A Funny Thing Happened While Doing Foster Care
In this installment of Foster Talk, Heather and Megan answer the question, “What’s a funny thing that’s happened to you while fostering?”
Not a whole lot is terribly funny in the foster care world. It is too full of heartbreak, ups and downs, unexpected news, delayed court dates, and intense trauma. There also happens to be a lot of awkward moments though, too. And with the right lens, those awkward moments could even be seen as funny … that is, AFTER the fact.
This past summer, I was at the pool with my three children- two biological and one foster. The older ones were off swimming together and I was left following around our little guy in the baby pool. As it typically happens, our little guy started playing with another little boy in the pool, so I started the conversation with his father.
“How old is your son?”
“Oh he’s 21 months.”
“He’s cute. That’s a fun, but busy age!”
“Oh yes. Your son is cute, too. How old is he?”
“Um…. Uhh…. Well let’s see…”
I completely drew a blank on his age. I started trying to remember his birthday and all these other dates started interrupting my thoughts. During this awkward pause of my completely awkward inability to remember his age, the father interrupts me.
“HA! You don’t know his age! That’s funny. Is he even yours??!?”
And there you have it! An already awkward conversation was kicked up a notch.
Having the right outlook helps these and so many other types of awkward situations. Knowing when to laugh at the crazy comments and when to turn the other cheek becomes second nature when you are a foster parent. Equally as important is knowing how to talk about them with your children. Helping the child to see that awkward can be funny sometimes, and having the foresight to talk through those situations when it’s embarrassing or hurtful is so important. Unfortunately these situations happen – a lot. But knowing that and having a plan to address them always keeps you one step ahead of the awkwardness.
Part of my role is to provide supervisory support to our on-call workers. These folks get calls from foster parents who are struggling with medical and behavioral issues, visitation questions or concerns and also handle referrals from the counties that are after business hours.
To set the scene: A new foster family just received a placement of a four-year-old boy who was placed with them due to proximity to his biological home to aid in visitation. Our on-call worker was at the home supporting the family.
The four-year-old had been dropped off at the foster home by his county worker, who happened to take a route which passed a store which the boy recognized. He decided that he was going to climb the fence in an effort to escape and go to his biological home. I got the call and was asked what they should do, and I asked how big he was. The on-call worker confirmed that he was the size of a typical four-year-old.Now I’mpicturing three adults watching helplessly as a four year old is trying to climb a fence to escape. So I asked why none of the adults were taking him off the fence and into the house. The worker stated that we are a “hands-off program” and she did not think they could touch him. I suggested that one of the foster parents take him off the fence and carry him into the home. I then suggested that he be distracted with a cartoon and some snacks. He was able to eventually calm down enough to get settled for the night.
Sometimes we forget that foster kids are kids and have behaviors that need to be addressed as you would any other child. I always encourage families to connect with another family who has a child of a similar age so that they are talk about the behavior they are seeing to see if they are typical or a sign of a more serious issue related to trauma. As an adoptive parent, I always made sure to have this connection and was often surprised that my child’s behavior proved to be better than a typical child of the same age.