Andy and I are in our sixth year of fostering. Newbies still, really. But, recently someone asked, “Considering all you’ve learned in foster care, what advice would you give new foster parents?
Understatement alert! I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve learned stuff about myself. Umm, I’m selfish. I’ve learned how much I love my clean and orderly little lifestyle. Foster care laughs at that. I’ve learned a ton about “the system.” Yeah it’s broken but sometimes it’s not. I’ve learned much about the plight of children who are neglected, abused, and abandoned. I cry a lot when I pray. And, I’ve learned that there are heroes all around me. There are people who put their own personal agendas aside and lean heavily into making the world a better place for some “ones.” I’m crazy inspired by them.
In answer to the question though, I land at this insight. Don’t take foster kids’ rejection and seeming ingratitude personally.
Going into the world of foster care I didn’t realize the depth of personal pain and how that manifests itself in children. There are good days and bad days, but anger, confusion, and lack of trust are pretty common. Usually they don’t know what to do with all that.
From our adult perspective, they’ve been “rescued” from environments and people who are hurting them. They should be grateful, right? But, they rarely see it that way. Their “situation” is all they know. It’s their normal. It’s their familiar. And they are not happy about being removed from their normal and familiar.
Also, from our adult perspective, we’re giving up a lot to step in and help. We’re sacrificing time, convenience, peace, and resources. We’re carting them to doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and getting their eyes checked. We’re tutoring or hiring tutors to catch them up to grade level. We’re giving away evenings out and sacrificing lots of potential free time. Sometimes, we’re sacrificing other relationships. Oh, and there are parent visits, case worker visits, court appointments, and continuing ed. We know what we’re trading, and it’s a lot.
They don’t know though. And, even if they did, they can’t possibly be expected to understand. They’re kids. They’re actually kids carrying a lot of pain. While we’re certainly doing our best to teach them important things, how to express gratitude being one of them, we cannot and must not take it personally.
So how do we not? Like any other truth, we renew our minds. Maybe there is a verse of Scripture we identify that’s helpful. Or, maybe we simply recall to ourselves, “They’ll be 25 one day, with full frontal lobe development, and they might actually be grateful then!” Or, maybe we remind ourselves of the why behind what we’re doing.
Or maybe not, and that’s okay too. Just don’t take it personally. Really, don’t.