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The Foster Parenting Toolbox

Realistic Expectations for Fostering Families
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The Foster Parenting Toolbox



Ten Things Foster Parents Wished Their Case Managers Knew

by Mike Berry

Last night my wife and I had the honor of hosting our monthly adoption support group at our home. We do this once a month and it’s always refreshing. While the group is made up of adoptive parents, most have been, or currently are, active foster parents. As we sat around our dining room table, enjoying one another’s company, I posed this question to the group- “What are some things you wish, or wished, your case managers knew?”

If you are unfamiliar with how the foster care system works, each child who enters the foster care system is assigned a case manager and that person is the liaison between the state and the foster family the child is placed with. In the decade that we have been foster parents we have had the joy of working with some phenomenal case managers and the frustration of working with some very bad case managers.

Here are 10 things the support group said last night:

1. We know the children the best.
We spend every waking moment with the children you placed in our homes. Some of us have had, and will have, placements for months, even years. They bond to us and that’s a good thing. Please trust us when we tell you things about them and we make observations. We know them really really well because we’re doing life with them. That’s not to say that you don’t know them because we know you do. But when you have the role of first responder to strong emotional outbreaks, meltdowns and fear, it gives unique insight.

2. We actually live by a schedule.
Although it seems like we’re available at the drop of a hat, we aren’t. Many of us have jobs outside of our home. Please show up on time for visits & follow-ups in our home. We can’t always adjust our schedule because you got out of court later than you thought and now you’re over an hour late. Many of us have other children and they are involved in other activities. Please be respectful of that.

3. This is NOT a job, it’s a way of life.
Its our family. We do not get holidays off, there are no financial gains, and no one is rolling out the red carpet for us. In fact, they’re staring at us and they think we’re weird. They don’t get us. We’re ok with that but we need you to understand this. This is our life, 24/7, and sometimes it is so difficult that we don’t know if we can make it another day.

4. Point us toward good resources.
We need support groups, literature, and a listening ear. If there are any good conferences that you know of, don’t let us stumble upon them, give us a call or send us an email and give us the scoop. This helps us know that you are there for us.

5. Communicate with us.
There are certain things we need to know. Please do not withhold important information about the child from us. Especially if there was extreme trauma or abuse. Having this type of information helps us navigate tough situations or meltdowns. We need to hear from you, and we need you to return our calls. We feel alone in this more than you know. We are looking to you for support.

6. Be honest with us.
If you don’t know the answer that’s ok. We’re fine if you tell us that you have to find out and that you’ll get back to us. It’s really frustrating when you try to give us an answer that may not be the truth or you make something up just to satisfy us.

7. We’re foster parents by choice.
We do this because we want to better the lives of children from difficult places. This is a thankless endeavor and we know that. But we entered into it willingly.

8. Paint a realistic picture of our current situation.
If there’s a chance the child will be staying longer please do not tell us that it “Will only be a few days and then he’ll be moved to a family members house,” or “She’s only staying for the weekend,” or “This will only be a 48 hour deal,” or “This is an overnight placement.” We’re ok with an “I don’t know,” answer. Remember, we chose to do this, so we can handle vagueness or the unknown.

9. We’re doing you a service.
You are lucky you have us. So please treat us with respect. That goes for our time too. When we ask you for assistance or send you emails, please do not act like we’re an inconvenience. We know your job is hard and we are not downplaying that. It’s just that we are on the front lines of this whole ordeal and we have to handle emotions and fear that children in our placement experience regularly.

10. We have a lot of fears.
We fear someone walking in and taking our kids. We fear the power you have over us. We fear one of our children accusing us of something untrue and you believing it. We know this is just fear and not really true but it sure feels like it’s true at times!We collectively recognize that many case managers do know these things. In fact, we agreed that we have all had the pleasure of working with some truly amazing people in the foster care system. However, there are many days where we’ve felt alone as if no one understands the struggles we have. The heart of this post is NOT to criticize but to enlighten and help.

Author Mike Berry is the creator and lead blogger of Confessions Of A Parent. He has been a parent for over a decade and a blogger/writer for 4 years. He also serves as the Executive Director of Family Life Ministry at East 91st Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Want to see other things written by Mike or want to comment on this post? Find Confessions of a Parent here.

Please contact Carrie Kitze for information on obtaining reprints of this article for pre and post adoption kits/foster parent trainings and seminars.





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