After a four and a half year period of not being licensed for foster care, we are back at it. We started out intending to do respite care only in order to give breaks to other foster parents, however, we ended up accepting a placement of siblings after two weekends with them. It is such a different experience this time around! One may think the differences have to do with being with a different agency, in a different state, and accepting a placement much different in many ways from our other placements, but that would not be the case.
The differences are…
…all to do with us! Eight and a half years ago, when Jasmine and Dalton first came to our house, we were newbies who had no real idea what we were getting into. The differences all have to do with our responses.
- Our response to behaviors – We did not have near the training on trauma and how it impacts behavior that we do now when we first started as foster parents. We typically responded the way most parents respond to negative behaviors and found it backfiring. We have more skills and practical strategies now for helping the kids face challenges due to their trauma. We are more laid back now and choose what behaviors to target more carefully.
- Our response to warning signs – In terms of behaviors, we have seen far fewer negative behaviors than we did when we first started fostering, and from all I can tell, it’s not because of differences in the children. We are much quicker to spot an oncoming issue and diffuse or redirect before a behavior starts. For the past week, we’ve been on our first family vacation since these kiddos moved in. I have been reminded so much of our first trips with the other kiddos and how hard they were, but this trip has been significantly better than those trips simply because we see that kids are reaching their physical and emotional limits, and we simply call it a day and go back to where we’re staying, even if it’s only lunch time!
- Our response to symptoms -We are quicker to notice something that may need to be evaluated—physically, behaviorally, or emotionally—and to search out services. I am a lot quicker now to talk to medical professionals when something comes up to weed out potential medical causes to behaviors or symptoms. With time as foster parents, one just knows a little quicker not only that something isn’t right, but we learn where to go to get help and answers.
- Our response to professionals in the children’s lives – Two situations came up a couple weeks ago where, as a newer foster parent, I may have been angry or upset that something was done that I felt was not the best for the child, but I probably would have thought I could do no more pretty quickly. We’ve always advocated for the children in our care, but I feel with time and experience has come the knowledge of the right words to say and actions to take to push a little harder with better outcomes. As a bonus, as the kids have seen us advocate and follow through on our word, it’s helped them to build more trust in us.
Overall, fostering this time around is much different. Are we doing a perfect job? NO! Are we doing the best we can? There are days I think we could do better. Have we gotten worn out and screwed up and had to go back and fix our mistakes? You bet! But, overall, I feel more prepared and equipped, and that has such a great impact on how successful I feel, and I feel less stressed than I did when we started fostering nine years ago.