NO GUILT OR SHAME FOR STAYING IN MY LANE

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“Compassionate people ask for what they need.  They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it.  They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.” –Brene Brown

As a foster parent you will have to learn how to say NO.  I know in the weeks of training or before getting placements you will think this task is a simple one but I will tell you it can become hard when your heart is attached to why you signed up to be foster parents.  You may cross the lines and change lanes from the original road you said you would take so many weeks earlier.  I’m here to tell you if you are walking this walk of foster care you will carry guilt but you are not alone on this road.  As any parent weather foster or biological it comes along with the job always questioning your decisions.

 

Here are a few things I have shared with other foster parents and community partners that allow you to be the best resource for the kids in your home.

HAVE A CHECK OFF LIST

When that phone rings or that number appears on your phone all your feels will come over you from excitement to the feeling of wanting to toss your cookies because…ooohhh crap what did I just say yes to, but having a check off list will help guide your doubt and really preparing you for what is coming. Note a lot of times certifiers (the people that normally call to place kids) have limited information.  My questions normally look like this:

  1. Childs Name & Age.  We had decided we did not want babies we wanted school aged children that were younger than our bios.
  2. Is this there 1st time in care? I ask this because kids that have been in care multiple times tend to have harder behavior issues.  This is not always an issue but one I try to take into consideration.
  3. Behavior Issues/Trauma. This helps me decide if we as a family are capable to handle what we will see and hear.  There are things you honestly will never be able to imagine that these kids have been through and when we say yes to kids it not only impacts me and my husband but our bios the ones I say that are truly on the front lines.  They share rooms, classes etc.  Having a child that cuts, sexual behaviors, drug issues etc. are things that WILL impact your children.
  4. What schools and have they been going? The worst thing you can do to yourself is have 5 kids in 5 different schools.  If you’re willing to do that, that’s great but also know that you can ask for help like special bus services from your district or school changes to make this placement work.  Knowing the child’s attendance is also a good thing as a lot of kids in care come with IEP (Individual Education Programs) because they have missed so much school or they are not able to keep up with other children their age.
  5. What is family involvement? Most likely the kids you receive will have multiple visits not only with parents but maybe grandparents, siblings in other homes so knowing this info kinds gives you a heads up you may have more than one visit a week in your scheduling.
  6. This one is not really about the child but what we as foster will need to help us be able to succeed as their resource.  In our state Oregon new placements in care/homes receive a $120 clothing voucher I’m actually surprised at how many fosters do not know this.  I make sure to tell them we will need that along with other things like cribs, car seats etc.  Most of the time you plan for the ages you will be caring for but know you can ask if you need these items.  Also knowing about things like WIC, child care reimbursement, mile reimbursement verse medical reimbursement these are things that you should take into consideration when taking a placement because these things will help you financially to be a good resource and help you succeed.

These are just my normal go to questions.  When you are talking to your certifier you will have to feel out the conversation because sometimes when you get that placement the information is completely wrong……No joke like the one time we picked up a placement and were told he was in 4th grade a specific school and come to find out he was in 6th grade at a completely different school across town.

VISITS

We know the goal of foster care is reunification at least that should always be at the forefront of your mind when serving the kids in your home.  This means visits most likely will be something you have to deal with and when you have more than one placement you will try to kill yourself being everywhere and here’s the truth most of the time you will be double or triple booked with appointments, pickups and of course they will be opposite sides of town.  You have the right to say NO to appointments, time slots or transportation.  In our state we have SSA they are the ones that transport to and from visits and also supervise visits.  Most of the time our bio parents visits were scheduled during working hours which of course did not work for me because I worked so if the state wanted a visit during those times I would inform them that they would have to transport to and from.  Here’s the deal being a foster parent means dealing with each situation differently.  If you transport your child it’s a good way to build a relationship with parents, it’s a good way to build a relationship with the SSA but also it’s a way to exhaust you so please know you can say no.

WHEN A PLACEMENT DOES NOT WORK

This is the one that will break you.  You said yes and it’s just not working.  You guys there will be an adjustment period and a honeymoon season with each child you say yes to and honestly each situation again will look differently some will be a six month season and some will be a year season and then all of a sudden you see it click for them and they are growing through the trauma and succeeding in there new lives, but then there’s the other side of this.  Your bio children start failing, your marriage is breaking and your carry guilt.  We knew when we started this process there were things we were not willing to allow to happen to our family.  We knew if we started to see our core four break we would have to reevaluate a placement in our home.  I’m not talking about a bio being out of sorts because they are jealous of sharing space, toys etc. those to me were superficial items and life lessons our bios would have to learn about.  You will cry, you may be relieved no matter your reason for removal you are not alone, you are not failing in fact I think you’re doing what you signed up to do when you said you wanted to advocate for the kids in your home.  Your providing the best resources that child needs to succeed and putting your heart and pride aside for that.  

Over the time you foster you will realize what you need to say NO to.  At times you will be scared to say no because you’re afraid you won’t get the next call, people may judge you, or your attachment to a placement but being a yes person is not always the best way to advocate for yourself or the children you promised to serve.  Foster care is in a season of failure and has been for years all over the nation and we as foster parents need to remember why we originally said yes instead of just walking away when we feel judged, tired, failure or attack.

I will not carry guilt and shame for staying in my lane and neither should you when you’re doing what you signed up to do.  For me my original conversation was to be a vessel to be a voice of saying enough is enough for the children we serve and the families that serve them.  If you continue to say yes to things that do not fill that original conversation that original purpose, your saying NO to the plans and purpose for your life so knowing boundaries and knowing which lane you want to stay and that No is a tool given to you to succeed is something you should never carry guilt for.