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How To Get Your Kids Out Of Foster Care

It’s amazing to me how easy it is to get your kids back after abusing them. In almost every case where a child is taken out of the parent’s home and placed into foster care, the main case goal is reunification. Contrary to popular belief, the state doesn’t actually want to take kids away from their parents. So, when Social Services makes the decision to place children in foster care, they work diligently to get them back into the parent’s custody. This means it’s actually fairly easy to get your children back from foster care…as long as you do what is told to you! The problem is, some parents are not accountable for what’s taken place and won’t accept the responsibility. Getting your kids back from foster care can be as easy as… not feeding them chocolate cereal.

chocolate cereal

You may be wondering “What does chocolate cereal have to do with getting my kids out of foster care?” Well, it doesn’t specifically pertain to you, but it’s an analogy that was given to me by a therapist while in foster care. This helped me to understand the situation with my parents and why we weren’t ever making that trip back home (much to my relief). Let’s just say the reason the child was removed from your care is that you feed your child chocolate cereal. Then, one-day DFS comes in and takes your child away because they say “Chocolate cereal is bad for kids!” Now, you and I both know, that while chocolate cereal may not be the healthiest choice, it isn’t going to hurt them. If you allow it, they should be able to eat it, right? The answer is “no”. As a parent, are you really going to argue your point, just to say that “chocolate cereal is not bad and you did nothing wrong”, while your child is sitting in foster care? Again, the answer is “no!” As a parent, you would apologize and promise to never feed your child chocolate cereal again, so you could get them back. It’s not about if your right or wrong at this point, it’s about getting your child back at home with you. Or, at least, it should be.

Some parents just can’t admit they were wrong. Don’t be one of those parents. As with many real-life issues, you must admit that you have a problem before you can fix it. Why? If you don’t think it was a problem, are you going to make sure that it never happens again? Many people who get caught in something don’t come to the realization they are wrong, only to repeat the behavior, while they are learning from getting caught, on how to hide it better the next time. I think that’s something logical we can all agree upon. However, this mindset can be deadly in regards to child abuse. Also, why would Social Services place a child back into a situation where it may happen again? The answer is “they won’t!”. They will not put aside a child’s well-being just to give a parent a second chance without them proving that it won’t happen again.

I’ve also seen those parents who are upset because they “don’t like DFS disagreeing, not accepting their lifestyle, or who may be in their lives”. Too many parents chose drugs or partners over their children. That’s a fact. So, if Social Services doesn’t like your new boyfriend, are you really going to argue that he’s not who DFS thinks he is? Even with his criminal records or bad behavior? Or, are you going to do what it takes to get your child back? You think it would be an easy answer and trust me it is, but parents don’t always choose what’s best for their child. Obviously, this doesn’t go for every parent with children in foster care, but let’s be honest, they make up the majority. So, how do you get your kids out of foster care? It easy! Accept your wrongs, make improvements and put your kids before you!

5 Things I Learned About Fostering Teenagers

At the age of writing this, 28 years old, many people tend to think that I wouldn’t have an insight on fostering teenagers. For me, I never thought I would even have any insight on raising children- let alone teenagers! However, when it comes to life, as you know, things never go as planned. At the age of 24, my wife and I became the kinship foster parents for my two brothers. They were ages 14 and 15 at the time. Because of this situation, we’ve received many different reactions (yes, even eye brow raises) when people find out my brothers live with us. Since I’ve had to transition into this role, I’ve finally had that “aha” moment, that hopefully, a lot of parents of teenagers feel. I finally have that reasoning for the rules and the questioning. But, when you are in foster care, it’s different. I’ve spent time on both sides of the table, so this has taught me a lot of things about fostering teenagers (even the things I didn’t want to necessarily want to find out).

raising teenagers

They are going to be sneaky. Yes, this is naturally a teenage thing, but it can be worse with foster kids. Many times, children are taught this survival technique to endure the situation they are in. That behavior is then embedded in them as they grow older. Teenagers that may be unnaturally sneaky, tend to continue this survivor mode even when they don’t have to. Some children to the extent they just can’t understand any other way. So, I’ve tried to be rational with them, but aware. “Eventually, everything comes to light, and if these behaviors continue, you will be disciplined. If you continue these behaviors, you know the consequences.” This is about teaching the desired behavior.

You cannot feel sorry for them or let them feel sorry for themselves. It’s important to acknowledge the situation, but they should use their past as a measuring stick. “The harder you’ve had it, means you’ve accomplished that much more when you make it.” This is important because the world does not feel sorry for them. The bill collector doesn’t care what kind of childhood they had. They must own it. As a foster kid, you have to realize you will work harder for the finer things in life, so every mistake or unthought out decision will hinder your progress. This I know from experience.

The only thing you must do is give adequate clothing, food, and shelter. Many people think this sounds harsh, but sometimes if the action warrants a reality check, so be it-it’s truthful. Foster kids that have come into your home, whether kin or not, are not your kids. My brothers have come to live with me because their (third) home situation wasn’t good. They could be in some foster home (yes, we know they are not all good places), but instead they are in a safe, caring, and respectful living situation with family. Things should not be taken for granted and at times you have to teach appreciation. Privileges are earned and with good behavior comes more freedom. I can promise, you will have to remind ungrateful teenagers how things could be, then remind them that they don’t have it that way. Explain you’re just trying to help them through a situation, but they have to make the process go smooth, by fighting for themselves.

