Foster care is not "normal" parenting. As an infertile couple, we have not actually tried "normal" parenting. Since becoming foster parents, we have been thankful for experienced parents who provide tips, encouragement, and "oh, my kids do that, too" feedback. Seriously, we have needed and received SO much help. Kids are kids. Parenting is parenting. However, foster care is not "normal" parenting, if there is such a thing. It's just different. Here are three of the ways foster care is different:
- Foster parents are parenting little strangers. - While "normal" parents know and grow with their children from Day 1, foster parents are suddenly parenting children they do not know. We missed the cute, innocent, helpless part and were thrown into the willful, unpredictable, energetic part. I am still surprised at the information that spills out of our boys' mouths. They have learned through experiences I will never know about. They are who they are because of those experiences, which adds a lot more guesswork to parenting.
- Foster parents have to navigate rages. - Kids throw fits. Kids have tantrums. Rages are different. Foster kids have been through trauma. In addition to being upset about a situation, they are coming to that situation with a past. In addition to being angry about not getting his way, a foster child may be out of control because that's exactly how he feels: like he has no control. He didn't ask to be removed from his family, but he was. He didn't ask to join a new family, but he has. Few adults would handle such a transition well. How exactly is a child supposed to process those feelings? Maybe throwing a rage will help.
- Foster parents have an end date in mind. - Foster care is supposed to be temporary. Children are supposed to live with their parents. They end up in foster care when their parents need to make life changes. Ideally, the parents will make the changes and the family will be reunited. Foster parents are for "in the meantime." We enroll children in school, not knowing if they will be our children by the time the school year begins. We make appointments, not knowing if we will even be involved by the determined date. The date of the next hearing is on our calendar, when a judge could reunite the family, keep the children in foster care until another hearing, or even terminate parental rights. We parent today, but we may not even be parents tomorrow.
Foster parenting is not "normal" parenting. The foster families around you could use extra prayer and support. If you want to know what you can do, just ask.