May is National Foster Care Month, a time to give some thought to the generous efforts of all of those doing their best to help children whose home and family life has suffered disruption. Coming to understand the demands of foster care has played a major role in my writing life. In gratitude to those who helped me learn, I’ll be sharing information on this topic throughout the month of May.
In a work of fiction like Our Orbit, it’s easy to gloss over the many aspects of a complex project like preparing the kids already in your home for the arrival of a new sibling. This will be true whether the newcomer is biological or fostered.
How well does Deanne Fletcher handle the task?
From Our Orbit—
Next morning, Rick was off to work at quarter to seven. At seven-thirty, regular as clockwork, Deanne heard Kayla singing in bed, then Chad began to stir in his crib. Twenty minutes later, they were drinking juice at the kitchen table, while Deanne explained that their new sister would arrive that afternoon. An older sister.
“No baby?” Chad said, in his not-yet-two-year-old way.
“No, but this girl needs a place to live right away. She needs a home where people will look after her and treat her like family. We can do that no matter how old she is, can’t we?”
“If she’s big, she can’t come from your tummy,” Kayla said.
“That’s right.” Deanne laughed. “She’ll be a ‘visiting sister.’ Remember how Daddy explained it?”
“She won’t belong to us forever?”
“That’s right. But while she’s here, we’ll treat her just the same as if she would.”
♥ ♥ ♥
A snap, right? True, a novel isn’t expected to serve as a how-to book. So in the interest of offering useful information, here’s an item from the website of the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families that clearly states all the things Deanne was probably keeping in mind—
Tip Sheet Tuesday: Preparing the Kids in Your Home for Fostering
Not only do parents make adjustments in their lives when a child in care enters their home, the children in the house are in for changes too . . . big changes! It doesn’t matter if they are born or adopted into the family or are currently in foster care. Adjustments come easily for some—they move over at the table, know they will have to share your time and smile—while others are still processing the changes they had to make well into adulthood.
Humor and Insight
One Wisconsin dad, with humor and insight, tells a story about his nine-year-old son. On the evening that he and his wife were going to foster parenting classes, his son said, “Dad, so you and Mom are going to be gone all night and neglecting me all evening so that you can learn how to care for other kids you’re going to bring into our house?”
This wise father knows that his son anticipates making some big changes and is probably fearing it. It’s the savvy parent who knows that the whole family will be making changes.
On the other hand, some birth children take fostering and adopting for granted. They are in a position to appreciate what their parents are doing and feel part of it. They learn their new dances in the family circle.
One woman who grew up with biological, adopted and foster siblings says, “I think I lived in my own bubble all my life. The kids who came were almost all younger than me, so I didn’t have to compete with them for anything, other than the bathroom. But that was just normal.”
She goes on to say, “I was old enough to understand the basics of foster care, so the comings and goings weren’t a big deal either. Growing up in a foster home is what it is—it’s hard to describe unless you have lived another way to compare it to something.”
Both reactions are valid. Be open to any reactions your kids may have and have some tools ready to help the family expand.
Thank you for learning about issues involved in foster care! For additional information—
Visit the official site of National Foster Care Month 2015. That’s right now!
Visit the National Foster Parent Association.
And feel free to share your insights in the “Comments” section below.