Can You Directly Adopt Children in Foster Care?

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Can You Adopt Directly Through Foster Care or Do You Have to Foster First?

The answer is yes and only on paper. While foster care exists as a temporary place for children to be safe, not all children in the system go back to their biological families. People, like me, adopted directly through foster care and there are still thousands of children waiting for more people to do the same for them.

We Need Adoptive Families

Maybe you’re like me and the thought of a child(ren) potentially leaving you doesn’t make you run to get involved in the foster care system. I didn’t want that to be my reality either. That’s why I got licensed to adopt children directly from the system.

Be Clear On Your Intent

If your intent is to adopt children, then adopt children. If your intent is to foster and care for a child(ren) temporarily, foster. Please do not become a foster parent to foster a child only to hope you can eventually adopt them. 

Who Are the Adoptable Children in Foster Care?

Sometimes you hear them called “wards of the state”, “waiting children”, or “foster children”. There are currently 115,000 children in the foster care system who are adoptable. According to KidsCount, 40% of these children are ages 1-5 and over 50% are ages 6-15.

Some of the adoptable children in foster care have online profiles which you can browse at A Family for Every Child and at AdoptUsKids. But before you click that link, it is important to know that you can live in any state and adopt child(ren) from any state within the United States. If that was confusing, the bottom line is the state the child(ren) currently lives does not need to be the state where their forever family lives.

The Fine Print

To be able to adopt these children, you need to live together with them for 6 months before going to court to finalize the adoption. During that time you will actually be serving as the child(ren)’s foster parent. But once the adoption is finalized, you can discontinue the foster parent paperwork.

Interested In Learning More About How to Become a Forever Family for Adoptable Children in Foster Care?

The first step is to sign up to get licensed. This involves completing an application, doing a certain number of hours of training (which depends on your state), and preparing your home for child(ren). The process is funded by the state (meaning offered at no cost to you) and takes 4-6 months. I often like to encourage future adoptive families to remember who they are doing this for and to not let the process deter them.

Author's Bio

Marcy Bursac is an adoptive mom of a biological sibling pair and is passionate about finding and coaching forever families for the remaining 115,000 U.S. children who are waiting to be adopted through foster care. To learn more about Marcy, you can follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

How Can I Help? Ways to Get Involved in Foster Care

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How Can I Help? Ways to Get Involved in Foster Care

Adopting is a huge responsibility. Not only are adoptive families responsible for their foster child, but they also have the task of ensuring that their new member of the family has the happy and healthy life that they deserve. However, many believe that the only way to help children in need is to adopt, and this is far from the truth. There are many tools, events, and resources accessible to anyone who wants to make a difference in the lives of foster children without carrying the heavy responsibility that comes with adoption. Here are a few lesser-known but equally helpful ways that you can help foster children: 

My Neighbor

Incorporated by the people over at Every Child Oregon, My NeighbOR is an amazing resource to help foster children. People connected to the foster care services can post their needs to this website, whether it be food, clothing, furniture, or any necessity. Once posted, anyone registered with My Neighbor can view these needs, and give them to those who requested them by delivering directly to the family, or dropping them off at a regional pick-up site. To learn more about this great resource, you can visit the My NeighbOR website.


Gifts of Hope

Gifts of Hope is a great charity service for underprivileged and vulnerable children provided by Holt International. Gifts of Hope allows you to buy specific items that make immediate and life-changing impacts on children in need. What makes Gifts of Hope different from other charitable organizations is that you see exactly where your money is going. For example, instead of simply donating a sum of money, you can purchase different items, such as shoes, blankets, or bikes, and know that what you’re buying is actually making a difference. If you’d like to donate, or simply learn more about Gifts of Hope, visit their website.

FosterClub Meet-Up

FosterClub meet-up is a great way for people involved in the foster system to connect and interact. These meet-ups gather foster-connected individuals, caring adults, professional childcare workers, or simply anyone who’s interested, and treat them to a fun night filled with games, laughter, and storytelling. FosterClub meet-ups are great for people to get together to talk about their unique life journeys, while also allowing them to see how their experiences are quite similar, and bond over them. To learn more about FosterClub, or to find out when the next Meet-Up may be, visit their website.

