theatrics, diving, and other really fun kid-oriented activities. Our family really needed that. Did it make our problems go away? No. But our family, and more particularly our kids, now have a happy memory that will hopefully cover up the bad memories of this week. Of course, one positive isn’t enough to cover two negatives, so we are committed to continuing finding ways of creating happy memories for the kids.

Our hope is that by making time for fun family-oriented activities during stressful times, our kids will learn that handling stress with more stress is not going to work. We hope that they’ll learn to handle stress appropriately and in a healthy way, and be able to lean on their experience so that they can resiliently persist through the “dark tunnel,” even when they can’t see the light up ahead.

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And sometimes, you just have to put aside your pride and get your hands messy with your kids. Sometimes you just have to say, “it’ll be all right.”  🙂



It’s a “Cheetos Thing.”

Hello Faithful Readers!

Today’s post focuses on the different parenting techniques that foster/ adoptive parents may employ when parenting their traumatized child. Most of the time, this type of parenting might seem completely counterintuitive to traditional parents, so that’s why it merits its own discussion.

What you need to remember is that trauma is invisible. It might take on different forms in a child, but it is always invisible to the outsider. The next time you see a struggling parent in the grocery store with a tantrum-throwing child, please don’t be so quick to pass judgement on what you think is the parent’s poor disciplining skills. You might take that child and turn him over your knee for a good spanking, but the foster parent simply can’t do that.

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Spanking, or traditional discipline of any sort can actually cause more trouble for those parenting traumatized children. These children have most likely come from a place where adults were untrustworthy in some capacity or another. In the case of our tantrum-throwing tot, from birth, his needs were rarely met by the adults charged with his care and as a consequence, he rarely got fed. He ended up in the foster system because one night, Mom and Dad got into a big fight and the police got involved. Upon arrival, the police found the toddler in a dirty diaper, sick, and underweight. They removed him that night and placed him in an emergency foster home, now in the custody of the department of human services.

Two weeks later he was moved to a long-term foster home after his immediate needs had been taken care of. The new foster dad, due to the addition of a new mouth to feed, had to make a grocery run and needed to take the toddler with him. Little Boy was doing great until he saw a food he was regularly given by his birth parents – Cheetos – and when his foster dad didn’t stop to pick them up, he became extremely upset and started throwing a tantrum. Of course, Foster Dad knows better than to feed a toddler unhealthy snacks like Cheetos, but Little Boy has learned that Cheetos means survival. Suddenly that survival was threatened and on came the tantrum.

Foster Dad is beside himself. Little Boy doesn’t have the words to communicate that Cheetos means survival, so all Foster Dad can see is that Little Boy is unreasonably upset about something. His training has taught him that this tantrum isn’t just a tantrum and that, because Little Boy doesn’t have the words to communicate, is screaming because he doesn’t know any other way to respond to the situation. Little Boy has also not been taught self-soothing and self-regulating tools that he should have begun learning from the time of his birth.

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Here’s where the counterintuitive parenting comes into play. Foster Dad, trying to help Little Boy communicate, notices that he keeps screaming something peculiar: “toe-chee”, over and over. Being that they are in the chip aisle, Foster Dad is able to figure out that Little Boy means Cheetos. He points to the Cheetos and Little Boy immediately stops screaming. While Foster Dad isn’t happy about purchasing an unhealthy snack, he now has recognized that this is one of the things that makes Little Boy feel safe. He grabs a bag from the shelf and hands it to Little Boy who hugs it closely to himself for the rest of the shopping trip.

Miss Perfect happened to be standing in the same aisle at the time of Little Boy’s tantrum. She was annoyed by all the screaming and wanted to go over to give that dad a good talking-to. “If that little boy had been my child,” she thought haughtily to herself, “I would have left the cart right there, marched that little brat to the parking lot and given him a good, hard spanking.” She could not believe that the dad gave in to the boy’s tantrum. After the boy stopped his fussing, now clinging to the Cheetos bag like it was life’s bread, Miss Perfect marched herself over to Foster Dad.

“You do realize, that by giving into his tantrum like that, he’ll never learn the word ‘no’, correct?” asked Miss Perfect. She wasn’t so much asking as she was telling.

“Actually, that’s not at all what I think.” Replied Foster Dad calmly, though slightly annoyed with the woman’s attitude and assumptions.

Image result for judgemental woman“Giving in to a tantrum like that will only cause more trouble for you down the road. Where’s his mom? Surely she would have marched him right out of the store for that nonsense!”

