04 Jan Talking to Your Kids About Fostering
Foster care is not a simple concept for some adults, so you can imagine it might be even harder for a young child to understand. When parents decide to take the leap into fostering a child, it affects more than just them if they already have other children in the home. What is important to remember in this decision is that, if parents being led by the Holy Spirit decide to foster, God does not have something contrary for their children. God has entrusted those parents as the caretakers of the children in their home, and in humility and obedience, they bring their children with them as they follow the Lord’s calling.
So, practically speaking, how does one tell their children about fostering? What is enough information? How much is too much?
For starters, children can comprehend a lot more than adults often give them credit. Children also crave what is known and they want their caregivers to be the ones who are giving them that stability. Talking with your children about fostering is important before a child in foster care is in your home, the day they come in your home, and as much as you can once the child in foster care is a part of your family. The more they hear about it and talk about it, the more their little brains are putting pieces together in their head.
With families who are adopting a child, it is advised that the adoptive parents talk with their child about his/her biological family, adoption, and forever family as much as possible; it’s called normalizing. The more you talk about it, the more normal it is for that child. She doesn’t have to wonder about why she is in a new home, when she got there, or how she fits into the family because it has been explained to her in detail and multiple times. Similarly, you will want to normalize foster care as well.
Obviously, discretion is necessary. It is not suggested that you give adopted children, especially young ones, explicit details about the abuse they suffered or the mistakes his/her biological parents may have made. Similarly, it would not be wise to sit down with children in your home and tell them that some parents physically harm or neglect their children and that’s why other people have to take care of them. It might look something like this:
“Hey Johnny, your mom and I have been talking and praying and we want to help children in need. Sometimes, there are mommies and daddies that don’t do what they should to keep their kids safe… You know how you have rules, and when you don’t follow them, there is a consequence? That’s because those rules are to keep you safe, and we really love you, so we want you to be safe.” Johnny nods. “Well, there are also people that make rules to make sure parents are following the rules to keep their kids safe. And when they can’t, there are consequences. Sometimes those consequences mean someone else has to take care of their kids for some time, while they get some help so they can keep their kids safe again. We want to be those people that help a family while the parents need to work on things and the child needs a place to stay.”
This might be followed with asking your children how they feel about another child or children coming into the home. It will help the transition if they feel like they are part of the process.
Most likely, lots of questions will come up, which is a good thing. It’s something that should be talked about frequently, and more and more as it becomes closer to when a child is placed in your home. Then, once a child in foster care becomes part of your family, it is likely that more questions will come up, and some for which you do not have answers. This is okay, too, and an opportunity to remind your children that while we don’t know everything that’s going to happen in the future, God does, and we trust Him with that. Additionally, you can remind your children that any child brought into your home will be loved and cared for without time limits. This will be reassuring for all children in the home.
It is likely going to be messy, but the best thing you can do for your children is be honest with them— about what you do know and what you don’t. With what you don’t know, they will sense your peace and security when you trust the Lord.
*This post was written by Becky Wickes. Becky is a Family Coach with Stand Up Eight, a program designed to bring trauma-informed behavior management into the homes of adoptive families. Becky has been trained in Circle of Security, an early intervention program, and Natural Lifemanship, an equine-assisted psychotherapy. She is also a certified Trust-Based Relational Intervention Practitioner. Becky is a Court-Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, volunteer who advocates for the best interest of children while they are in the foster care system. Outside of the child welfare world, Becky is a CrossFit coach, a coffee snob, and thinks Austin is the greatest city on earth. She and her husband, Jon, enjoy rock climbing and trying out new restaurants.