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“I couldn’t be a Foster Parent, I worry I would get attached.”
Foster parents hear this a lot, I mean A LOT. At least once a week, almost this exact phrase. We smile and nod, or just shrug our shoulders, because what can we say? It’s true, you do get attached. You love them, and when they go home, or to their forever family, your heart breaks and bleeds a little. It’s painful and hard.
It’s also the whole point. You need to get attached; you need to love them will all your heart. Because that’s what these little precious souls need from you. They deserve to be loved; they deserve someone who will miss them when they move on. This child you take into your home may, or may not, have ever felt loved before. This precious child is most likely experiencing trauma from their life, or from the removal from their home. They deserve to feel loved, and wanted, and safe. And when we prioritize our own concern of getting attached and hurt over that, we are doing them a disservice.
On the other side of that, the children need someone they can get attached to, someone they can love. Studies have shown that this is essential to any child’s mental well-being. In foster care situations, the child has just lost their “person” whom they look to, to meet their needs, or they may never have had a person to attach to before. These children need people in their lives who are willing to become attached to them, and let them become attached as well. By stepping up, and being someone who meets their needs, it shows them affection, and provides safety. You are providing them an excellent chance at future health and healing. You are giving them a chance at a more hopeful future.
It's not for everyone!
I’m not saying Foster Parenting is for everyone. And it has nothing to do with not being “good enough” or anything like that. If you have trauma from your own childhood that might be triggered by these kids’ situations, it might not be the ideal situation for you. If change is super hard for you, fostering might not be right for you (or it could be a good learning experience). If you always need to know what’s happening next, fostering is none of that, so it might not work for you. Fostering might also just not be the right thing for your family, for any number of reasons. And that’s okay. It’s okay to evaluate your situation and determine if foster care is right for you and your family.
You can still help!
You know what you can do? You can support foster families in your community. Provide childcare for nights out for the foster parents. Bring them meals during busy weeks (back to school, summer vacation, spring break, the holidays). Invite them over for dinner or a game night. Arrange play dates with your kids. Invite them into your lives, or ask to be invited into theirs. Be aunties and uncles and grandparents to all their kids who need as many people in their corner caring for them as possible. My group of friends love auntie time. They have come over to my house to cuddle babies, let me sleep when I was sick by taking care of the child for a couple of hours, played games with the older children, and just asked how they were doing!
Maybe you could consider helping with supplies and clothing for the kids? Many foster kids come to their homes with little clothing beyond the clothes on their backs, and with no toys or comfort items. Babies are expensive, and foster parents (especially ones who are just getting started) may not have all the things that new parents receive at baby showers, or have months to prepare and accumulate. Especially with babies, they need formula and diapers like nobody’s business. Before I became a foster parent, some of our friends took in a sibling group that had two little ones in diapers, I sent them a couple of boxes of diapers through Amazon Prime Now. It was five minutes out of my day and a little money, but it meant one less trip for them to make, and one less thing for them to do. You could organize a virtual baby shower or kid shower. Take the kid to target for first day of school clothes and supplies. There is so much you can do!
Every person we let into our lives has the potential to be someone we become attached to, and we may not have them in our lives for very long. A foster child is just another person who you have the opportunity to love, learn, and grow from. And our lives are often so much better for the people we let in and love. Consider making a foster child or a foster family someone you choose to let in and love.