Foster care was on your heart and you went for it!! You just got licensed and you’ve already received a call for your first placement?
I know how excited you are to put into practice all that you’ve been learning in your classes. I also know that you’re probably feeling guilty about feeling excited. I know that you are acutely aware that your personal excitement is stemming from a child who has recently experienced a personal tragedy. It’s normal to feel excited, nervous, and even a smidge guilty.
What now? Gather what you have on hand. You might put out some snacks or a coloring book or a notepad and some crayons. Maybe some stickers or books or play-doh. There’s a good chance that the child coming to you will need some time to decompress. Their life will have been a flurry of activity in the hours before they arrived at your home. It might be nice to allow them a few minutes to let their world stop spinning. Sometimes that can happen while coloring. Sometimes when the hands are busy, the brain can begin to process.
You’ll likely get a file from the caseworker. Put this somewhere safe, that you’ll remember. The next few days will be a little nutty but when the dust settles, you’ll need to know where all the paperwork is. On that note, consider making a copy of the paperwork so you can keep a copy with you at all times. Be sure you have the caseworker’s name and contact information. Also, be sure to ask the caseworker if any meetings have been set up yet. Make note of those. I know these things seem obvious but it’s possible you’ll be so wrapped up in the moment, welcoming this child, that you might forget to do the obvious.
Brace yourself, this child will likely epitomize the “deer in the headlights” analogy. Their confusion will be nearly palpable. Their grief heavy. Their anger raw. Great news: you don’t have to “fix” them. You just need to allow a safe place for their big feelings. Assure them it’s okay to feel whatever they need to feel.
Don’t forget to allow a safe place for your own big feelings. And you’re going to have them. Your own heart will likely ache. It’ll ache for the child you’re caring for. Sometimes it’ll ache for what you’re missing out on by choosing foster care (ugh, more guilt for being selfish). If you’re like me, you might even get mad at God as you try to figure out the brokenness of this world. Spoiler: you’ll never figure it out. Who can you talk to? Real, raw, and honest? A spouse, parent, friend? Be sure to check in and let your big feelings out. Don’t be ashamed because it’s okay to feel whatever you need to feel.
Be kind to that sweet child and be kind to yourself. Allow grace to run freely in your home. Remind yourself that what you are doing is Kingdom work and that Kingdom work is rarely easy. It is the most important kind of work though.
Read more of Abbie Mabary’s contributions to allmomdoes here.