There are many other things you can learn from your foster children if you are open to learning them. Thank you to all the foster children who have taught me so much. Thank you!
6 Things You Can Learn From Your Foster Child
Adults still have much to learn.
Perhaps the most important thing foster children can teach you is who they are. Only they know who they truly are inside, beyond their name, gender, age, and case file. No one else knows them better than they do, so listen to them and learn.
With a call or placement for a child you may get a lot of information or you may receive only their gender and age, which may not even be accurate. Regardless of what information you receive, you can learn the most about him or her from the child. Sometimes it is helpful to know a child’s history because it can explain why they respond in certain ways or explain specific behaviors. This information may also help you understand things so you can better meet their needs. Keep in mind though that a child is so much more than history and diagnoses. A child is more than just how teachers, physicians, therapists, caseworkers and files have labeled him/her. Make the effort to learn who your foster child really is behind the mask. Allow your child a chance to start over with a blank slate in your home. Give space to write a new script for life and to show you who your child is and who he/she is meant to be.
Let’s face it, a lot of patience (and caffeine) is needed to raise kids, at least that has been my experience. If you didn’t have any patience before you started parenting, there are plenty of opportunities to learn some from your child. You will probably find yourself waiting for your infant to roll over, smile for the first time, or finally fall asleep. You will most likely be waiting for your toddler to poop in the potty, pick up their toys, or finish supper while they decide to eat their green peas one at a time (and you know they are doing it just to drive you crazy). When your children are older you may be waiting for them to get ready for school, do homework, or to come home from a friend’s house or from a date.
Foster parents will also have lots of waiting at multiple medical appointments, therapies, court dates, and visits. Then there is the everyday waiting to find out what will be the outcome of the case. Foster families wait to plan vacations, holidays, events, and anything too far in advance because the future is unknown. You may also be waiting for attachments to form between you and the child. Some children need a lot of time and space before feeling safe enough to trust. Be prepared to learn a lot of patience from your foster children because it will be beneficial to your entire family.
After foster parent training, I felt prepared for the journey. I had completed over 40 hours of training, talked to many other families about their experiences, and even read some articles and books; so I thought I knew what to expect and how to handle everything. What I found out though was that the classroom and a few books can’t prepare you for everything. I didn’t know the extent of abuse and neglect that many children experience. I wish I never knew what these children have been through because it is horrible. I wish that these things never happened to children.
I didn’t know how much some foster kids could still love and miss the people who had hurt them most. I also didn’t know how much my heart would hurt to see one of my foster children in such pain. I have learned things from foster children that I wish I never knew, but it’s worth it if it enables me to help and love them more.
All foster children have experienced some amount of trauma. The effects trauma has on people varies from person to person obviously, but I’ve witnessed many children overcome their circumstances with such resiliency I never would have imagined. I’ve seen them pick themselves up again and again after life knocked them down. Foster children can teach us about strength, perseverance, and resiliency. They have lost everything yet continue to live each day, move forward, and even learn to trust and love again.
I thought I knew all there was to know about love. I love God, my family, my husband, friends, and my baby in heaven. What I didn’t know is how much I could love these children I had never met, did not share any DNA with, and may only live with us for a short time. I had hoped I could fall in love with them quickly, but I never imagined just how instantaneous that connection would be sometimes. I loved them almost as soon as I received the call that they were coming.
What surprised me even more though is the love these children taught me to have for birth families. This love did not happen instantly like the love for the children, but the feelings did develop over time. The love grew when I saw a little boy love his grandmother so deeply. It did not matter what he had been through or how long it had been since he saw her. I could tell his heart would never stop missing her and loving her.
I saw another little boy light up and smile when he would see his sister. I saw a birth family show love and gratitude that their prayers had been answered for the child to be in a safe and loving home. I saw other birth families struggling and not knowing how to parent, yet I could still see that they loved their children even when their actions don’t show it. Everything I’ve witnessed from my foster children has deepened my love not only for the children, but also for their families.
As a foster parent, the children taught me more about myself than I ever knew before. I have learned a lot about what my strengths and weaknesses are. First, I learned that I do not have as much patience as I thought I did. I also learned that I require way more sleep than mothers of young children typically get. But I also learned that I have a lot of compassion for children and other people in general. I’ve always been somewhat of a sensitive and caring-type person, but I never knew this level of compassion was inside of me until my foster children showed it to me.
I thought I knew how much my heart would break when I had to say goodbye to a foster child. Unfortunately, I was pretty accurate about that, but I didn’t know that I would still survive after the heartbreak. I learned that I am strong enough to endure heartbreak and able to continue to love and open my home and heart to more kids.
Sherri Eppley is a Storyteller for adoption.com. She is a registered nurse and currently a full-time stay at home mom. Her and her husband have adopted their son and have been foster parents since 2014. She is on the steering team for her local MOPS group, attends Crossroads Church and just loves helping people anyway she can.
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