My husband and I became foster parents after only having been married a year and a half. We were in our late twenties and had no biological children. After working with kids in foster care in our professions, going through the home study process, talking with other foster families, and completing the 14+ hours of training required we thought we were somewhat well prepared. Looking back on it now 12 years later however, I see that we were so naive and clueless.
Our first placement was a teenage boy who we parented for a year and a half. Our next placement came in 2007 with a 3 year old and 6 month old- two boys who we would foster for three years and eventually have the honor of adopting in 2010.
We kept up all of the state-mandated training hours for the years we had our foster license. Some trainings were good… some not so much. We did the best we could in those early years to lead with compassion and to address hard behaviors in the best ways we knew how. Our young, starry-eyed selves thought that love would be enough to repair the past our children had endured, but time after time we were left feeling depleted and desperate realizing that it wasn’t enough.
In the past five years since I began working at Nightlight I have learned so much that would have helped me in those early years. I have learned to look beyond the behaviors into what is underneath. I have learned that past trauma can cause real changes in a child’s brain development. I have learned that traditional strategies in parenting a child with a history of abuse, neglect, trauma, prenatal exposure, and chronic stress will not be effective. These kids need more. They need us, as their caregivers, to be trauma-informed. They need us to look past the behaviors and focus on connection. They deserve to know that they are valued and worth fighting for.
Below is a list of resources that I would give to my 28 year old self before any child entered my home. Start reading, listening, and learning about how to help bring true healing to the children in your care. Keep educating yourself after they come into your home. I have thought countless times that “I wish I knew then what I know now…” there are so many things I would have handled better. I realize though, that it’s never too late. There are still so many things that we have not yet walked through with our kids that we will handle better because of the ways we work to continue educating ourselves. These are some of the best tools that I’ve found that have transformed the way that we parent. I hope they will help, encourage, and empower you as you care for the children God entrusts you with.
Books to Read
The links for all resources are in the titles.
- The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis and David Cross
- Parenting The Hurt Child by Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky
- The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegal and Tina Bryson
- The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Carol Kranowitz ***This book is wonderful for children with sensory processing disorders
- ReFraming Foster Care by Jason Johnson
- I Love You Rituals by Becky Bailey *** This book has more than seventy rhymes and games that you can incorporate into daily activities with children 0-8 years old. They are wonderful for creating moments of connection and building attachment.
- Love Me, Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More by Katja Rowell *** This relationship-building, practical guide to help foster and adoptive families enjoy family meals and raise children who eat a variety of foods and grow to have the body that is right for them. Grounded in science, but made real with the often heart-breaking and inspiring words of parents who have been there, Dr. Rowell helps readers understand and address feeding challenges, from simple picky eating to entrenched food obsession, oral motor and developmental delays, “feeding clinic failures,” and more.
Videos to Watch
***Both of the above videos expand on information first presented in The Connected Child
- Removed- Gives such good insight to what a foster child goes through
- The Happiest Baby on the Block
- The Truth About Consequences
Podcasts to Listen To
Follow this link to a popular foster/adoption blog “Confessions of an Adoptive Parent” for a fantastic list of can’t miss podcasts for foster and adoptive parents. We also recommend Creating a Family which has a huge library of podcasts on various topics related to foster parenting, adoption, and infertility.
Conferences to Attend
- Empowered to Connect- The Empowered to Connect Conference is a two-day event presented by Show Hope and the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development. It offers practical teaching in a safe and supportive community and is meant to equip families, churches, and professionals to better serve children impacted by adoption and foster care. The Empowered to Connect conference is coming up and we encourage all of our families to go if they can! It is being offered April 13-14th and you can experience this conference by attending the live event in Oswego, IL or by attending a live simulcast at a location near you!
- CAFO- The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit is an annual conference that inspires and equips the Church to care for orphans and vulnerable children with wisdom-guided love. Last year’s conference drew over 2,000 foster and adoptive parents, orphan advocates, pastors and professionals from 30 countries. This year’s conference will be held in Frisco, Texas on May 9- 11, 2018.
Other Helpful Resources
- This Free, printable foster care binder to help you organize- this will help create a space for you to easily organize information for any child based in your home such as doctor’s appointments, medications administered, court hearings, visitations, etc.
- This is a great article about what to do on your child’s first day home to help them feel comfortable and safe.
- Your local churches! The local churches in our area have really stepped up in so many ways to serve foster families. There are churches in our community that offer support groups, a monthly parents’ night out, training, and resources such as clothes, books, toys, and furniture for families when they receive a new placement. Make some phone calls to local churches to see if they have a foster/adoption ministry.