I've learned a thing or two about foster care. This may be the only post I write about this, or it may be more like a series. One thing I really want you to know: Please ask me questions if you think of something! I am so so open to talking about it. There are things that have to be kept private for his and his bio family's sake, but our side of it is ours to tell. If you have questions or just want to discuss something, please don't hesitate. Shoot me a a comment, email, text, call, or ask me in person. I think it's important for people to be aware of the ups and downs that go with it. Being educated about foster care doesn't seem to be the norm, so if I can help with that even a little, I'm happy to. 1. Nothing happens as fast as you want it to. Most kids come into the system with emotional and/or physical issues to work out and therapy is often needed. There are resources from a lot of different areas (state, medical, county, etc) but each one is set up differently and it can be messy getting it all set up. We're over two months in and still haven't had any of those be successfully set up or started. On top of that, we aren't really the ones who do any of it, so we have no idea what is going. Which leads me to my next point. 2. There are a lot of communication barriers or issues that are out of our hands. I have had to personally call and ask what feel like ridiculous questions to get answers I assumed were obvious to give me. Generally, I've learned that if I don't ask, I won't find out. I have heard that it depends on who you are working with in the system, but my general experience is that nobody thinks that the foster parents need to know anything. I mean, we're only raising this child practically on our own, right? This child that we just met that has baggage and a personality and a heart that is probably very fragile? Why would we need to know things like what his or her life was like before? Or what is going on now? Or how long he or she will be here? This kind of information is not a guarantee. On top of all of that, because the foster parent is not the legal guardian, the schools, counselors, and doctors don't want to disclose any information, even if it is something that is vital for the foster parent to know while interacting with the child. There is always a middle man or woman. Always. 2. People don't always react the way you'd expect them to. I've been shocked a handful of times by who is warm and welcoming towards him and who is not at all. I've learned to not expect anything positive, as depressing as that sounds. When a negative reaction is what we are left to deal with, I spend about 95% of the time doing damage control. I don't think people realize that he has feelings and that he can pick up on the nonverbal communication a whole lot more than anybody would expect. As soon as I feel that hesitancy, that cold vibe or stare from someone, I try to immediately divert his attention or keep him as close to me as possible. My efforts only go so far, though, because he is as receptive to all of it as I am. It is so hard to be in those situations. In once sense, I don't blame the person who is acting cold towards him, because it is the unknown and he or she is most likely very uncomfortable. That being said, it isn't acceptable to treat a child negatively just because you are uncomfortable. Let me say that again, slightly rephrased. It is not acceptable to treat a child differently or coolly just because you are uncomfortable. 3. There will be streaks of good days and then the worst days ever all back to back. Just when I think we've got this down and we are in a good place, things get so, so bad. It isn't just with our lfb. Sometimes he's just an angel and it's one of the girls pushing every button or going through something difficult. Just when I think I can't do it anymore and maybe this isn't right for us and blah blah blah, the next day will be amazing. And so will the day after that, and the day after that. Life is so unpredictable and it can be tiring. The roller coaster we are on is what pushes us to really keep leaning on Jesus. For real. 4. Each child is completely different, no matter how many similarities they may seem to have. Having a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and a 1 year old all under the same roof leads to unintentional comparing and I have had to really watch myself when it comes to expectations. As parents of young kids, we're constantly being told to teach the ABC's, counting, independent skills like getting dressed, feeding themselves, etc. Each kid learns these things at different paces and it doesn't mean that one is smarter or brighter than the other. This one can be tough when it comes to other people's observations. It's easy to make assumptions based on one or two interactions, but honestly, assumptions don't mean jack. It's frustrating to hear people give their "very educated" opinion like they just know more about this kid than we do. Maybe part of it is that I'm constantly saying, "we don't know because we are still getting to know him," that maybe that provides an invitation to tell me about this kid, even though they have spent less than 5 hours total with the lfb. I know I sound sarcastic and sassy, but it is a problem we run into on a semi-regular basis. It pushes buttons. 5. A child can work his way into your heart without you even knowing it. Let's be honest here. It's hard to love a kid that you don't know at all. Sure, sympathy is there. Empathy is there. Compassion is there. Jesus is there, along with his love. But my own love? That isn't something that I can turn on and off like a light switch. It takes time to love someone that you've just met. I've always known this, but it is even more evident now. There are many different ways to love someone. I have no name for the type of love I have for this lfb, but it is there. He is a sweet, smiley (for those of you that have known him but haven't spent a ton of time with him yet, I bet that one surprises you! :)), goofy, quiet, loud, hesitant, brave and complex boy. We haven't a clue what the future will hold with him and with us, but at this point, I'm so thankful that he is in our lives.