Friday, October 7, 2011

10 Things You Need To Be A Foster Parent

1.  Humility
2.  Faith
3.  Teachable
4.  Patience
5.  Family & Friends
6.  Organization & Discipline
7.  Spontaneity
8.  Love
9.  Thick Skin
10. Humor
* Balance

So that's the quick and dirty list, now I'll break it down for you a little bit.

Humility.  I believe you cannot be a foster parent without humility.  Any kid will humble their parent at one time or another, but a foster kid, will do it like no other.  They will put you in your place more than once in the course of their case.  And so will their birth parents.  And your case workers.  And the therapists.  And the DA, the GAL and the Judge.  We spend a lot of time realizing we're on our side of the case simply by the grace of God.

Faith.  Honestly, without faith, I have no idea how you even attempt to do this.  When it all comes unglued and everything goes exactly the way you think it shouldn't, you have to have faith to lean on that someone bigger and better than you has this whole crazy thing in hand better than you ever could.  you suddenly realize how little you are on this earth and in this life and how big HE is. 

Teachable.  One, because it's required.  A foster license is just like a teaching license.  You need a certain amount of continuing education hours each year to keep it.  Second, because if you don't learn from life lived with these kids, they will run you over and it will be a fail for both of you. Yes, it's unstructured and unwritten learning on the fly as life with these special kids unravels, but it's the best lessons of life.  You learn in brilliant colors what really matters in this life better than any book or verse will ever teach you.

Patience.  Almost nothing in the system goes according to the plan and everything takes weeks and months and years longer than it should.  People get more chances to try again than seems worth while.  This is a system that puts the phrase, "hurry up and wait" in a whole new light.  Then on top of all that, you need extra patience, because you have to keep yourself in check because of the little people you're now loving with all your heart and soul.

Family & Friends.  No, they'll never "get it" but if they are the kind that support you, it counts.  Even another family or friend that does foster parenting will not share your exact experience, each case is way to unique for that, but the support and love of someone that knows your heart for these little people is worth more than they know. 

Organization & Discipline.  Yeah, I know, me saying that...but it's true.  You have to stay organized enough to keep track of all the paperwork in foster care, and there is a ton.  You have to keep organized to deal with all the moving parts of the case, workers,therapists, schools, judges, birth parents, and so on.  Discipline?  Well, it's the discipline to keep things moving forward, even when you want to chuck it all.  It's the discipline to stand up and be the adult when no one else is willing to.  It's the discipline to stay committed to a case and follow it through to what ever end it comes to and then the discipline to be mature about it, no matter how it feels, to see the bigger picture, the hand of God in it all, while still feeling what you feel about it.  It's being able to hold both at the same time.

Spontaneity.  In the midst of all the above organization, keeping track of all the zillion commitments for each case and child, you still have to be able to seize the moments and capture them for all they're worth.  You have to know when to set aside the "rules" and head outside for fresh air or ditch dinner for ice cream sundaes.  You have to catch the heart of the child and know when the moment calls for stern adherence to the rules and when it calls for the come sit on my lap for a minute moments.  You have to know what days to say to the teacher, we simply couldn't do/be that today and when to seal those joy moments in their little hearts for life.

Love.  A foster parent needs to love.  Whole heart, all in, with total abandon, every time.  You have to love the child, literally as if they were your own. 

Thick Skin.  You will be that family.  Everyone will look.  Everyone will talk.  Everyone will comment and judge.  Everyone will give you advice.  Your family will be the one with those kids, the ones that make a huge spectacle of themselves, or pitch a tantrum unparallelled by others or break stuff or cuss in church or whatever is your personal nightmare.  It will happen.  And then it will happen again. 

Humor.  Without it, you will fail.  If you can't laugh in those thick skin moments, you've lost ground with the kids.  If you can't laugh at yourself or a situation, you can't teach a kid to overcome an obstacle.  If you can't find laughter and humor in foster parenting, it will drain the life out of all of you.  A home with no joy and no laughter isn't a home at all.

*Balance.  Balance is the star bullet point.  It's the star because all of these things need to balance with the others.  They need to balance with the practical, the common sense, the physical of everyday life.  The balance has to be there for the present on this earth and the eternal.  When the balance tips, we all get in trouble.

Shelley for the idea today. 

PS, follow the link and go read Shelley, she's pretty darn amazing herself.