Vol. 10, No. 1• November 2005

When I become a foster parent . . .

In the writing contest in the last issue of Fostering Perspectives we asked children and youth in foster care, “If you were a foster parent, what would you do to help the children living in your home?”

Two things strike me about the dozens of replies we received.

First, these kids understand how hard foster parenting is. Letter after letter talks indirectly about the incredible demands placed on foster parents: to provide food, clothing, and shelter for other people’s children. To help those who are behind in school. To love and nurture children who are struggling with their emotions, their behavior, their ability to trust. These kids know that to do this job well demands enormous patience, stamina, and generosity of heart.

The second striking thing is how many of them want to become foster parents. They know from experience just how important foster parenting is. To them, the rewards of foster parenting far outweigh the demands.

These future foster parents can vividly imagine a time when they will have the chance to serve foster children. They are so eager for the opportunity! They dream of teaching children, respecting them, and sustaining connections to their families. They vow to treat all children like their own. They truly believe foster parents have the power to help children prepare for lives of happiness and achievement.

This powerful vision is at once a challenge and a compliment. Few of us can read these letters without a little soul searching, without asking: am I doing everything I can? Am I focusing my energy and resources on the right things, the things that really make a difference for kids in foster care?

Yet I hope you also recognize that the ideal foster parent these children envision is inspired, in part, by you. By your resourcefulness. Your energy. Your generosity. Your love. Your dreams.

May the dreams of these children inspire you to rediscover your own vision of what foster parenting can be.

—John McMahon, Editor

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Erica, age 16

Cherishing them as though they are my own. Understanding their differences. Never giving up although it may get hard. Dealing with behavior issues. Healing them with my love shows them how hard I want to share my helping heart. Talking to them. Helping them to believe that life can be great. Encouraging them to hold on because there is someone who is here to show them how to achieve goals. Foster parenting is just a title, but parenting is what I plan to model. That’s what foster parenting is all about.

If I became a foster parent helping would become my main motive. I would strive to help all the children that came my way. To achieve my goal as being a person with a helping heart I would: understand their differences, meaning understand that they may have problems and a different mind set as far as how much they appreciate life.

Secondly as a foster parent my patience will be at its greatest level! I will have patience with dealing with the behavior issues that the child or children may have. As a foster parent I will also have patience with dealing with the time it may take for a child to accept me.

Most importantly I will love them as if they were my own, because love can heal broken hearts.

Foster parenting would be something that I cherish. As a foster parent my duties would be met. Spending time with the children will be an attribute that I won’t forget. I will treat the children like family instead of like jobs. That’s what would help the children that enter my life.

Erica's letter won first prize, for which she was awarded $100

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Felicia, age 13

I would love them like they were my own and treat them all the same. I would make sure they were not scared, harmed, or unloved. I would help them prepare for the life that they have coming to them and make sure they succeed in their dreams.

Felicia won second prize, for which she was awarded $50

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Carissa, age 15

When I first entered foster care, I needed help with reading and how to control my feelings. I did not have anyone that really wanted to help me. I moved from foster home to foster home not knowing how to read at all. By the time I was twelve, I was on a second grade reading level and my grades were not good.

If I were a foster parent, I would try my best to meet the child’s needs. The child may not always tell you whether they need help in school. The children in my foster home would get the right kind of help that they need . . . .

Foster care is not always the best place to be living, but it can be a better place by helping and supporting the children. I hope foster homes will get better at providing and helping with the needs of the children. I plan to do my share. I was a foster child and I made a promise to my adoptive mother to reach back and help another child, so I will be a foster parent. If we all work together we can make foster care safer and better.

Rachel's letter won third prize, for which she was awarded $25

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Danielle, age 14

I would help my children with scrap booking to take everywhere with them. Some kids grow up and don’t see their pictures. I’d be sure they had lots of pictures of themselves and of their parents. . . .

They should be able to feel the love and happiness of a family, they should experience joyfulness and happiness that all little kids should, like going to church, going to the park, and learning how to swim. They should also be able to learn how to speak with proper grammar, manners, and someone they feel they can trust. Someone who will always be there for them, no matter what. Someone to love them.

Courtney received $15 for having her letter published

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Donise, age 7

I will take them out to eat for a special dinner just for us. I will help them go to school so they can learn.

At Halloween I will let them go trick-or-treating. At Christmas I will give them presents. I will take care of them when they get sick.

When school is out I will take them on vacation to Africa and London. I will let them see the Queen of England.

I will take them grocery shopping and take them to church and visit their family.

Donise received $15 for having her letter published

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Samantha, age 10

I would love to be a foster parent because, having been a foster child, I would know how the child feels and I would be able to help her.

I think that I would be a big help to her in lots of ways because almost all of my life I have been in foster care without my real family and I would be able to help children understand why the incident happened and that no one can replace his or her mother and father no matter what happens and that their real mother and father will love them and never forget them.

Samantha received $15 for having her letter published

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Faith, age 10

“I will try my best to get the child back to his or her real mom if it is God’s will.”

Faith received $15 for having this excerpt of her letter published

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Jessica, age 11

. . . Here are some things that you could do to help your foster kids:

  • Try to talk to them to help them sort out their problems.

  • Sometimes kids don’t come with a lot of clothing so you could help them and buy more clothes for them.
  • Also, kids need help with school work.

  • Do things to help kids be proud of themselves. For example, give them a reward for doing good on a test.

  • Don’t do foster care just for the money. You have to want to do it to help kids that don’t have a family.

If I was a foster parent, I would want to help teach the kids manners because sometimes the birth family has had so much going on that they didn’t get a chance to teach the kids. Make sure that you respect the kids and that they respect you. You can earn the kids’ respect partly by really listening to them and trying to understand what’s going on with them. It is also important to be honest to your kids so that they will be able to trust you and talk to you. These are my ideas about how you can help be a better parent, no matter what kind of kid you have.

Jessica received $15 for having her letter published.

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Danielle, age 14

I would spend one-on-one quality time with each child. I would also make sure that each of their voices is heard before I make a decision that involves them. I will let them know that they are an important and a very special being who deserves to be happy and safe and loved. I would also make sure each child gets alone time when they or I feel it is needed, and I would respect their privacy.

Danielle received $15 for having her letter published.

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Toni, age 15

I would not make them eat foods they didn’t like. I would tuck them into bed and give them a kiss on the forehead. I would wake them up with a delicious breakfast. Then maybe later on I would adopt them over as mine. I would let them live. Because I know how it feels to be away from home. I would show them all the love they never had and give them my heart. And when they leave it would break my heart. It would be like losing one of my own children. And when I could I would go visit them and let them know I miss them.

Toni received $15 for having her letter published.

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The preceding letters appeared in the printed version of this issue of Fostering Perspectives. To read more letters from children who are or have been in foster care, click here.

Copyright 2005 Jordan Institute for Families