AFFEC Mentor Program

A Family for Every Child’s Mentor Program is one of the best programs out there for providing foster children with a happier life. The Mentor Program assigns a foster child with a responsible adult “mentor,” where they partake in activities that the both of them can enjoy, for a few hours of the day. It’s a great way to brighten up a foster child’s day, and introduce them to new experiences they will never forget! If you’re interested in applying for the mentor program, you can visit our mentor program webpage.

AFFEC Events

In addition to the Mentor Program, A Family for Every Child has a multitude of events that everyone can enjoy. Whether it be music festivals, Hero for a Day, or the Home is Where the Heart is Gala and Auction, our organization is dedicated to improving the lives of foster children. Donating to or attending these events makes all the difference to these children in need. To learn about all of the amazing and life changing events A Family For Every Child puts on, you can visit our upcoming events webpage.

Author's Bio

Ryan is a college writer currently attending San Diego State University. He loves writing pieces about whatever he finds important, and he enjoys hearing feedback from everyone who reads it. When he graduates, he is hoping to pursue a career in journalism or the media.

Thank You, Free Geek!

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Thank You, Free Geek!

What do e-waste and the Digital Divide have in common? Free Geek!

Free Geek is a nonprofit organization that has a goal of addressing both of these issues through the reuse and recycling of donated tech. A Family for Every Child has been a recipient of their technology donations, and we would like to thank them for their generosity.

What is Free Geek?

Based in Portland, Free Geek is a nonprofit that refurbishes and recycles donated tech equipment. A lot of people don’t have access to the technology that they need to be able to apply for jobs, communicate with others, do their homework, perform research, and more! Free Geek is able to give these people the digital resources they need for free or for a very low cost because of the way they reuse donated technology. For tech that can’t be reused, Free Geek properly recycles it in order to help manage the abundance of e-waste.

How does Free Geek deal with the technology?

Free Geek follows a process to deal with the tech donations that they receive. First, people donate  tech items to them through mail, appointment, or drop-offs. Then, Free Geek volunteers provide data security for the hard drives by deleting data and cleaning the hard drives. Then the tech is either reused or recycled. Free Geek is able to recycle items that other places can’t deal with by taking them apart and dealing with the electronic parts and metals properly and responsibly. The items that are refurbished and reused are given out to people and organizations through their programs: Plug Into Portland, Affordable Tech Program, and Grants. They also sell these refurbished tech items on eBay.

How have they helped AFFEC?

Free Geek has generously donated several thousand dollars’ worth of tech equipment to AFFEC over the past five years or so. Some of these things include desktop computers, desktop monitors, mice and keyboards, microphones, headsets, headphones, speakers, projectors, shredders, hard drives and flash drives, network equipment, webcams and more! These computers are used by AFFEC employees, interns, and volunteers for many purposes such as creating things like graphics, advertisements, brochures and pamphlets. AFFEC’s tech team uses these resources to develop software to streamline the adoption process and to help facilitate better matches between families and children. Projectors are used for host training nights for workers, and other networking and electrical equipment is used at AFFEC events.

Learn More

You can learn more about Free Geek on their website or through their newsletter, and you can donate to Free Geek, too! Would you like to help A Family For Every Child directly, too? Visit our wish list of practical ways that you can help!

How to Normalize Talking About Your Family’s Adoption Story Within the Family and in the Community

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How to Normalize Talking About Your Family's Adoption Story Within the Family and in the Community

Talking about your own or your adopted child’s adoption story at home and with family and friends can feel a bit taboo. Is it okay? How do you broach the topic?

Start at Home

In some circles, adoption is kept a secret from the child adopted. But when you adopt children through the foster care system it is pretty rare that a child is young enough to not remember life with another family. Creating open space to talk with your adopted child(ren) and family about your child(ren)’s story is a great way to embrace your adopted child’s whole story.

Looking for help on how to get the conversation started?

  • First, know it’s totally okay and normal to feel uneasy and nervous. I felt unprepared, too.
  • When you broach the topic and how you get the conversation started doesn’t have to be complicated. If your child likes board games, try playing a game together and asking them, “How does it feel to be adopted?” or encouraging your child, “I want you to know it’s safe to talk about your adoption story with Dad and me.”
  • Is your adopted child(ren) already working with a therapist? Ask for their help. My husband and I had a few sessions with our children’s play therapist to practice appropriate language and conversation boundaries. 

