The holidays can be a difficult season for children in foster care. It’s also an emotional time for the parents caring for them. But if this isn’t you, there’s still so much you can do that’s helpful. Here are some ideas on how others can serve families like ours during the holidays. Feel free to share this post with them. That’s why we wrote it…. 🙂
It was a chilly winter afternoon shortly following Thanksgiving. The nights were getting longer and the days chillier. My family was decorating the tree, drinking vegan egg-nog (yes, that is a real thing) and rocking to our Christmas playlist. The doorbell rang and six of my eight children ran to answer it. Stumbling over each other and laughing, they nearly fell into the door. Mike and I hollered from the other room, “Wait before you open it!” We scooped up our 3-year-old and went to see who our surprise visitor might be. I flipped on the front porch light and unlocked the door to see a family standing on our front step holding a brightly wrapped gift. Mentally I checked through my calendar. Oh no, this must be the family delivering the gift from my son’s biological father. I had completely forgotten. I extended my hand toward the mom and greeted her, welcoming her inside. She was friendly but seemed to feel uncomfortable. The dad shook our hands as well and their three teens smiled awkwardly at my kids.
When you’re part of a big family, you often face a big space problem. We’re routinely asked how we are able to have so many children and live in a small house. The answer? We create special space.
When I left for college, my younger brother moved into my room. Immediately. I’m not sure the over-packed van had pulled out of the driveway before he had all of my belongings stuffed into a cardboard box. I’m exaggerating of course but that is the nature of a large family. There is always someone next in line. Waiting for the coveted bedroom, hand-me-down jeans, or a turn driving the family car. I wouldn’t change the way I was raised for anything.
The world often looks at a child like mine, who suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), as a hopeless case. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. He is a warrior. And he is overcoming this disorder every single day!
My son sat slumped next to the front door in a defeated posture.
“What’s wrong kiddo?” I said. “We’re going to church and you won’t tie my shoe for me!” he shouted back. I jumped, surprised at his response. He hadn’t asked for help. To my knowledge, he hadn’t even been sitting there that long. I crouched down next to him. I almost yelled but remembered quickly that my son’s brain doesn’t work like other children, he has FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) and his frustration level goes from 0-60 without warning. I took a breath again and asked if I could show him how to do it with one shoe and he could do it with the other shoe. “No!” he shouted again. I stood up and calmly reminded him that shouting hurts my feelings, I would be happy to help when he was ready.
You get the call from a case manager asking you to take in a teenager recently placed in foster care. Or you’ve chosen to adopt a pre-teen. Now what? How do you successfully set boundaries for them? How do you ensure you and the child are on the same page when it comes to respect, guidelines, and family values?
We didn’t wade into the shallow end of a heated pool, so-to-speak, when we began our foster care journey. We were pretty much tossed into the deep end. Our license was completed in a very short 4 weeks and the calls started rolling in. We were often unprepared, which is to be expected. This was also very much the case when we took in our first teenager. While we had served as youth pastors for nearly a decade before our first teen arrived, everything we thought we knew about them went right out of the window when we were suddenly parenting one!
When it comes to adopting older children there’s often a belief that, because they’ve been through so much, it’s impossible to form a healthy bond with them. We’ve discovered something different.
In our 15 years of parenting we have had the honor of participating in the lives of 23 children. Most of them returned home or went on to be adopted by their forever families, eight of them have stayed forever. Before I became a parent of an older child, I didn’t think much about bonding and attachment. I am attached to my own parents, brothers and sisters. I have not personally had reason to question my place or belonging in the world. When we adopted our first daughter at birth, we bonded quite naturally.
Often, when you’re in the trenches of parenting children with major special needs, the most important relationship you have begins to suffer. How do you keep your marriage healthy in the midst of very difficult circumstances with your children?
I met my husband 20 years ago this winter. I saw him across the lobby of the student center at our college campus. I hoped he would notice me and when he did I shook his hand and smiled the warmest smile I could muster on that cold January evening. He asked me out a few weeks later and I was excited to get to know him. From that moment on, we enjoyed spending as much time together as possible. We studied at the library, took walks around campus, visited the art museum where admission was free. We didn’t need to do anything fancy. Time together was all we wanted.
Believe it or not, summer is the perfect time to start planning for a new school year. A few weeks ago we shared a podcast episode entitled How To Form Healthy Partnerships With Your Child’s School. As a follow up, we wanted to share additional steps you can take now, to form a solid connection with your child’s school before the new school year begins.
It’s almost summer here in Indiana! My kids are planning trips to the pool, playdates and sleepovers. I’m tempted to get caught up in all the summer fun daydreams. But before I can break out the flip flops, I remember I’ve got to start planning for the next school year. I’m the mom of a few children with special needs. School can be stressful for our family, summer is a wonderful time for us to reconnect, build our relationship and just plain relax. It’s also a time to get prepared for the inevitable start to the new school year.
We talk often about forming positive relationships with birth families. But what do you do when you can’t get past the anger you feel toward them?
If you know us, you know we are strong advocates for open adoption. We often write and speak in favor of open relationships with a child’s birth family. In our own family we have regular contact with biological parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even brothers and sisters. We feel that if it is possible and safe to have an open relationship with a child’s birth family, you should.