18 May 2015

Talking to Kids About Foster Care

"People have many times expressed concern about what effect our family doing foster care will have on Aurelia, especially what she'll learn from the kids who come into our home.
Today, when our foster son started crying Aurelia came over, put her arm around him and said softly, "you're okay, you're safe, you're not alone, we love you," then gave him a kiss on the cheek. THAT is what she's learned from foster care." - November 2014

How do we explain foster care to our 4-year-old? How much does she know? Does she understand what's going on? We get a lot of questions like these. Kids are put into foster care after being exposed to very adult situations, so how do we explain that to our daughter? How do you talk to a four-year-old about drug addiction, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and all the other reasons children are removed from homes and placed with foster families? How do you explain that parents hurt and endanger their own children? It's heavy, hard stuff for adults to handle so how do we explain it to a child? 

So, I wanted to write a little about how much Aurelia understands about foster care and what we explain to her. I also want to share how we encourage love for the biological families these kids come from.

We didn't know how much Aurelia would really grasp until we became foster parents. When we explain foster care to our daughter we don't sugar coat it but we make sure it's explained in an age appropriate way. Before our Bonus Kiddo was placed in our home we told Aurelia that we were waiting to help take care of kids whose parents weren't able to take care of them and gave a few reasons why they might need help. 

We explained that sometimes mommies and daddies are sick, too sick to take care of their kids. We explained that when they're really sick they need a foster family to take care of their kids until they're better. This explanation can cover pretty much any case that would come to us. This was the explanation we knew we'd be using most often.

We also explained that some moms and dads don't know how to be moms and dads and they need people to help them learn. Then, they need a foster family to take care of their kids until they learn how to take care of their kids and keep them safe.

These were the two explanations we gave Aurelia to prepare her for us being a foster family and they worked really well for us.

It's been important to us that Aurelia learn to be compassionate. One way we help her develop that is by how we talk about and act toward our Bonus Kiddo's biological parents. We explained to her why Bonus Kiddo was going to be living with us for a while and made it clear we were hoping he would get to go home with them. Every night in our family prayer Daniel and I included Bonus Kiddo's bio mom and dad and asked that they feel loved and supported and that they would "get better". We didn't expect Aurelia to feel the same way but we wanted to make sure she knew where we stood and that these people weren't the enemy, they were people in need of compassion. Aurelia picked up on this and, even though she's been crazy about Bonus Kiddo from day one, she too started praying that his parents would get better and that he could go home to be with them. Aurelia learning to want good things for others even at her own expense is something I'm incredibly proud of.

I am proud of what our daughter has learned from being a foster sister. She has learned compassion and patience. She has learned to serve those around her. She has learned to love and want the best for others, even when it isn't what you want for yourself. 

The situations that necessitate having foster families like ours are difficult to talk about and often difficult to even fathom, but they can and should be talked about. We've found a way to talk about it with our daughter that has worked beautifully for us.

(Talking to Kids About Foster Care, pt. 2)

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