So what are 5 things your foster child needs from you?
It is 10 pm on a Wednesday night. You are ready for bed; you are in your PJs, you are loading the dishwasher, you are tidying up the living room, you are plugging your phone in for the night. As you walk away from that plugged in phone, it rings. You stare at your husband who is standing across the room, ready for bed also, and you slowly answer that call.
An hour later a beautiful and terrified 8-year-old little girl walks in carrying her tiny, sleepy 9-month-old baby brother. She doesn’t say a word and stares around the room with wide eyes and then immediately runs to sit down on the nearest couch. The caseworker hands you a bag with a bottle and one can of formula in it, tells you their names and says, ‘Thank you so much, you will hear from another worker in the morning.’
Alrighty…so, here you are. What do you do now? What do you say? What do they need? What don’t they need? This was me just a few short years ago; let me see if I can help you out.
Listen To Your Child & Have Patience
The first thing a foster child needs is a lot of patience and a lot of listening. After that caseworker walked out of our house, we started talking, and she started getting uncomfortable. We noticed it quickly and stopped ourselves, eventually. She didn’t need us to ask a bunch of questions that she didn’t have answers to or care to answer. She had just experienced one of the most traumatic events of her young life and our questions were the very last thing she wanted to hear.
We sat silently until she was ready to speak, even just to ask to use the restroom. That night we didn’t make her sleep in the designated bedroom that was approved by the county. She was terrified–she didn’t want to move off the couch. We brought her blankets and pillows and a pack-n-play for her brother. They both ended up sleeping on the couch together because that is what made them feel the safest.
Safety & Security
They may not always feel that way, but you must always show them that your home is a safe and secure place to be. They came from chaos, from trauma, from abuse. They need to see that a family can have its good days and its bad days, and everyone is still a team, still loves each other, and still functions without it becoming abusive. They need it, every single day.
Bio Parent Love
They need to know that you support their parents. It is hard. It is hard when they don’t show up for visits, when they don’t do the things required, when they just can’t seem to get it together, but it is necessary. They love them, and if they’ve been in your home for any amount of time, it is likely that they love you too. If they can see you encouraging their parent, helping them in any way possible and/or having a positive attitude in regards to it all, it will go miles.
Have tons of fun! These kids come from not-so-fun situations most of the time; they need to know that families have fun! Whatever you do for fun, take them along and include them. Vacations, day trips, amusement parks, out to eat, family game nights, movies, swimming. I took our 8-year-old little girl to the doctor in her few days with us, and afterwards I stopped at Chick-Fil-A, which was completely routine to me. She had no idea what Chick-Fil-A was, she had never been there before. She loved every second of it and had the biggest smile on her face the entire way home as she scarfed down her food. Fun and new experiences. They need them and love them.
- Plain & Simple: Love
They need love. They need to feel it, see it, hear it, know it…deep within their bones. They need to know that no matter what, you love them. When no one else does and no one else did, you did. They need to see you love your significant other, love all the other kids in the home, love all extended family and friends. It will look different for each child, just like it does for any kid. Some will need time; some will need space; some will need hugs, some will not; some will need praise and encouragement; some will need pushed. Every child will be different. Love: they just need love.
Patience, a listening ear, safety, security, bio parent love, fun, and love. They don’t require a lot more than any other kid in order to thrive. Give them what they need and watch how they fly! Happy fostering!!!