How to effectively listen – a foster care training
Last fall I attended a foster care training called….
How to Talk So Everyone Will Listen
“Talking, listening and setting effective boundaries are essential skills for parents. This type of communication becomes even more valuable when the parent is dealing with individuals who have experienced significant emotional trauma. Participants will learn communication skills and ways to provide consequences relevant to the behavior.”
That was the description for this foster care training.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this training, because most of them are not relevant to my story. But this class was really informative and all around great. The basic principal is to really just listen to your child. If they are mad or sad or fustrated, listen to what their feelings are. Don’t immediately tell them to brush it off or it’s no big deal. Listen first and then say, “I am sure that made you feel bad that that happened. You must have got your feelings hurt”, or whatever the case may be. Show them you are really listening to what they are saying by repeating back to them what they have said and sympathizing. You probably can’t fix what has happened, but they can be heard and acknowledged. And a lot of times that is all people and children want, is someone to listen and know you understand and are truly hearing them. In the case of a child, often this will lead to trust and more information and eventually the root of the problem. This will help children and anyone for that matter feel like they have been heard and understood. Sometimes that can be the most important thing to a child.
In the case of a foster child with a lot of difficult emotions this can really help to break through with them. I have not personally fostered a child old enough to need this, but I know many people who have. Lots of children in the foster system have been exposed to things most adults wouldn’t even want to know about. All children and especially foster children need to feel like someone is listening. It might as well start with you.
This is a schedule of the trainings offered by IFAPA in Iowa.
What does a birth family go through with a child in foster care?
I can only imagine
Let’s say I had my baby, I love him so much. I get caught up in something I didn’t plan. And all of a sudden my baby is gone. The state has taken my child and put him in a foster care family that I don’t know and neither does he. I can imagine this is the worst feeling in the world. I would not wish that upon anyone.
But the truth is DHS just doesn’t come along randomly and take children from their family and put them in foster care. The birth family was doing something wrong, very wrong. They don’t take kids away because parents spank or punish or ground. They take kids away because they are pregnant and smoking meth or exposing drugs to children, or abusing them or neglecting them etc..
For my baby’s birth mom, her first 2 children were taken and adopted before Charlie was even born. She had been arrested and charged with intent to sell meth and her boyfriend had hid the drugs in the car registered to her. Maybe she lost her kids because she was in jail waiting for her court date. I don’t honestly know. But I do know she was involved with the wrong people doing the wrong things. And that also means subjecting your children to bad things. Perhaps her childhood was bad with parents in and out of jail and prison. One thing I do know, if you are going to have children you better protect them and keep them safe from bad things. Or don’t have children until you are ready, or you are mature enough to consider adoption.
I know having your child taken from you is absolutely heartbreaking, but were they thinking of their child in the first place? Charlie’s mom is an addict and she was given every option for help possible. But that meant working a program, staying clean, not having any fun. She wanted a boyfriend, she wanted fun, she wanted an easy carefree life. That is not how you get your baby back. And ultimately she did not get him for even one day. And as much as she was heartbroken, I am glad. This was all on her and she could not even clear the first hurdle. I do feel sorry for her that she could not get herself together. But it is going to take a long time for her to learn. She has baby #4 with her now. I hope she keeps that baby safe. I hope.
I have not walked one step in her shoes. So I will not judge her. I only know that to be a parent it takes giving up everything for that child; every spare minute is given to them. I have only one child and I have no idea how people can raise more than 1 and afford to do it. There is no way I could be doing drugs or anything other than what is best for my son. I know it is painful for them, but it is also painful for the children. And the children always come first.
Foster Care Reunification = Return to family
As a foster parent, I can’t stress this enough to anyone who is considering foster care – the main and end goal of almost every child case is reunification. I heard it over and over. Every class, every meeting, every court hearing. It is a process of always working to get the child back to their family. Fostering is very difficult because, yes, you might have to give that child back. Back to a healthy parent, an alcoholic parent, a drug abuser, or a domestic abuser. Each case is only given a certain amount of time, so it will not go on forever. However, a parent of a newborn baby will get more time. My baby’s birth mom was given a limit of 18 months to get herself together. DHS will give a birth parent every service available all FREE. Paid by our tax dollars. Free gas cards, Walmart gift cards, counseling, therapy, food, housing, bus passes, formula, diapers and money. They are given everything possible to help them succeed. Yet a lot of them cannot clear the first hurdle.
My baby’s birth mom’s list of requirements.
- Have a place to live
- Maintain a job
- Complete drug rehab
- Complete counseling/therapy
- Provide clean UAs
- Attend her visits and engage
That’s it. She did not have her child to take care of and she could not accomplish even one requirement. As time went on some things were added and others were not so important any more. I don’t know the birth mom and my interactions with her weren’t often. I did what she asked and I took care of her baby. That was my only role in this child’s case. I can’t say anything bad about her because I have not walked in her shoes nor do I know anything about her life or her past. This is the role of a foster parent. It is a thankless job. I only know that my baby was placed in foster care because his birth mom was smoking meth and pot while she was pregnant. Even on the day he was born. I am not an addict, so I can’t say anything about that. But I do know my baby will have to live with what she has done to him. She did not get him back and I can honestly say I am thankful. Because I know he is safe and I can finally get to be a mom, I adopted him in February of 2016.
I will not deny, I know she loved him so much. And that is the most heartbreaking part for all these children in the system.
This is where I started my foster care journey http://www.ifapa.org
This is for foster care in Iowa.