Sometimes you should let things get tough for them. This is the only way they will learn to figure it out. It’s better that they learn it under your wing rather than someone else’s. The lesson of networking is one of the biggest lessons that can be taught to assist them with their future. For example, let’s say their car breaks down or needs a repair. Then, they take it to the shop and it will be $500 to fix. Now what? If your teenager could find the part and connect to a person that works on cars, shouldn’t they do that to cut the cost? The answer is “yes”. We know that your teenager will at some point “age out” of foster care, so they need those connections. Teaching them early, will be essential for their life toolbelt. The networking and opportunities come into play when they get in these tough situations. The point here is not really about getting the car fixed, but about how they will get it done- on their own. Yes, there will be situations that arise that they may need help. But, if you fix everything for them, just know you will continue to do so long after they’ve flown the nest.

You should set down with your teenagers and plan for their future. Not too many teens are thinking about their future, let alone putting a plan together and actually taking the steps to achieve it. So, you must set a move out date for them- or it may just never happen. There needs to be a sense of urgency or you can quickly get in a situation where there is none whatsoever. This is going to be a part of their life plan, and it goes back to the realty of their situation. But, it unfortunately just doesn’t stop with a “plan”, you must follow-up and ensure they are taking those steps. As I’ve mentioned, they will have to work harder because of their situation, but hopefully they have the right amount support to guide them. The fact is, it’s possible for them to achieve this plan. Regardless of their past, it does not define them- unless they allow it.

We’ve all seen it too often, and we may even do it ourselves- making excuses because of our past woes. I tell my brothers that it’s unfortunate that so many of the decisions that they will make between the ages of 15 until about 25, will majorly affect the rest of their lives. Often they’ve made decisions that have gotten themselves into the situation they are in, and we can warn and guide, but in the end, it will be their decision. That’s why as parents, especially foster parents, we must push (and sometimes drag) teenage foster kids in the right direction. They may hate you at times, but if you do your part and they do their part, one day they will look back and not only thank you but be thankful for you.

Teaching Healthy Dating

healthy datingBeing a teen in foster care is tough for a truckload or two of reasons. You’re living in a place away from your family, who you may weirdly want to go back to even though they may have hurt you. You’re in that transition from kid to adult, trying to get yourself figured out. As as a teen in foster care, when I looked ahead I was scared. I really wanted someone to care for me. Fortunately there were a few adults around that did care for me but at the time I didn’t trust pretty much any adult. It was hard for me to trust or understand why someone, especially someone who wasn’t my family, would even have a reason to care about me. One thing I did understand (at least I thought so at the time) was relationships concerned to dating. What I didn’t understand at the time is healthy dating.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in foster care or not, we all know that as most teenagers get older the more interested they are in dating. I think it’s also safe to say that how we treat the other person and interact in that relationship is taught to us as children. Now I know that foster kids aren’t the only ones that have gone through or seen negative things, but I guarantee 100% of foster kids have either been taken from a relationship they thought was good, have seen bad relationships and/or  has been hurt by someone who they love and was supposed to love them unconditionally. If abuse, yelling, fighting, and arguing is all you have seen from the relationship of your parents than most likely it will be first instinct to have some of those same behaviors. This can go other ways as well. Some foster kids have lost parents and seek that love. Other foster kids  have been put on the back burner by their parents for other relationships or may have been abused in several different ways by the ones that were supposed to teach these children how to have relationships. Their way of coping maybe trying to find love. They are used by people who they think love them, going from relationship to relationship searching.

Bad relationship skills don’t just happen and are a learned trait. People just don’t grow up and one day think it’s ok to hit their significant other. People just don’t grow up to be controlling, abusive or mean; they were taught to be that way. Often we also lose ourselves too much in the one inflicting the abuse in the relationship and lose focus on the one that’s abused. Not only do those abused sometimes turn into abusers themselves, they also may learn about being a victim. Too many people in abusive relationships think that whats going on is ok or believe they deserve it. Even though if you were to ask ANYONE whether abuser, victim or neither “Is abuse wrong” and every one of them would say “yes”, the cycle abuse still continues in many dating relationships. Foster kids need to be shown that what they’ve seen many  times over in relationships this isn’t they way things should go. Often it means being re-taught how to treat people and how to respect yourself.

In the foster care group home that I lived in there were many rules in place to help with healthy dating for teenagers. At the time I thought they were annoying and embarrassing. Looking back, especially now that I’m siting in the parents seat, they were pretty acceptable and in fact necessary. Some of the rules I can remember are being a certain age to date, having to live there a certain length of time, they had to meet them before you go anywhere with them and you have to be supervised or in a group. I had to let them know what I was doing and where I was going. When I had a girl come over there were rules as well. We weren’t really allowed to touch, no P.D.A. or sitting on laps or under blankets. What could sometimes be embarrassing was when something innocent in mind happens and is corrected. Most teens aren’t used to rules that are so strict or strictly enforced. Innocently someone can sit on your lap or share a blanket with you. The truth is though this needed to happen. There needed to be safe boundaries not only because I was a foster kid, but because I was a teenage kid as well.

Too many teenagers, foster kids or not, make life changing mistakes when it comes to dating. They think about the past and the now more than a future. The emotional damage can be prevented for teens that are definitely not ready for the consequences of their actions.  It’s important for foster kids to see and often be re-taught how to have healthy dating relationships. There are also too many foster kids that grow up and continue the cycle of what they experienced in their own dating, marriages and relationships. Which then continues another cycle that their children see. It’s up to us as foster parents to set boundaries and teach kids in our care how to treat others, to help them learn how to have healthier relationships and break the cycle.

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