questionsfoster parenting - positive or negative…

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I have friends who were foster parents for an infant for a few months a toddler and preschooler (siblings) for about a year and a half and then a toddler who they adopted.

They always said that fostering was difficult but also amazing. They had the opportunity to be a part of these kids' lives, to step in and help a family in a time of need. When they got the siblings, the preschooler didn't really get the concept of playing. They had to teach this child what toys were and how to play. Makes you wonder what their lives were like with their biological parents. Those kids really flourished when they were in the care of my friends.
The hardest part was seeing the children leave their family. They were glad that the parents got things together and the family was able to be reunited.

I don't have kids, so I don't know how a 5 year old would react, but I would seriously think about what the effects would be if a child returned to their parents after an extended period of time.

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Great question, recently I've been thinking about this myself. I have been married for five years, and my wife really wants to have kids, but is on some medication for other problems that would cause problems with the fetus. I hope we get to the point where we can have our own childern, but in the mean time we have thought about maybe fostering. I don't think my wife would be able to give the kids back though, I think it would break her heart to see them leave.

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@gt0163c: Thank you so much for taking the time to write that. The experience your friends had is something that I would love to be part of. You mention "difficult but also amazing" and that is what I have hoped to expect. I think that almost all (if not all) children in that situation will have their difficulty levels (outside of the "normal" - for lack of a better word- child). I can imagine that letting go would be the hardest part. That is one of my main questions that I am asking myself - if I could actually let go. I am trying to look at it from the positive side though, as you have mentioned, for the fact that they could be reunited with their parents.

I asked my son what he thought about the idea of bringing another child into the house but not sure on how to explain to him about that child eventually leaving. We are very prepared to adopt if the situation arises, but you never know when that will happen - could be the first child, could be later down the road.

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@ruger9mm: I can understand where you are coming from. As mentioned above, I am trying to decide if I would have the strength to let a child go. They say that "getting attached" to a child is a good thing because one of the most important things they need is love and learning how to properly form relationships. But letting go after becoming close is never easy. Hopefully you will get the opportunity to have a child together one day - and I wish the best in doing so. Children are such a blessing.

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Make sure you're being a foster parent for the right reasons and, of course, your spouse is in COMPLETE agreement and you have the finances. Your post didn't mention anything about wanting to help a child but it did mention a playmate for you 5-year old child. I'm sure you're not looking at the foster child as just a playmate for your own child, but if you are, get a dog.

The statistics on foster children are pretty bad - generally lower in development compared to their peers - educationally, psychologically, and emotionally - and much of that has to do with the number of placements. A foster child is placed some 3-4 times in his/her life and that's pretty disruptive.

As for your own child, you'll not only have to address a new person in the house/family but also when h/she leaves and what that will do.

Like anything, make sure you know what you're getting into and even the history of the child.

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A relative of mine fostered and then later adopted 3 children. While they became very attached to the children, adopted them and would not take back what they did I cannot say it has not been without problems. In most cases these children come from problem homes and have been exposed to a wide range of issues at a very young life. The first child they started fostering at 6-7 years old. His (single) birth mother lost him due to recurring drug problems and in the end was never able to stay clean to regain custody. This weighed heavily on him through out his childhood....get clean, visitation, fail a test, visitation taken away. By the age of 12 or so the roller coaster ended and he was allowed to be adopted. The psychological scares however were already done and he had problems from this. Through his life it has been 2 steps forward 3 steps back in everything he has done. He has a good heart but whenever something is going well he would lash out at it and make it fail.

(cont.)

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Unfortunately he developed a drinking problem not long after High School and then moved to drugs. He is now on the same roller coaster his birth mother was on. It is unfortunate but being around him from a young age you could just see that he would never believe anything good would last and would find a way to destroy it before it would disappoint him. He then turned to unfortunate way to deal with his troubles.

The next 2 children they foster and then adopted are a brother and sister they took in at 8 and 7 respectively (taken in when the first child was around 12). Their birth mother was also someone with a drug problem past however was already removed from the picture. They did not want to see roller coaster effects on kids directly again. The daughter (now 25) was relatively problem free. She has some minor learning disabilities and was not "college bound" but is a very sweet girl that has found steady work since graduating High School and has done well in life.
(cont.)

