Wednesday, December 29, 2010

there are differences

As much as we are told as Foster Parents, that you should treat a Foster Child as if they were your own, the reality is that there are differences.  Mostly, the differences revolve around structure and discipline.  In general children "in the system" come from homes that lack both structure and discipline, there aren't boundaries or expectations for the children.  And we ALL know that children need these things just as much as they need love!

Foster children come with a whole lot of baggage, it can take months or even years to get the children to feel "safe" in their foster parents home.  For those whose children feel safe immediately.. Look Out!  It's the Honeymoon phase or worse a disorder known as a RAD (reactive attention disorder.. basically the child seemingly attaches to anyone and everyone but the attachment isn't a bond, it is just on the superficial).

I believe that my goal as a foster parent, is to help with life after they are reunited, because the goal of foster care is to reunite the family unit.  So with this "goal" in mind I am hoping to help the children in their future and encourage good/healthy habits.

For some children it can revolve around a disorder, such as RAD, with which there would be attachment and bonding therapy.  I guess, most importantly a foster home needs to (as a wonderful friend put it) an extension of the child's therapy.  The difficult part is keeping friends and family on the same page, they aren't in our home everyday.. so they don't witness the behavoirs, things just appear to be "normal" or "cute", when in fact those behavoirs could cause problems for them in the future.

Little Girl "B"ella is a bit of an attention hog.. meaning she will climb into someone's lap, anyone's lap, without asking if it is okay or knowing the person (I had a friend visit for a weekend and "B"ella, just climbed right into her lap the first afternoon she met her).  I realize that a lot of it has to do with her feeling "safe" in our home, so her assumption is that anyone we invite into our home is "safe", but the truth is that they may not be.  What if we have a contractor working on our house, it is not okay for her to climb into their lap.  So then how do I teach her that this is unacceptable?  Well, first I reinfornce the "ask before you climb" rule (even with myself and my husband) and we don't always let her sit in our lap, we remind her that she can be close to us without sitting on us (I tickle her and call her my little "personal space invader").  But we also have to remind her that she doesn't know people well enough to sit in their laps "This is the first time you met 'Amber' so please don't see in her lap, you don't know her well enough to sit in her lap."  Then the question becomes, how many times does she need to meet someone before she can sit in their laps?  How many times.. I guess the answer varies on your relationship with the person, right... any advice would be appreciated, because I am at a loss.


  1. As you well know, we have similar issues. We don't even allow the girls to ask someone to hug them. If we think a hug is appropriate we will tell the girls it's ok to give so and so a hug... OR we will tell the other person it is ok to ask the girls for a hug. The girls also know it's ok to say no to a hug.

    It's hard... because like you said, people who aren't parenting (at the minimum) attachment challeged/RAD kids, they think it's cute and endearing.

    My parents (thankfully for me, not for Layla) got to see a really good PTSD tantrum the other night. It was about 1/100th the intensity I had grown use to, but it was intense enough for them to see that she's still a hurt kid with a lot to work though.

    All in time.


  2. Wow - we were just talking about this!! A friend from church came over and Fabi readily climbed into his lap. He was 'it', we ceased to be on her radar. To her credit, I didn't stop her. We are still in that place of is she/isn't she - we should really figure it out. It's becoming increasingly apparent that she is challenged in this area. No surprise, given her background, but since our adoption becomes official next week, it's high time we learn more and get to work! I agree w/you, when people are invited into our home, it's pretty safe to assume that we trust them. However, we had a pastor from church last year, whom we trusted very much, that was accused of some pretty yucky stuff w/young people. I never would have thought to mistrust him!! Working on this attachment stuff is good for us well do we really know the people we spend lots of time with? Despite being close and assuming they are trustworthy, what other means do we have to assess the relationship, the value of an attachment w/them? I'm sorry, I think I'm rambling here, maybe you get what I am saying and maybe you don't...all this to say, I think we are at ground zero w/Fabi. We're attempting to start from scratch. No sitting, hugging, snuggling etc w/anyone except mom and dad. After we are sure she is ready, (how? Don't know yet) we will widen the boundaries to people like grandma/pa, teachers, etc. THEN people like friends and guests. I am grateful for others like you who are willing to write about it...I don't know that we will ever stumble upon the perfect answer, but by sharing our stories I think we can encourage each other and better process what is going on. Thanks for letting me share here too!

  3. From my humble perspective as a teacher, I would say that you as parents define who is allowed to ask them or invite them on their lap. Only when invited or asked should they hug or sit on laps, etc. And of course they have a right to refuse the offer. If there are people asking your children for hugs or to sit on laps without asking you first and that's an issue then the person needs to know whats going on and how you're trying to help the situation. The people may not even realize it and I'm sure they would work with you on it, not against you, once they know.

    It's kind of like my kindergarten class. I am their role model and teacher every day, someone they trust, but they are not allowed to just sit on my lap or hug me at any time. I'm a teacher, not a family friend so I try to create boundaries in that area. However, if I see that a student is crying or upset about something, I may offer a pat on the back, extend my arms for a hug, or pat my lap to invite them to sit with me (on occasion). But it has to be an invite from the adult. (I don't assume that every child wants this kind of comfort either, and I certainly wouldn't offer a hug to a child in class if the parents were against it. And I really think this gradually should diminish by 1st grade.... but enough of my rambling about school).
    I think the same applies for your situation, that the adult has to be the initiator, and obviously only those adults you approve of may initiate.

    My 2 cents is that the kids will feel loved and appreciated by your family/friends whether there is lap sitting, hugging or none of the above. Children have ways of picking up on cues from adults that they are valued and appreciated other than physical touch. Though it's an important to receive from parents, I think if it's creating or adding to other issues, then no one other than you and P. (and perhaps grandparents?? IDK..?) should be allowed to ask them to sit on their lap. Like you said, sitting next to someone is still being close. Same for hugs! Although I love other people's children and think they're awesome I know I don't need to hug them all the time for them to understand I do.



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