It has been my experience as a social worker that in the hustle and bustle of reaching the ultimate goal in child welfare … safety, well-being and permanency, we tend to overlook the gems that have helped us along the way. Although what we do as social workers in terms of case planning, coordinating and monitoring is critical to the stability of our clients, we can never forget that without families offering their homes, energy and time we would not be able to provide our services. It is with that in mind that I have set out to interview four extraordinary women and share their stories and advice as foster parents with KidsPeace.
My first interview was with a woman I would describe as hardworking, feisty and committed. She has been a foster parent with KidsPeace for five years. I have had the pleasure of knowing her for going on three years. What first struck me about her was how truthful she was with EVERYONE. It was refreshing and inspiring to hear the truth about a situation and then hear, “so what are we going to do about it?” As I took on this project of capturing the essence of KidsPeace, she was one of the first parents to come to mind.
Who inspires you as a foster parent? The kids. You hear a lot of different things and a lot of different views on what makes these kids do what they do. I like to see firsthand what motivates them and then see how with consistency they are able to grow and change. You don’t have to do much more than be consistent with them. A lot of people think it takes a lot of work or effort to raise a foster child but it doesn’t, it just takes being consistent with them because they really appreciate it.
What are some of the needs that you have seen with foster youth? They need a lot of different things. But the most important thing is consistency. They need role models, someone to show them rather than always telling them. We get so caught up in telling them things that we never seem to think of how important it is to show them how to do things. And if we can do the first two things then we have demonstrated the third thing that they need, which is love. But a lot of times adults get it wrong. We think we are to give love or say love when we need to show these kids love by being patient and kind. We cannot expect them to love us just because we are their foster parents and that they know they are loved just because we tell them.
If you could talk to policymakers and taxpayers about where funding should go for foster care, what would you tell them? I’d tell them that the stipend we receive covers their basic daily living needs so it is not about putting more money in the hands of the foster parents. It is about putting money into sponsoring foster children in programs and activities that help provide them with a full life. Education is not just what they learn in school but what they are able to experience outside of school as well. If we are to give them the best chance in this world, we have to give them access to the best activities that help support their growth and development. And if there was something they wanted to do to help support the families, then fund respite homes to help give the foster parents a chance to reenergize and reconnect with why they became foster parents.
Why is it important for the community to care about foster youth? Foster care youth are a part of our communities no matter where they got their start. They need to feel whole and they need to feel supported. People need to stop assuming that kids in foster care will destroy our communities. People spend too much time judging and we need to stop that way of thinking.
How would you describe your experience as a foster parent? I have always had a wonderful experience as a foster parent. I have had a lot of different experiences, but overall it has truly been wonderful. Working with the kids has always been easy. Sometimes working with the adults and the business of fostering has been a challenge. I know it is for a reason that there are so many different people involved and so much paperwork but it can be overwhelming at times. A way to fix that would be to include foster parents in on the process of developing the forms and policies that they have to abide by.
Talking with this mom reminded me that we all are called to this field for different reasons and in different capacities but at the end of the day we are all working toward the same goals.
To learn more about how to become a foster parent with KidsPeace please visit us online and like us on Facebook.
Written by: Ericka Chukwuanu, LGSW