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Her brother on the other hand had major issues. At time of fostering and adoption he was diagnosed as having ADHD. This however proved to be inaccurate by age 10. He actually has a rare form of autism that masks itself as ADHD in childhood where the person never mentally develops past the age of 6-8. By age 12 he had violent temper tantrums that continued to become more violent and frequent as he grew. Picture a 6 year old completely loosing their mind in a temper but being adult sized and not having the mental limitations on their strength. By 15 they could no longer control him and the specialty schools in the area could not deal with his condition. They researched a specialty live away school/facility that specialized in this condition 4-5 hours away. After much work were able to get him enrolled. It was the best move for him, with much work they have been able to at first shorten outburst length, then frequency and then actions during. It went from throwing objects (cont.)

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around the house and physical altercations to more typical child like outbursts (think "why can't I have the new toy!" instead of crying, kicking, screaming and psychically lashing out tantrums). With this he now has a social life and friends at "school" and can visit home at holidays for long weekend without problems instead of early overnights turning into nightmares. He has transferred to their adult area and done well. He has mad a myriad of medical problems of late (most believed to be caused by failed psychological medications in his teens). However it is unlikely he will ever live outside this facility.

While fostering can be a rewarding experience please be aware many of these children have major problems from their former surroundings and it can be a very large struggle. It is not just "babysitting" a child for a few months. These children also are looking for someone to love and be accepted by and both side can become very attached very quickly. (cont.)

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Please take into deep consideration the implication of bringing this child into your life and letting them into yours. Open your discussion to how you would handle both having the child longer and having to give the child up after a few months. While the placement might be for 6 months, what happens if the child cannot be returned to their birth parents at that time? Would you care for them longer and if so how would you deal with giving the child up after caring for it for a year +. Be prepared to deal with the problems that present themselves whether it be "simple" abandonment issues to having more major medical problems. While the parents of the 3 I spoke of do not regret their decision to take these children in they have openly admitted it continues to be a constant struggle with the 2 boys. The issues you may have to deal with can run much deeper then simply caring for a child and you have to be prepared for all that presents itself.

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I'll try to give you the short version.

We adopted my cousin who went through the foster care system. They told us he was in 2 homes with ADD and it everything was good. Turns out he went through 13 foster homes in 2 years (ages 3-5) before we adopted him, developed reactive attatchment disorder and has been a complete nightmare to deal with 40% of the time. He has good days but when his bad days hit they hit hard. We've probably put over 100k into therapy in the last 7 years and I don't know how muc that's helping. With all the drama he has caused it has turned my mom into an emotional wreck, making her deal with things brought up some serious repressed memories from her youth and that's messed her up really bad. My middle brother developed depression was suicidal for a few years and my youngest brother had some problems but he's better now. I've been staying at home to help pay the bills but can't any more (going insane) and now I'm worried my folks will lose the house...

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This has given me a lot of resentment for the foster care system and
I guess I'm just trying to give you a heads up that even with the best intentions you will probably get a lot of kids with similar stories. Turns out stories like this aren't too uncommon when dealing with foster children.

I'm pretty sure if my parents knew this is what they were getting into when the state told them "he's just a kid who needs love and has ADD" they wouldn't have signed up for adoption.

This probably makes my fambly sound terrible, but my parents were amazing and I'm resentful of how broken up our fambly has become in the last seven years. Think long and hard, these are kids you should have to take care of until they find a permanent home. You shouldn't be allowed to just pass them off to the next house when you get tired of dealing with them. Sorry again for the bias but I really really hate the foster care system for what it's done to my fambly.

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@first2summit: That is a good point! I am not just wanting to foster because of a playmate for my child. I stated that because I do have a 5 year old son and thought that was pertinent information to include. My husband and I have been tossing the idea around for about a year now. We are to the point of actually seriously considering taking the steps to make it happen. The place that we have researched and have references from includes the complete history of each child. We have experience with children with negative behaviors and feel that we can positively deal with such behavior (and expect it). We just see that there is such a big need for this type of support and we want to become part of it – eventually adopting a child one day as well. Thank you for your very practical input.

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I worked in a DCF residential facility for kids with emotional/behavioral disorders. Some of the kids were in foster homes, but about half were residential because they were not suitable for foster care. After that experience I made 2 decisions: 1 - I would not foster a child close to my child's age due to the experiences I saw of child predation (after being sexually abused). 2 - I would not foster an age I had not yet parented (so I know what "relatively normal" development looks like. It's good to have a baseline.

