Thursday, April 12, 2012

Some good things happen in foster care - believe it or not.

If you google "foster parenting" it is extremely unfortunate that what you will come across is an overwhelming amount of HORROR stories about foster homes. There is this belief "out there" that foster homes are terrible places to be full of people trying to make a quick buck who treat the kids worse than they would have been treated in their family of origin. While I do not dispute that there have been some terrible things happening in foster homes I feel I must make some counter points to the notion that all foster homes are terrible places.

1. There are as many as 85 THOUSAND children in foster homes in Canada. That's a LOT of children. I believe I am an advocate for children. I wish this world were a perfect place but it is not. Terrible things happen to children in this world. Children are hungry, children are neglected, children are abused, but not all of these things ONLY happen to children in foster care. These things happen to children in "good" homes, in "good" neighbourhoods. The media reports on sensational cases. The media reports on things that happen to children in care - and I think they should - but the spotlight is extremely negative.

2. I have yet to find in my internet search, anything positive about foster parenting. Not ONE story. It would be pretty much impossible for a "good" foster home to be highlighted anyway, because foster parents are discouraged from contacting the media in any way. In fact, contacting the media is forbidden if it involves identifying foster children in any way. This makes it absolutely impossible for anything that is positive within foster care to ever be highlighted.

Here's the thing about kids in care. When you become a foster parent you sign all kinds of documents. You won't put photos of the kids in your home on facebook, or on a blog. You wont talk about the children to ANYONE (this is very difficult). The kids, if they are in school and do something really great - like get a student of the month award - are not permitted to have their photo taken for the school paper, for the local paper or be recognised in any way. If they are in a swim club or on a sports team that wins - no photos. NO recognition in any way in the media. So the kids themselves become invisible. I understand the motivation around protecting the children, but the motivation does not take into consideration all of the ramifications for the kids or consider the possibility that the kids might benefit in some way from being recognised (even within the school) for being a part of something positive.

Now I am not suggesting that I am a perfect foster parent. I am not suggesting that every moment in my home is worth broadcasting to the world, but what I AM saying is that foster parents out there are working hard and for the most part doing an AMAZING job and for NO POSITIVE RECOGNITION.

We have had happy dances, we have had student success, we have taught kids about proper eating, about feeding their brains, about playing and laughing and not needing to hoard food. We have clothed kids, nursed sick kids, cleaned up a LOT of puke, done more lice treatments than anyone would believe, we have shaved our heads AS A FAMILY to make sure kids didn't feel like they were different or disruptive. Would you know it - we have even cared for kids once they were removed from our home and placed back with families who reached out to us for help because they needed it and didn't want the "system" involved anymore.

They have a foster parent appreciation week. Did you know about it? Every year it comes and goes and we are reminded about it when we get the monthly newsletter saying " HAPPY FOSTER PARENT APPRECIATION WEEK" but the week has passed without us even knowing.

What I would like to ask is this - the next time you see something terrible about foster homes, think of the GOOD ones. There are some good ones.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Wow! This is really illuminating! I didn't know about the regulations regarding picturing and reporting children's accomplishments who are in foster care. It makes sense for the children's protection, but that really does create a skewed view of foster parenting. When no good news is allowed to be presented it creates a vacuum on the positive side.

Thanks for this info! There's no doubt that you ladies have done a great job!