Wow. If you want to be deeply saddened by humanity, take a foster parenting class.
Respite care is a time for foster parents to get a break, as well as for the foster kids to get a break, from each other so they don't reach a breaking point in the family dynamic. The program I'm going to provide respite care for actually provides it for children who are not yet in foster care but who are in danger of being placed outside their home and under state care. Basically, I'll be taking in one foster child from (most likely) Friday night through Sunday evening. Just one weekend a month to start, but probably never more than two weekends a month total. I might have the same child each month, it might be a different child every month.
So anyway, I attended 8 hrs of training yesterday and have 8 hours to go. The training yesterday was broken up in three sections-teaching about childhood development, child abuse and addressing challenging behaviors. The instructors were employees of the foster care network that I'm going through, but are also all foster parents themselves. This one couple that taught most of the day have been married for 38 years, have been fostering for 19 of them. They raised their own three children while taking in over 50 foster kids. They adopted two of the foster kids-we didn't hear about how they came to adopt those two. (Almost 100% of the kids who are in the foster program I'm going to sign up with will end up back with their families-which is the ultimate goal of their program.)
One of the most enlightening parts of the training was when we did a group exercise while talking about the reason foster kids often act out and are challenging to live with.
We listed out who the average (American) child might have in their inner circle:
parents, siblings, pets, grandparents, aunts/uncles/cousins, soccer coach, soccer teammates, best friend, neighbor, family friends, school, certain teachers.
And then they have other people in their lives, maybe not as close, but still part of their lives:
doctor, dentist, veterinarian, librarian, other teachers, grocery store, piano teacher, maybe someone they volunteer or work with.
Now look at what the average foster child has in their inner circle:
Not their parents-they only get to see them once a week now, if that.
Not siblings-they might be in their own foster care situation.
Not their pets.
Not other relatives.
Not their soccer team or school or teachers - foster children rarely get to stay int he same school district.
Not their best friend-they might get to call them, but they won't get to spend time together.
Other people in their lives:
So who do they have?? The only ones in their lives are people who are paid to be in their lives. Foster parents are paid, their court appointed advocate (CASA) is volunteer, but don't necessarily care about their happiness. They have a social worker - paid. They might have a case worker-paid.
And they have to join a new school and somehow fit in with the social cliques that are already in place, but might come in with a stigma of a "bad child" if people know they are in foster care. And studies show that kids in foster care often get three months behind by moving ONE time in foster care. They most likely can't work somewhere. They probably have very little unsupervised time.
And they are living with strangers.
Can you even imagine how horrifying that is?? No, me neither.
I have another all-day training in two weeks. After that is a very hefty interview process, a house visit, and then we start looking at matching me with some potential foster children to spend a weekend with me! Stay tuned for more....
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