“That’s really none of your business Ma’am. Now if you don’t mind, I would like to get back to my shopping.”

“None of my business?! It’s not my fault your son is screaming bloody murder. I’m sure everyone in this store could hear him!”

“Thank you Ma’am. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to get home before midnight.” replied Foster Dad, who then promptly walked away and into another aisle. The other people around also gave him dirty looks as he passed by.

Foster Dad felt extremely judged in that moment. Did he do the right thing? This was definitely a moment that he wanted to disown Little Boy. How much easier would his life be if he could just inform everyone in the store that Little Boy is a foster child. He wasn’t really Little Boy’s father and therefore he couldn’t be held accountable for Little Boy’s crazy behavior. He looked at Little Boy and noticed how calm he seemed clinging to the Cheetos bag. “Poor thing.” He thought to himself.

Yes, disowning Little Boy would be the easy thing, but it wouldn’t be the right thing.

“Now how am I going to get him to let go of the Cheetos so I can pay for it?” Foster Dad asked himself. He thought about what he was going to say to Little Boy in the checkout lane as he finished the rest of his shopping. Foster Dad began getting a little nervous the closer they got to the cashier.

“I’m going to have to take those (pointing to the Cheetos) in a moment so the cashier can ring it up. Do you understand?” Foster Dad asked, to which Little Boy answered by nodding his head. “Okay, good. I’ll give it back to you as soon as the cashier is done with it.” he promised. Fortunately, the cashier was good with kids and played with Little Boy for a moment by pretending to ring him up with the scanner. This distracted Little Boy from his need to cling to the chips so Foster Dad recognized the opportunity and asked Little Boy to hand him the Cheetos. Little Boy was a bit reluctant so Foster Dad reminded him about what he said a few minutes ago and promised to give them back. Finally, Little Boy handed over the Cheetos so they could be paid for. As soon as the cashier scanned them, she handed them right back and Little Boy stayed calm.

“I’m really proud of you for staying calm and being patient.” Foster Dad said to Little Boy on their way out of the store. He felt a little silly using those words with a toddler but knew that the more vocabulary Little Boy was exposed to, the better he’ll become at communicating. “High-Five buddy!” Little Boy smiled and gave Foster Dad the best high-five a three-year-old could give. When they got to the car, Foster Dad started talking to Little Boy about how he’ll have to wait to have some Cheetos until after dinner. “I promise, if you eat most of your dinner, that you can have some Cheetos afterward.” said Foster Dad. He continued to say some version of this all the way home.

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When they got home, Foster Mom had gotten dinner ready and as she was helping to put the groceries away, started putting the Cheetos in the cupboard. She gave her husband a look of disapproval and he let her know that it was a necessity today. Little Boy noticed the Cheetos being put away and began throwing a tantrum again. Foster Mom was confused so Foster Dad stepped in to save the day. “Remember how I said you can have some Cheetos after you eat most of your dinner?” asked Foster Dad. Little Boy nodded his head. “Okay, good. We’ll leave the Cheetos out on the counter for now so you can see them.” said Foster Dad. When Foster Mom served Little Boy his dinner, he was a bit skeptical of the green things on his plate, but with some coaxing, tried a little bit of everything. That night, Little Boy’s foster parents found out that he loves green beans, but doesn’t really like fish sticks. True to his word, when dinner was finished, Foster Dad put about five Cheetos in a small bowl for Little Boy and let him have his after dinner treat.

Later, when similar items came home from the store, they would tell each other that it was a “Cheetos thing” which was their code for “means of survival” and knew that there was an underlying issue of meeting a child’s needs in that item.

While it is counterintuitive to most to give in to a child’s tantrum, and in some cases one simply can’t (e.g. in the case of safety such as a small child wanting to cross the street without an adult), parenting traumatized children is anything but typical. Every child that comes into your home will have different needs based on their different histories. Being able to recognize those needs is the first step toward creating a safe, caring environment so that children can heal and become successful, high-functioning adults.

If you’re not a foster parent and never plan to be, please remember that, when you see a parent struggling with a child in public, you have no idea about that child’s background. If the parent is doing something that seems counterintuitive to you, don’t be so quick to judge the situation and recognize that you don’t have all the facts. Of course, if a parent is being abusive to the child, please do something about it by contacting the proper authorities.

If you’d like to be supportive of the parent with that kid, either stay out of their business, don’t give them dirty looks, or encourage them by saying that they’re doing a good job, that most kids act this way at that age and they’ll get through it. That type of encouragement can go a long way.

As always, thanks for reading.