These 5 tips are also great resources for adoptive parents wanting to talk to their children about adoption.

Beyond the Home

My kids began elementary school as their adoptions were finalized so many classmates were unaware they were adopted. I remember being upset when the teacher asked for a baby photo for a class project. I didn’t have those. Should I say something to the teacher? Would it hurt her feelings?

Talking about your family’s adoption story outside your home is not always black and white. Sometimes what’s best for your family is to not speak up. Sometimes speaking up is what is best.

With websites like LoveWhatMatters and organizations like the Dave Thomas Foundation devoted to sharing adoption stories, the thought of sharing your own might make you both excited and uneasy. And that’s okay.

How to Gauge When/If It’s Appropriate to Share About Your Family’s Adoption Story

  • Ask your significant other for their thoughts.
  • Ask for input from the child(ren) who were adopted.
  • Ask others that you live with for their opinion.
  • Set up boundaries on what is okay to share and what isn’t. Are photos okay? Which photos? Are there certain details that aren’t appropriate for people outside your home to know?

Defining what’s okay and not okay to share as a family unit helps build trust and respect. Different seasons might come with different preferences. Those are okay, too. The important thing is to create a safe place to have the conversation.

Author's Bio

Marcy Bursac is an adoptive mom of a biological sibling pair and is passionate about finding and coaching forever families for the remaining 115,000 U.S. children who are waiting to be adopted through foster care. To learn more about Marcy, you can follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Waiting Children: Who They Are and How You Can Help

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Waiting Children: Who They Are and How You Can Help

Maybe you know there are 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. But did you know 115,000 of these children are considered “waiting children”?

Who are waiting children?

Most often you’ve heard “waiting children” called “foster children” because they are currently in foster care. However, waiting children are children who will not be returning to their biological families. In fact, waiting children wait in foster care until they are adopted or they age out of the foster care system.

When do foster children become waiting children?

Similar to other children in foster care, waiting children were placed in foster care due to abuse, neglect or death that left them unable to reside with their biological family. But after a series of court hearings and attempts towards stability, the biological family’s parental rights were taken away so the child does not reunify with their biological family.

Who can adopt waiting children?

Most adults (single or married) who are at least 21 years-old can adopt waiting children. The list of requirements vary by state but you don’t need a large amount of cash or a big house, just a caring heart and stable home.

Want to learn more?

  • Read profiles of children who are waiting for someone to step up and adopt them.
  • Ask someone you know about their family’s foster care adoption story. If you don’t know anyone personally, ask around and look on social media. Learning from another’s lived experience provides insights you might not learn anywhere else. 
  • Read and listen to stories of other families who have adopted through foster care to gain inspiration.

Author's Bio

Marcy Bursac is an adoptive mom of a biological sibling pair and is passionate about finding and coaching forever families for the remaining 115,000 U.S. children who are waiting to be adopted through foster care. To learn more about Marcy, you can follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

How to Prepare Your Home for the Arrival of a New Foster Child

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How to Prepare Your Home for the Arrival of a New Foster Child

Getting the news that a new foster child is going to enter your home is always exciting. It gives you an incredible opportunity to have a powerful impact on that child’s life. That starts by making them feel as “at home” as possible. 

If you’ve never had a foster child in your home before, the task of preparing your home can feel a little daunting at first. But, don’t let it worry you. By focusing on making your space inviting, safe, and fun, you can create the ideal environment for the child (no matter their age), and help them to feel welcome right away. 

As a foster parent, it’s okay to need a little help and advice sometimes. The more you’re willing to learn about what you can do, the better. With that in mind, let’s cover a few simple ways you can prepare your home for the arrival of a new foster child.

Keep Things Clean and Organized

When a foster child first walks into your home, your goal should be to make them as comfortable as possible. That’s easier when your home is decluttered and organized. A messy house could make them feel stressed and as though they’re walking into a situation where they aren’t welcome. 

