5 Things I Learned from Being a Foster Mom
My heart for the needy children in our community led me to become a foster mom, and eighteen years and more than 140 children later, I have gleamed some hard-earned wisdom and learned to have a tender heart gloved in tough skin.
Foster parenting will bring unexpected circumstances. When one of my foster daughters was murdered by her mother, I wrestled with what was and was not in my control. My relationship with the imprisoned murderer and the adoption of her newborn infant involved not only me, but my whole family.
If you are thinking of becoming a foster parent, prayerfully consider the following tips:
1. Talk with three experienced foster families before committing to be one.
My husband and I never spoke to a foster family before signing on the dotted line, but we wish we had. Though we had big hearts, we had little knowledge of what to realistically expect. After becoming more experienced, we now offer to share advice, stories, and insight with couples in training.
2. Don’t take in children older than your own.
We wanted our family to be a good influence on troubled and wounded kids, but the older foster kids were not always a good influence on our children. Many came from homes where there were limited or no boundaries, and their actions were poor examples of how to live, behave, and treat others. Older kids can intimidate younger children, so some had to be removed from our home.
3. Determine your family rules, morals, and culture.
Language, physical boundaries, housekeeping, and hygiene were discussed with and modeled for our foster children. As a Christian family, we wanted to demonstrate our faith, not preach it. For most of the children coming to us, faith was a new concept. We prayed in our home and attended church, and the majority of foster children responded positively and wanted to learn more as they participated with us.
4. Build a good relationship with the people at your social services office.
Demonstrate and communicate support for the things the people at social services want to accomplish. There have only been a few times where we’ve had differing agendas. For example, at one point, social services recommended giving birth control pills to all teen girls coming into foster care. This conflicted with our religious values, as we taught abstinence in our home; therefore, we sat down and talked with the caseworker. She listened because she respected our opinions and we worked hard to deserve that respect.
5. Practice constructive discipline.
I found that isolating children in their own rooms as punishment for misbehaving was not always the best approach. I started placing a chair in an area where the misbehaving child could see the rest of the family playing, working, or intermingling, and the child had to sit on the chair and not participate. Thus, the child was able to watch what good behaviors and healthy relationships looked like, and if they wanted to participate, they had to behave in a similar manner. If not, the child could only watch. This discipline gave the child an opportunity to learn and develop a desire to play right if he or she wanted to participate. A great life lesson!
Debra Moerke tells her whole story in her new book Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace, releasing on October 8th from Tyndale Momentum.