Adopting is a painful process

Hello faithful readers!

We are in the process of creating what is categorized as a non-traditional family. That is, we aren’t creating our family through the typical means (i.e. biological pregnancy). I’m here to tell you today that while I might not experience actual labor pains upon adopting my foster children, this creation process, symbolically, is just as painful.

But the rewards are so great.

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Recently, Brett and I had what was supposed to be our last meeting with the county before they file for adoption. That is still happening (the adoption filing), but not without its hiccups. It takes one person, specifically, to derail an adoption process. That’s the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL, pronounced G-A-L). The GAL is the lawyer for the kids. Every child in the foster system has his or her own GAL (sibling sets have the same lawyer).

Everyone involved with the case can be on board with the adoption, be totally impressed with your parenting skills that improve daily, and be so happy with the progress the kids have made. Unless one kid cries in front of the GAL. Then you might have problems.

So your GAL disagrees with everyone else. What next?

First, don’t get discouraged. Yes, courts give A LOT of weight to the GAL, but this isn’t the end of the world. It’s the GAL’s job to be concerned about her clients and make rational, levelheaded choices for them. Of course, even GALs are human and can make mistakes. It’s not the GAL’s job, for instance, to make diagnoses of their client’s mental or physical health, so if that has happened, that should throw up red flags to everyone involved. And despite this, children in foster care will have potential mental and physical health issues. As long as the pre-adoptive parents are committed to supporting the child through his healing, then there is slim chance of a failed adoption or disrupted placement. If there’s truly no reason for concern and everyone else on the case is in agreement on this, let the agency/ county fight for you for a while.

Second, take a step back. Still reeling from that last permanency meeting and can’t make heads or tails as to why the GAL hates you so? Do this right now: inhale. Now exhale. It’s going to be okay.

Think through (calmly) everything that happened at the meeting and decide what your arguments are going to be. Talk to people you trust who are authorities in your life in one way or another. If you know one or two lawyers, talk to them about it as well because they can give you their opinion on the matter from their legal-training standpoint. They might be able to see something in the case that you simply can’t because you’re not a lawyer.

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It certainly is baffling — when foster-adoptive parents are in such high demand — that anyone would want to put up roadblocks to the successful creation of adoptive families. If there truly is no reason for the hold up, speak with your caseworker, the kid(s)’ caseworker, therapists, teachers, and anyone else who knows the child(ren) well. They undoubtedly will be able to see things differently from you and might be able to provide much needed defense of your case, or at the very least, insight.

Third, remember this: family is good and exists to provide a network of support for everyone inside its protective walls. If you are committed to supporting your children through the good, bad, and really ugly, you already have what it takes to be a successful parent. Stand firm and keeping fighting the good fight.

The Test of Time

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In 2014, my husband and I started our fostering journey because we learned of 8-yr-old boy/girl twins through a family member. It looked like the placement they were in wasn’t going to work out in the long run (it was never meant to be a long-term placement to begin with).

Time went on and the county encouraged that family to adopt. More time passed. We let go of our hopes for adopting the twins. In 2015 we became foster parents to two little boys. We certainly never forgot the twins and they were still a part of our lives in some ways.

After nearly six months, the boys went back home. We put our home “on hold” as I was feeling overwhelmed with maintaining both a job and grad school. Then 2016 showed up.

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We missed having kids in our home so we opened it back up for placements. Weeks turned into months and we never got a call. I began wondering if the county didn’t like us for some reason. And then the email came:

“There’s a set of 10-yr-old twins who need a pre-adoptive placement. You might know them…”

Suddenly the twins were back in our lives and we were making arrangements to transition them to our home. It’s now been nearly five months since they moved in. One more month and they can legally be adopted. It’s been one of the most challenging journeys of my life. They’ve pushed boundaries I didn’t even know I had. We’ve butted heads and they’ve tested our stability, structure, parenting styles, and marriage. Yet things have calmed. They understand us now and we are learning to get to know them. There’s peace in our house once again. I know it can only get better from here.

On Saying “Goodbye”

It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do.

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I’ve heard experienced foster parents talk about the grieving period when a child who’s been in the home for a while is placed somewhere else or goes back to their family. I knew to expect it – the emptiness, the quiet – I thought I was ready for it. I wasn’t.

Nothing can prepare you for the emotions you’ll experience when the time comes to send your foster kiddo(s) somewhere else.
Suddenly things you’ve taken for granted in the past months – that song on the radio he always sang to in the car on the way to school, that simple phrase they always used, the empty beds that became theirs but were never really theirs in the first place – all things that you didn’t realize made you love them more every. single. day.
After our first foster children left, we avoided spending much time at home for about two weeks. It was eerily quiet and suddenly our four bedroom house seemed way too big for comfort.