Keep in mind, however, that a clean house doesn’t mean there should be a “no touching” policy in place. Don’t make things so stark and perfect that the child feels like they can’t interact with things or move about freely. You should let them know where things are, so they have easy access to items they can play with. Setting up organized play areas can also make a big difference in how comfortable they feel. Consider transforming your basement into a playroom by: 

  • Putting away any potentially dangerous items
  • Securing furnishings
  • Adding cushions to the floor
  • Decluttering items to create a more open space

Most importantly, make sure the child’s bedroom is a clean, organized, and welcoming space for them. When they see that it’s decluttered, they’ll feel like it’s a place of their own, rather than a room they’re “invading” with a lot of stuff in it. It’s so important for foster children to have their own little safe haven within a home, giving them time to get used to things. A clean room makes that easier.

Make Safety a Priority

Preparing your home for a new foster child doesn’t just mean changing the layout or cleaning things up. It means adjusting things to fit the needs of that child. If they’re younger, for example, that might mean locking up any medications, cleaning supplies, or other potentially harmful substances they could get into. 

It also means learning about them and any extra steps you might need to take to keep them safe and comfortable. For example, if they have food allergies, make sure you know about them ahead of time. Having a basket or bowl of “safe snacks’ in the kitchen will let them know they can grab something freely whenever they’re hungry without worrying about it. You can also adjust the meals you make accordingly. 

Improving the safety of other areas of your life can also make a difference. For example, if you’ll be driving the child to school and extracurricular activities, make sure your car is well-maintained and has a few essentials in it, in case of emergency. Some of the most practical safety supplies include: 

  • Jumper cables
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • First aid kit
  • A blanket
  • Water
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Winter gear

Having a doctor or nurse practitioner at the ready should also be a priority. Many foster children don’t have regular doctors they visit. Being able to take them to a family nurse practitioner if they get sick can ensure they’ll stay healthy and safe under your watch.

Be Yourself

At the end of the day, don’t stress too much about over-preparing for a new foster child. If you truly want them to feel at home in your care, be yourself and make sure they know that when they’re with you, they’re part of the family. 

By making a few adjustments in your home, whether it’s adding more safety measures or setting up special play areas, you’ll create a welcoming environment for a child who truly needs it. That will go a long way in helping them feel like they belong – and that’s what really matters.

Author's Bio

Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn't writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.

Helping Older Foster Children Gain Job Skills

Helping Older Foster Children Gain Job Skills

Parenting older children is difficult. During adolescence, teenagers’ brains struggle to self-regulate as they experience greater highs and deeper lows. At the same time, your child faces more environmental stress as they make major life decisions while moving through periods of great physical change.

Helping your teenager regain a sense of control during this stressful period is important. One way to help them navigate this combination of hormonal fluctuation and environmental stress is to plan for the future by developing job skills. 

However, talking about jobs with your child can be frustrating. As parents, the best way to move through this frustration is to be positive and proactive. Research shows that positive interactions between parents and children will improve your child’s overall competence and lead to better outcomes for you both. As such, it is vital that you listen to your older child, and try to offer gentle guidance. 

Here are a few positive ways you can help your child gain essential job skills without stressing them out.

Build a Great Resume

Before your child can start applying for jobs, they need to create a great resume. However, the first resume is always the most difficult. Your child likely has little or no work experience and will find the idea of selling themselves awkward. That’s where gentle parenting and resume writing experts come in. 

First, remember that employers don’t expect young applicants to have much work experience. Instead, focus on points that help your child stand out from other children. For example, have they given presentations at school? Did they feature on a sports team of any kind? Have they played an instrument in front of an audience? If they do have any unique experiences, be sure to use a template that foregrounds them. 

Resumes are typically one or two pages in length. However, filling two whole pages may be a struggle for some older children. If your child’s resume looks a little empty, select a new template that will fit their experience. If you get stuck, consider adding sections like “skills”, “interests”, or “hobbies”.

Autonomy and Choice

You must give your child the autonomy they need. As adults with professional careers, it can be tempting to take over. Instead, allow your child to drive the decision-making process, and try to give helpful feedback without being overbearing. Of course, that’s easier said than done. So, if you know that you’re likely to take over, consider the following tips: 

Present Your Child With Options

By presenting your child with options, you can gently introduce career paths that you think might suit them. For example, if your child gets on well with their peers, they might enjoy a career in HR, where they could become a Human Resources Specialist. If they prefer to work alone, then a career in software engineering might be perfect for them. By presenting your child with these options—rather than prescribing career paths to them—they’ll discover a career path that suits them best and will be motivated to succeed. 

