Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.
Being in foster care often means a child is living through a painful story, suspended in time; awaiting uncertain outcomes; dealing with layers of trauma; commonly facing separation from siblings; coping with other layers loss (even if temporarily) of extended family, school and school mates; enduring multiple foster home placements; and navigating so much transition continually.
Navigating all of this as a kid or teen is a staggering reality that few of us can even comprehend. .And yet, those who’ve spent any time in foster care are some of the most resilient, inspiring, and courageous people you will ever meet–overcoming so much in their lives!
As we work to raise awareness and support for foster care throughout May, we turned to the true experts on what it takes to be a good foster parent: three former foster youth. Meet these three incredible adults whose courageous voices offer hope and empowerment for others in the space of foster care:
Leaning into the pain of their hardships in foster care and sometimes with destructive, unhealthy foster parents, Britt, Tina and Dairius share their powerful insights on the qualities and practices of good foster parents. They also offer helpful and practical tips for foster homes to be a safe and loving place of healing and nurturing.
What is your advice to people preparing to foster?
“There isn’t anything that’s going to equip you for everything. And so just walking through it step by step, taking your time and learning as you go, but ultimately looking at your reason for getting into this. And if that reason is to care and love a child that needs caring and love then you’re doing it right.” Britt
“Proximity is everything. I would start reading books. Listening to people who’ve lived it. Listen to other foster parents. Educate yourself.” Christina
“Go into it with the intentions that you’re going to be there for them no matter what.” Dairius
How can foster parents be a safe place where healing and trust can happen?
“If you’re going to go down this path and actually go through the training/certifications, do so with the whole intent in your heart and mind that you’re doing this because you truly care about taking care of these kids and having an open mind, open heart, open home to allow the kids to grow and be in a safe environment. knowing they’re loved and cared for, regardless of the length of time they may be there.” Dairius
“One of the most important things you can do is to help that child feel like they are worthy. Worthy of your love, worthy of your attention and worthy of that belonging that they have in your family. Whether it is for a short period of time or forever, just being able to speak that worthiness into them is so important.” Britt
“I want foster parents to keep themselves in check. I want people to understand that they walk a fine line between helping or hurting. And it doesn’t need to be blatant. . . It can be not treating their behaviors from a trauma-informed view. That hurts them.” Christina
What can foster parents do to relate to kids in their care?
“One of the most important things you can do is love that child and speak life into that child. And give them grace when they male mistakes; show them, ‘It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. I’m still going to walk alongside you in this and we’re going to work through this together.'” Britt
“Allow kids to be themselves. I never felt that I could truly express myself, so I never really felt safe to be who I am. The stability I needed to thrive and heal was not available to me] because I could never really open up. If you are able to just accept kids for who they are and how they express themselves, and allow them to do so in a positive way, then that’s where true healing can begin.” Dairius
Any practical tips about how foster parents can be their best for kids in their care?
“I would tell people take it one placement at a time. There’s no reward for people who have the most placements.” Christina
“You kinda open up that door of trust between you and your child. Then they’ll slowly open up to you little by little. They’ll kind of reveal little things, and you have to keep an open eye and an open ear for it. It will happen at random times. If you see they might be opening up about something in their own way, it might be through words in talking or conversation or they might write something down or draw something. There are subtle ways that people will express themselves and you kind of have to be open to that”. Dairius
Watch These Powerful Videos About How To Create A Safe and Loving Foster Home
Editor’s Note: Dairius Kawewehi invites former foster youth to join his private Facebook Group: Formerly Fostered Forever Loved. This group offers a safe place for kids who have been (or are) in foster care to share their stories, overcome psychological trauma and be in a place where they are welcomed and understood. “Whether you found a foster home or not, you have a home here with us and you are loved.”