Image result for saying goodbyeEventually I was able to take comfort in the knowledge that the kids were alive and well somewhere. That even though it felt like I had lost a child forever, the truth was I hadn’t. I could still see them if I wanted to. Knowing the pain I felt in my grieving period after saying goodbye, I don’t ever want to know what it feels like for a parent to actually lose a child. I can’t even imagine the utter devastation. If I had been in that place, I probably would have decided to sell our house or do anything to avoid being reminded of that child.

Right after we said goodbye, a lot of people asked us if we’d do it again. Without hesitation both my husband and I said, “yes.”

Maybe we’re just crazy.

How to Talk to Foster Parents

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Believe it or not, every time I inform someone who doesn’t know me well (e.g. a colleague, an acquaintance, etc.), that I’m a foster parent, I’m met with this look of confusion/ admiration/ speechlessness/ i-don’t-know-how-to-respond-to-this-info, type expression.

And then people will usually respond with something like, “oh wow, you’re so cool” (that’s one of the better responses I’ve received recently), or “oh, okay…{awkward silence}” or “you’re doing such a good thing.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad people are trying to be supportive, but sometimes it gets so awkward because of how people respond to the information that sometimes I’d rather keep that part of my life to myself.

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But I really need to tell people that I’m a foster parent. And most of the time I’m a black hole for encouragement, because fostering can get really discouraging at times.

So here’s my handy dandy guideline for talking to foster parents, especially when someone just informed you that they are, in fact, a foster parent.

It’s really complicated…get ready…

Wait for it…



Talk to us like you’d talk to any other parent.   Image result for wow



Crazy, right?!




When someone informs you that they just had a baby, would you say, “oh you’re doing such a good thing”? Probably not.

Because that’s a given. It’s a good thing to rear a child and it’s a daunting task, no matter who you are.

More-than-likely, you would offer the new parent a bit of encouragement or advice if you’ve already been in their shoes, such as, “don’t worry, you’ll get sleep eventually” or “don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re doing a great job” or simply, “congratulations.”

Foster parents really need the same type of encouragement. We need to hear, “you’re doing a great job” rather than “you’re doing a great thing.” Notice the difference in vocabulary there. Telling us that we’re doing a great “thing” is not helpful at all, because if I’m being totally honest with you, dear reader, I don’t always feel like I’m doing a great thing. And there are moments when I don’t feel like I can continue with a placement, or when I don’t feel like fostering is a good fit for me or my family. These are moments of weakness that I hopefully will move beyond, but if I happen to be feeling that way the same moment I hear “you’re doing a great thing,” it just makes me feel guilty on top of all the discouraging thoughts or circumstances I might be going through at the time.

Because foster placements aren’t always permanent. In fact, they rarely are permanent situations. Be sure to read my upcoming post on “Saying Goodbye” for more on that.

However, the things you would tell new parents of babies are usually the things new foster parents need to hear as well. “Keep up the good work.” “You’re doing great, hang in there.” “You’re not a failure, everyone feels this way when they first start out.”

On a slightly separate note, I’ve noticed that the same people who don’t know how to respond initially to learning that I’m a foster parent also tend to be really curious but don’t know if they can ask questions, or how to ask those questions for that matter.

Image result for ask questionsReally, it’s okay to ask questions about the kids. Again, the parents will probably want to talk about the new kids living in their house. However, please keep in mind that they are under orders to not “gossip” and can’t give you all the gory details of the case (because, believe me, the details are usually gory). That doesn’t mean that you can’t ask questions, however. All it means is if you ask a question that is too personal to the case, the foster parent will politely tell you that they can’t answer that. It’s better for everyone that way. Curiosity doesn’t usually do any harm, however, and the foster parent will appreciate that you cared enough to find out more.

So all you need to remember the next time you meet a foster parent is to treat them and talk to them like any other new parent you would meet. No, they might not have an infant in their home at the moment, but accepting a new foster placement is really very similar to bringing home a baby for the first time. They don’t know the child(ren) and they haven’t had the luxury of nine months to prepare for that child either.

Also, if you’re feeling extra generous, a free cup of coffee that comes with or without adult interaction will go a LONG way. Believe me, we probably need the caffeine and if we ask for it, we definitely need the adult interaction. Anyway, that kind of gesture truly shows that you care and appreciate the work of foster parents and is a way of encouraging them without the need of too many words.

