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Don’t Lose Your Joy

Don’t Lose Your Joy
 

When you first begin the foster parent journey, you may be surprised at the number of appointments, birth parent visits, staffings, and court dates that take their places on your calendar. It can, at times seem overwhelming, but it’s important that you remember why you signed up for the job in the first place. Foster parenting is a process that is meant to shape the lives of the children in your care and this isn’t an easy or a straightforward task. Keeping the focus on why you’re a foster parent will help you feel good about attending court dates and being a part of staffings. As long as you keep your focus on trying to achieve positive outcomes for the children in your care, doing the tasks that fall within your control and accepting those situations that are beyond it, you’ll feel good about what you’re doing and keep a steady stream of joy coming into your life.

 

If you’ve got more than one child in your care, your schedule may get tight at times. Some of the appointments on your calendar may be for stressful events like court dates and heavy decisions. Other appointments may seem unnecessary. It can be immensely helpful to “take the high road” in the way you think about these various appointments not matter what they’re for. By taking the high road, I mean thinking about things from above instead of thinking about them like you’re “down in it”. If you were looking down from a high place into the goings on in your foster family, you’d probably see things taking shape that would be important to you and your foster child. You’d see people calling to let the caseworker know that they were going to be present or absent for staffings. You’d see the judge being influenced by other cases and making decisions that are important for you child based on these influences. You’d see yourself perhaps getting frustrated or elated over seemingly random events. And, if you watched from a high place long enough, you’d certainly see how all of the events that transpired during the time when your foster child was in your care, were necessary and important for everyone involved.

 

As a foster parent, you are not in control of everything that happens to your foster child. This would be true even if your foster child became your adopted child. Depending on your religious convictions, you probably can justify what happens to your foster child on the basis of the idea that most of what happens in life does so for a reason. But, at times, it may be hard to see things this way. It may be easier to get angry at the judge or the caseworker and be outraged. Or perhaps it’s more your style to roll over a play dead…to give up. Whatever your reaction to seemingly negative events, it’s important that you do what you can to keep a little bit of joy in your back pocket.

 

The challenges faced in foster care belong not only to the children themselves, but to everyone involved in The System. When things don’t go as planned, consider the possibility that you’re learning important life lessons that will be helpful to you later on in some way. Perhaps there is a foster child in your future who will benefit from insights gained in past fostering situations. Rather than feeling wronged or angry, try to come up with ways that you could use what you’ve learned in some future, hypothetical situation. Then, when your brain asks, “Why?” you can remind yourself that there are lessons for you and for your children in everything that happens. And there always is a reason.

 

For example, perhaps you have a court date to decide whether the birth parents will be given custody back of a foster child who have been in your care for six months. You are completely against the birth parents getting custody back. You don’t feel like the birth parents have successfully completed the tasks they were given to sharpen their parenting skills. Your foster children are concerned about returning home with their birth parents who were abusive. It seems to you that if the judge decides to award custody back to the birth parents like this would be a huge mistake on his part. You have no control over the judge’s decision or the caseworker’s recommendation.

 

The judge awards custody back to the birth parents and you’re outraged. How could he do this? You’ve been the one at their parent-teacher conferences. You’ve been the one taking them to extracurricular activities and making sure they have their homework done. The birth parents have only shown up on time for visitations a couple of times. But the judge decided in their favor. It can be hard to understand why. Perhaps the judge makes “bad” decisions on a regular basis. Perhaps the caseworker never liked you and made a “bad” recommendation too. The key is to remember that the decisions that are made are the best decisions for this child. You do what you can for your foster children when they come into your life (a decision that probably seemed random and unfair to the birth parents). You try to maintain control over the things that are within your control in their lives. But, remember that shaping a child’s life can happen in small doses over short periods of time. The time that you spent with a foster child who goes back home to birth parents who have been given a second or sometimes a third chance with their children can have a huge impact in a positive way. One could argue that in some cases, a small dose of foster parenting is enough to make a lifelong change in a child’s life.

 

Perhaps the foster child goes home to his birth parents and realizes the big difference between his foster family and his birth family and makes the important decision to do things for his family the way his foster parents did. It’s possible and likely that foster children, as a result of their experiences (whatever they may be) in foster care are given opportunities to make important decisions that they otherwise might not spend time thinking about very much. As foster parents, we don’t have infinite wisdom. What we do have is infinite hope and infinite joy that we can bestow on our foster children whenever needed . Not losing joy means not losing perspective. Remember that the reason why you’re doing foster care is to shape your foster child’s life and provide him or her with positive opportunities. Every gesture you make, every appointment you fulfill, and every ounce of faith you can provide in difficult situations will be important to your foster child whether things go as planned or not. Don’t lose your joy when you’re in the midst of a challenge. Remember, that you’re shaping lives…

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