As foster parents we bring children into our home who have been mistreated, abused, ignored, and sometimes abandoned.
We bring our foster kids to church with us and it is awesome to see that people are interested in them. There have been lots of people who have spent time with our kids, babysat them, hugged them, and taught them. They are more than likely getting more attention now than they have in their lives but there are times when I see them practically begging for attention and people just don’t seem to see it. It makes my heart ache to see that happen.
As I mentioned in my last post, I think the thing that foster kids need the most is good healthy relationships. We as foster parents are fully committed to that but “it takes a village” as the old line goes. Here are a few things I think puts our kids at a disadvantage in relationship.
They don’t understand healthy relationships
I’m gonna go all “nature vs. nurture” on you here.
Children learn about their world from how people relate to them when they are young. Foster children experience relationships that are at best, unhealthy. Some are abused physically which in itself is not good. But can you imagine how confusing and stressful that is for a child. Our foster children have a hard time trusting adults. Sometimes they have had to be the “parent”. Some parents rely on their children for they own worth or self image. This teaches a child that they have to be the responsible one. They can’t count on the parent to be in charge. Some are emotionally abused by parents who tell them they are worthless or bad. Some are ignored or treated as if they don’t exist. Another type of abuse that really makes it hard for a child to have healthy relationships is sexual abuse. Children who have been sexually abused often seek inappropriate sexual attention because they think that is what is expected of them.
All of these are obviously inappropriate and teach children the wrong way to get attention. When we bring those kids into healthy relationships we need to have patience with them and help them to learn new ways of behaving. The problem we run into is when other people are interacting with the kids, they often see behaviors that are not normal (or age appropriate) and are very annoying at times. The average person is not sure how to respond and I think eventually they unconsciously avoid interacting with the foster children.
People don’t know how to interact with them
People in general are not used to the kinds of behaviors they see in foster children some times. They often want to be involved with them but it is not easy to understand their behaviors sometimes. It is confusing for people to see a 8 year old acting like a 3 year old or a 10 year old trying to act like a parent. I don’t think we need everyone to be a psychologist in order to interact with our kids, but it would sure be nice if they understood a little bit better.
I don’t know how many times I have wanted to explain their behavior by saying, “They are foster children.” I usually refrain from saying it because, seriously, how bad does that sound! I don’t mean that I am embarrassed by them, I just want people to know so they can give them a little bit of a break. Also, can you imagine how that must make a child feel to hear that?
There is no history
This is one of the more unfortunate things that foster kids endure. They are pulled from whatever they are used to, whether it was good or not doesn’t really matter. It was what they were used to. They are put into new situations and meet new people. It can be overwhelming for them as well as difficult. The other side of that coin came home to me the other day at a church get together. We were sitting with some friends who have children. Their son is close to the same age as our foster son so they are friends and were sitting together. Another good adult friend stopped by the table and started talking to the other boy. He has known him since he was born. The thing I noticed was that there was a conversation between the two and the adult didn’t even speak to my foster son. My foster son had been talking to his friend and then this adult came up and interrupted (from his perspective) and then didn’t say a word to him. I could see him trying to get into the conversation with no success. I don’t blame our friend because he does have a good relationship with the other boy.
I don’t know how to “fix” the problem, but I guess understanding is the first step, right?