A foster parent shares experiences

The Ministry of Community Affairs
and Housing and the Department of Children and Family Services are
collaborating on Child Month 2010, under the theme: Loving Our Children through
Today’s Challenges. A series of articles to highlight the month will be
published during May.

The
decision to open up our home and lives to welcome a child in need of care did
not come easily. We engaged in much discussion and prayer while trying hard to focus
on the positive rather than the negative.

Interestingly
our family devotions for that week was on fostering and as if God wanted us to
have no doubt about His plans for us, Dr. James Dobson on his morning show
Focus on the Family spoke at length on fostering and adoption.

He
interviewed the Christian music artist Stephen Curtis Chapman (one of our
favourite musicians) who had gone through the adoption process. The answer was
clear to us and we placed our “yes we will” decision in the hands of God.

Recognising
that we do not live in a vacuum, we shared our decision with our families and
friends both on island and off. All of them felt that we would be a blessing to
any child who came into our care.

The
Department of Children and Family Services staff walked us through the
application process and through many of the scenarios that brought children to
the stage where they needed a surrogate family. After hearing about the sad realities
that many children faced, we were then sure that we had submitted to the right
calling by fostering.

However,
all the advice we got, never prepared us for the reward and the challenges that
the child brought with him as he came home to us.

The
first two weeks of getting to know each other, understanding the rules and
routine of the house and habits of each other proved to be quite interesting.
While the experience was strange for us, we always remembered the child’s
history. He came from an environment where he lacked supervision, care and
guidance, and did whatever he wanted. Therefore, we had to stand firm in our
position where basic rules were concerned.

The
true challenges came when the time of testing the boundaries, flouting the
rules and plain disrespect came in. These were dealt with as teachable moments
and the outcome was always very interesting, because we recognised some of
these behaviours would not be unlearned overnight.

In
our household, no one parent dealt with discipline or rewards, we worked on it
together. We tried to relate to the spiritual, social, educational and
recreational aspects of this person, making sure that whatever we did helped to
develop one of these areas.

Grounded
in our faith, we also worked closely with the school, the counsellors and the
social workers, giving regular updates on all the joys and concerns to ensure
that we were all on the same page.

While
there were challenges, with humour, structure, clear rules and guidelines
together with consistency from both parents, we chipped away at some of the
negative behaviours and brought light to a person who never had the opportunity
to be a child.

Another
challenge came when his biological extended family got involved whether at
school, a home visit or on one of our family outings somewhere. It was as if
there was a struggle inside this child to do what he now knew was right as
opposed to listening to his family enticing him back to old habits.

And
family visits, while needed, proved to be unsettling for him not to mention me.
We always had to reinforce the basic ground rules after every visit.

Yet
the “learning process and ah ha moments” on both of our parts was something we
treasured and celebrated with joy and excitement. We were able to draw on our
creative side especially when it came to discipline.

Even
though he was eventually returned to his biological parents and is no longer
with us, we continue to share a good relationship with this child who has so
much potential to be an exemplary upstanding citizen of these islands.

Throughout
this whole experience we became aware of the awesome responsibility that is
placed upon parents to do right by their kids.

We
have also learnt to appreciate all that our parents did and continue to do for
us; we recounted the many little things we took for granted that they did for
us. And we are eternally thankful that we got a chance to share some of what we
were taught as children with this child.

We felt blessed by both God and this child as we
shared in his life, learning his fears and concerns and giving guidance to his
future. We treasure our first call to be foster parents, so much so, that we
have done it again and again.

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