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That’s all for now…




Getting Attached

One of the most common comments I’ve come across often rings something like, “I couldn’t foster because I’d be afraid of getting too attached.”

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Believe it or not, that’s something that scared me at first too; getting attached and then having to send the kids home. Sometimes they’d be going home to what I’d even consider less-than-ideal environments. To make matters worse, as a foster parent I would have very little say in the matter, even though I might have loved that child for the past six months as if he were my own.

The truth is, I will get attached and I should.

These kids need attachment. They need you to love them as if you were their birth mother. Fostering is a bit different from adoption in that most kids are adopted as infants so the adoptive parents have the option of not indulging that news to their child until a later date or ever. In those circumstances, the bio-parents are lovingly (albeit painstakingly) giving up their legal parental rights to the adoptive family. It was their choice, and in most cases, the bio-parents chose the adoptive parents through stringent recruitment processes and private agencies that protect them. In a fostering situation, something went wrong in the bio-home. Something went so wrong, in fact, that someone (a neighbor, another family member, a teacher, etc.) noticed enough to be prompted to alert authorities. It could have been as violent as a call to the police for suspected domestic violence or something as simple as the child going to school in the same clothing everyday. The child might have even been in a loving home but her parents both died in a car crash. The bio-parents never chose to give up their rights or asked for their daughter to be removed. It was not their will. Of course, a baby wouldn’t be fully aware of what was happening to her but at the end of the day, that six-month-old girl is still traumatized.

Older foster children know you are not their parents. They know that something went wrong, even if they don’t know all the details. These children need the attachment of their foster parents even more because most likely they are hurting, confused, angry, terrified. That’s the best case scenario by the way. Too often than not, on top of the previous emotions, they are traumatized, have PTSD, are broken (literally and figuratively), may be ill, are undernourished, abused, and neglected. They bring all of this into a completely new environment full of completely new faces, smells, tastes, touches, sights and sounds. They probably don’t have more than a trash bag’s worth of possessions, but they can have more baggage than most adults.

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They need you to get attached because there’s a chance that very primal need has never been met before.

I’m going to come out and say it because I was guilty of it too: choosing not to become a foster parent for nothing more than being afraid of getting too attached is probably the most selfish reason not to become a foster parent.

You will get attached and you should.

Yes, it will hurt when that sweet chubby-cheeked little boy leaves to go home. You will miss all the giggles and you will miss all the tears. You will probably even miss the episode in which he threw up dinner all over you. Your house will be quieter, emptier.

But you filled a little heart with hope and warmth and safety. You filled a little heart with the promise of love and self-worth, even though he didn’t recognize it. That little heart will hold onto that for years and years to come.

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You will recover from the detachment because you gave a piece of your heart to heal another. That kind of wound heals. That kind of wound changes you, yes, but for the better.

Getting Started (A 10-Step Guide)

Hi all, this is Brett, and today I’ll be helping you learn how to get started in the fostering/ adoption process.

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Step 1) Do your research. Use our “Web Resources” and “Educational Materials” pages to link to lots of information and organizations to find out more about what fostering and/or adopting is all about.

Step 2) Contact a local organization. After you’ve found out what organizations (private or public) are near you, pick one and then find out when they’re having their next “orientation.”

Step 3) Go to orientation. This is a required part of the training process.

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Step 4) If you’re still interested in becoming a foster/ adoptive parent after orientation, find out when your organization is having their next training session. This information will be provided at orientation, as well as any initial costs associated.

Step 5) Go to training! Learn! Read! MAKE FRIENDS!!!!!!!! (They are going through the process with you and will become a valuable resource!) Have fun!


Step 6) Go through an exit interview. Most placement and/or training agencies have an exit interview after all training has been completed. This is their way of checking in with you and seeing where you’re at in the process.

Image result for paperworkStep 7) Fill out the ridiculously long application. Be as honest as possible. Yes, there are VERY personal questions involved.
Step 8) Commence your home study. This is a long process. Sounds super scary. It’s not. It’s just really, really, long.

Step 9) Complete your CPR/ First Aid training and Health Evaluations (you can do this during training but it’s recommended to wait because these expire every so often so the more recent, the better. It also helps during the recertification process when all of your requirements (home study, health eval, CPR, etc.) expire around the same time. Less to remember.

Step 10) When you have been approved for licensing and a placement, wait for a phone call. This could happen within 24 hours of your certification or could take a long time, depending on your parameters.