My parents fostered a teenager after I left the house, and it was very hard. She had many appointments/therapies, had huge problems in school, and was much more interested in drinking/drugs than my brother & I had been. It was very, very different from their earlier parenting experiences. Sadly, she had to go to a residential facility next - she had needs that couldn't be met by fostering.

(cont'd)

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1. When you are in training, they should tell you about some of the negative possibilities that can occur with the placement. If they don't run from that agency. And when they tell you these negatives don't think "Oh, that only happens to other people" there will be unforeseen negatives with the children, with CPS, and with the agency.
2. Read and Reread the agency rule/policies, knowing these can eliminate many headaches, if you don't understand a policy get clarification before you have a child in your home.
3. Bio parents will complain no matter how good of a foster parent you are. If the kid shows up to a parental visit with a bruise, it does not matter to the bio parent if it happened on the playground, and it does not matter how a big a screw up the bio parents is they won't see there own faults only yours.
4. Create a list and keep it with you at all times, of questions to ask before you accept a placement, and get answers before you accept the placement.
See Con't

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For a happier story...

My friends recently fostered a 3yo girl for a little over a year. It was great. They have a 5yo boy, and the kids got along great. The little girl was very sweet and at such a young age had very few issues. She was able to be reunited with her biological parents, which was hard for my friends, but they were glad they had the time with her and that she had a year of security and love.

It's time consuming, tiring, financially draining, but a very rewarding experience from what I have seen. I am interested, but right now I barely have space for my 3 kids in the house! :) Maybe when they are older. I would definitely be interested in young kids, though.

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5. There is alot of ongoing paperwork, keep up with it. Failure to keep up the paperwork will start a cycle of pissed of people, which will come to you.
6. These kids are not pets!!! The reason so many foster kids end up bouncing from placement to placement is the foster families fault. The foster parents with good intentions, get into the program, get a kid, they did not the heed the warnings from class, they decide the placement is not working and they want the child gone. This only reinforces to the foster child "you are not loved, and you are too much trouble" it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy for the child.
7. DO foster if you can love the children unconditionally, even beyond when they leave your home. Just because kids go back to the bio parents, does mean that their life will all be good. Some parents work the system just to get the kids back so they can collect child support and get the welfare benefits. So you may be to only positive that child has in their young life

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Thank you all for sharing experiences (good and bad) because reading them does help a lot. It is a matter that should not be taken lightly. I think that what everyone has said here today is consistent with everything that we have come across in our research. I think we will definitely focus our efforts and look to foster/adopt a child under 3 or 4 instead of older. Thanks again for all the responses so far. I will keep an eye out for other posts as well.

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I'm so glad that you are considering becoming a foster parent, and that you posted this. While I have not fostered a child, myself, I have volunteered or consulted with several organizations who manage foster care, and have friends who have had both good and bad experiences. The most positive story I have is about friends who had one biological child and were unable to have more. They fostered a number of children and eventually adopted not one but FIVE of the little boys they had fostered. A couple of them have had medical or developmental concerns, but my friends have worked through it all are incredibly happy with their decision to do this. I volunteered for some time with a local agency who manage therapeutic adoptions. This is definitely more challenging, but there is such a need for families willing to do this. Our newspaper runs photos of kids in need of foster homes and I am always tempted by those with similar issues to my own son's. God bless you for considering this!

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Forgot to add earlier: Find a foster care support network in your area. These people will already know the ropes and can offer sound advice from experience, and they know where to get specialized services, and where to avoid.

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Another thought: many areas have both short-term and long-term foster care families. The short-term placements, which often involve infants and toddlers, are usually emergency situations where a home for a night, a few days, or a week or two is needed while other arrangements can be made. A friend of mine does this sort of fostering; she loves the ability to provide safe haven for a short period of time without having to deal with the problems any long-term placement involves. In my area, emergency homes are difficult to find. Perhaps that's an option for you to consider?

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@magic cave: Thanks for bringing that up. I will look into that around our area.

@dw1771: Yes, I am currently searching for a group so I can find out more information. Thank you for all your input on this subject - it is greatly appreciated! :)