Once you have a foster child, know your boundaries for you and your family. I struggled with this immensely with my 13 yr old (you can read more of the progress of this in our foster journey, That's My Girl, Who will Stand? and I'm Back!). I have deep respect for other foster families that have pledged to their foster children, that their home would be their last stop. I SO desperately wanted to be that for her. Perhaps, if it were ten years down the road when my husband and I have had more experience and didn’t have two young children, it would have been different story… But in this situation, with a broken heart, I discovered “our line.”
What is your line?
You could end up having children come through your home with a variety of issues. When considering your line you need to consider you and your spouse’s needs as well as that of the other children living in your home, biological or current foster children. Think about all these people when you make this tough decision.
How much is too much? What if your kid runs away? Spews every word in the book at you? Throws your favorite piece of china that you inherited from your grandma, smashing it into a million pieces on the floor? Hurts another child in your home? I am certainly not painting everyday reality here, rather, I am trying to help you imagine the worst case scenario. If any of these things happened, would that be too much? There is no wrong answer here. Just be real. If it is too much, what is your plan of action? If that is not your line, what steps will your family take to get through that situation?
Look around your home and imagine worst case scenarios. This is difficult but important, so that:
1. You can take necessary steps to safeguard against that from ever taking place Example: In any home with kids it is probably not a good idea to have that original Tiffany Lamp sitting on a dainty table next to your couch. :) Take the necessary steps to protect important items that are breakable.
2. If anything were to happen you already have a plan of action to follow instead of responding out of shock, fear and raw emotion.
Have a heart to heart conversation with your spouse (or whoever your #1 support person is) to determine what exactly your line is, and from there, what your game plan would be. What do you do in that moment that “the line” is crossed? What do you do from that point forward? As a foster family, you will always have access to an emergency on call social worker who can walk you through tough situations. You also do have the right to put in a seven days notice, and in severe cases the agency can pull the child immediately and put them in respite until they find another suitable home. Please don’t take such a decision lightly. It is always hard on the child (and on you) to have to move again, yet sometimes there is no other choice. Whatever your plan of action is, run it through in your mind a million times so that if the crazy happens you can respond in a calm and loving way.
I hope today's post didn't scare you away. As I said before, foster kids are just kids that need someone to love them, believe in them, walk with them. If these scenarios even occur, most are the result of a lifetime of adults breaking their trust. After having that as your foundation, it is terrifying to bond and you will see them do what they can to test you, to push you away, to safeguard themselves so they won't get hurt again. If you can walk that line and see them through to the other side you will be the blessed witness of the most beautiful of transformations.
Whatever your line is, please move forward, informed (which I hope I was able to do some of here), prepared and supported.
Tomorrow: Choosing to Foster - Preparing Your Children for the Experience