In our nine years as foster parents, we have had the privilege of working with some amazing caseworkers. They patiently walked alongside of us as we navigated the foster care system with 22 children. Four caseworkers in particular stand out as the very best. They were the kind of people who fought for the best interest of each child in their care.
They treated us with respect. They treated our children’s birth parents with dignity and they treated our children with kindness. Recently we asked them what things they would tell foster parents if they could. Here are a few of their insights…
- Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. We might have to move a child suddenly. We might not be able to give you all the details or share our own emotions and we might even cry on our way home.
- We invite these children into our hearts too. We love them and we are concerned for their wellbeing. We are so thankful when we have foster parents who love our children too. When you give them all the things you would give a biological child, it brings us joy. We need you to allow them to have all the opportunities your biological children have. (slumber parties, shopping trips, Christmas presents, sports, day care, preschool, haircuts, school supplies, doctor appointments and transportation.) We need you to love them unconditionally.
- Sometimes we might not call. We are really busy, and we are sorry for not keeping in touch as much as we would like to. Don’t hesitate to send us an update. The very nature of our job is to be a mediator in a situation that is deeply sad, when we receive a friendly email, a picture or a funny story it makes our day. We love seeing our children happy. Invite us to sporting events, birthday parties or school programs, if we can make it, we will.
- Sometimes things come up. We know you have a schedule to keep too. We respect your time. Please understand that sometimes we can’t tell you what’s going on. We may be involved in an emergency with another family. We may have been stuck in court all day. Please be patient with us. Breathe. You’ve got this. Sometimes we can’t respond to you right away, we know it’s frustrating. Often we have emergencies that are more pressing. When we have a good family like yours we know we can trust you. If we aren’t responding right away, it means we know you don’t need us to hold your hand. We are thankful for families like yours.
- We need you to do things you wouldn’t have to do for your biological children. (Keep documentation of diaper rash, falls, tiny bruises etc. Keep records of doctors appointments, vaccinations, changes in eating habits.)
- Please do not treat these children like puppies. They are people. Please do not try to find a better, cuter, more well-behaved one. Give the child that has been placed in your home your very best.
- Show respect to the child’s birth parents. If it is possible, build a relationship with them. Remember that our first goal is always reunification. Reunification may not always be possible. No matter what the outcome of the case the child’s first family will always be a part of who they are.
- We need more of you! There aren’t enough foster homes. Shout it from the rooftops, share your good experiences with friends and family.
- Don’t give up! Things are going to be hard and it will take a lot more than love to do your job. There will be visits, difficult conversations, and IEP meetings. There will be therapy, court hearings and children who act out. This will be the hardest, most rewarding thing you ever do. Please, don’t give up.
- Adopt. Sometimes reunification can’t happen. Be the one to provide the home they never have to leave.
One of the most beautiful snapshots of the foster parenting journey is seeing case managers and foster families work together, and hold the same value- loving a child unconditionally. We have been blessed to see that over the past decade. Our hope is that the insight shared in this post encourages and equips. Most of all, our prayer is that it brings continued unity!
Case managers and foster parents, what else would you add to this list? Share in the comment section below.