Foster care 101

Let me begin by saying that I am still trying to feel my way through this whole foster-parenting business. I don't have all of the answers to every question, and sometimes I don't even know where to begin to find out the answers. On our walk last night, Nate and I talked through a few "foster care issues" we'd each been mulling on individually, and it was surprising to hear how many varied questions we each had. As we talked we realized that if we had this many questions after taking a 10 week training course on the topic, we can't imagine how many questions others might have. So this post is an attempt to address some FAQ's or anticipated FAQ's; I tend to take on a bit of a snarky tone at times mainly because I appreciate sarcasm. Please don't be offended.

Why do you always call him "little man" in this space? And why haven't you posted any mug shots of the cutie-patootie?!
Believe me, I WANT to post pictures of little man, but due to confidentiality, we cannot. We cannot share photos online, reveal identifying information, share personal information about his background/family story.

So, what's his story? Why is he in foster care? Where are his parents?
Many people have asked these questions. And while I think people are generally well-intentioned when asking, I also find the questions a little nosy. This information is incredibly personal and cannot be shared with others. It's not our story to tell.

What should I call him? 
Okay, I know this seems like a bizarre question, but let me explain:  Nate and I talked last night about how we will introduce him to people--he's not our son and he knows we're not his parents (though we will treat him and love him as if he were our own), and saying he's our friend just makes us look creepy. We also don't want to introduce him as our foster son because that's a big label with lots of connotations. He's young enough that he doesn't understand the concept of foster care; he doesn't know he's a "foster kid." So, we will introduce him to others by calling him his name. And if you should meet him, please don't ask, "Oh, is this your FOSTER KID?!" No matter how much the question is marked with enthusiasm, it will still provide for an awkward situation. And nobody likes to be awkward. If you don't know his name or who he is, treat him like you would any other person and ask him his name.

How long will he be with you?
He'll be with us for however long God wants him to be with us. This is part of the excitement and uncertainty of foster care.

Why does he do ____________?
If you've spent any amount of time with children, you know they are unpredictable little boogers who sometimes do odd things that leave adults scratching their noggins. A teacher once told me that there is a reason behind every behavior. The more time I spend with people (not just kids), the more I believe this. When I keep this concept in mind, I tend to be more understanding and gracious with others. That doesn't mean I let people get away with murder because they were exposed to violence at a young age--appropriate consequences still apply for unacceptable behavior. However, this does mean that I try to understand why said person did said thing instead of labeling the person by his/her behavior. For example, I had a student once who would punch the wall or drop F-bombs whenever he was angry. Each time he did this, I'd give a consequence (a trip to the office for the demonstration of excellent vocabulary acquisition) or a detention or other appropriate consequence for his incredible pain threshold (seriously, the kid never flinched when he beat the concrete wall). It would have been easy to label him as a "bad kid" because of his behaviors. Doing so would've made the years I spent with him unbearable. Though it was frustrating and difficult, I tried to step back and understand why he engaged in these behaviors by talking to him after he was cooled off (it never did me any good to talk to him when he was punching walls or spitting out swear words). If our little man does something odd, like dip his pizza in his applesauce (which he is prone to do) or otherwise, please, please don't write him off as weird, messed up, bad, etc. Remember: there is a reason behind every behavior. (Side bar: Please tell us about unusual behavior, but don't ask why he did _____ either; we likely can't tell you anyway).

How much do you get paid to be a foster parent?
Really? How much do you get paid to do your job? 'Nuff said. (All sarcasm aside: I have no idea how much a foster parent gets paid. I think it's a case by case situation.)

This post has dragged on long enough. If you have other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments or email me personally. I promise to avoid sarcasm in my response. We truly appreciate your interest in our process of becoming parents!

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