Think Traits, Not Careers

Job markets are always changing. Industries with great job prospects today may be over-saturated in 10 years. Additionally, only 27% of all college graduates go on to have careers related to their major. This ever-changing job landscape means that it is best to think in terms of traits instead of potential careers. For example, if your child struggles to voice their opinion, you can guide them towards public speaking programs or drama clubs. If your child is commanding and overwhelming with their peers, then perhaps a sport that requires teamwork will help them value others. No one knows which skills will be in demand in the future, but helping your child become well-rounded will always serve them well.

Helping Your Child Grow

By giving your child gentle guidance, you can help them regain a sense of control that sets them up for future success. You might also find that they can handle more responsibility, as many older children crave the ability to determine their own path in life. Regardless of your child’s future career, taking positive steps now will relax your child and give them an authentic sense of autonomy.

Author's Bio

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

How to Model Emotional Intelligence for Children

How to Model Emotional Intelligence for Children

Every parent or caregiver wants their child to grow up healthy, happy, and successful. And in trying to bring that all-important goal to fruition, we tend to focus heavily on education, equipping kids with the knowledge and skills they need to build a secure, stable, and prosperous life. But raising healthy and successful children is about far more than cultivating their intelligence quotient (IQ). It’s also about nurturing their emotional intelligence quotient (EQ). And that comes both from what you teach your children and what you model for them.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Children aren’t born with a natural ability to understand their emotions, let alone the knowledge to process and express them. In fact, emotional intelligence refers to a set of specialized skills that many of us enter adulthood never having completely mastered. Emotional intelligence involves self-awareness, emotional regulation, self-expression, active listening, empathy, and problem-solving. 

Each of these skills, fundamentally, links to the individual’s ability to nurture both their own well-being and the well-being of others. Helping children to cultivate these skills early facilitates habits that serve young ones well across all domains of life, from their relationships with peers to their experiences at school and the way they function at home.

But it’s not only in childhood that emotional intelligence matters. It’s also a critical component of adult success. In higher education and the workplace alike, emotional intelligence helps people balance the myriad challenges of “adulting,” from negotiating the obligations of home, work, and family to navigating the inevitable hopes, fears, and frustrations of adult life. Adults with high EQ, in other words, are more likely to succeed across multiple aspects of life, from pursuing advanced educations to building rewarding careers to sustaining happy families.

Teaching and Modelling Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is like a muscle: The more you use it, the stronger it gets. But it takes time. And one of the first and most important things to remember as you seek to support your child’s EQ development is that what you do matters even more than what you say. You are your child’s most influential role model, and they’re always paying attention, whether they show it or not.

A good place to begin cultivating children’s emotional intelligence is in high-pressure situations, where EQ skills can be used to facilitate coping. For example, as the holiday season approaches, adults and children alike are faced with the particular challenges of the season, such as disrupted daily routines, chaotic schedules, and the simple overstimulation of so many people, so much noise, and such unrelenting activity.

Taking the time before the holidays arrive to develop a self-care plan with your child is an ideal way to cultivate their EQ. For example, you can work with them to develop a strategy for managing the season’s festivities without becoming overwhelmed. Talk with your child to help them plan for rest breaks. Help them identify times and situations in which they are more likely to feel anxious or upset, and come up with a solution for dealing with those moments. You and your child, for example, might select a quiet room where they can go when they need a break, a calming piece of music that they might listen to, or even a discrete signal that the two of you can privately share to let you know when your child needs some support. In this way, you are helping your child learn to identify, label, and manage their emotions, which is a cornerstone of EQ. 

Another important aspect of this is helping your child learn to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is particularly important in combatting anxiety and depression because it requires the person to ground themselves in the present, to focus on both the external environment and internal responses, from feelings to physiology. Through mindfulness, for example, children can learn to notice their breathing and heart rate and to use these to alert themselves to the fact that they may be getting anxious. Once they know how to spot the signs, you can give them tools to help them self-regulate, such as deep breathing exercises or playing with a worry ball or other stress-relieving toy.

Of course, EQ isn’t only concerned with self-care. A high EQ also prioritizes empathy and relationships. And this is, perhaps, where modeling plays an especially important role. Your child doesn’t just need you to teach them how to take care of themselves. They also need to see you taking care of yourself and others. This includes, for example, having open, honest, and age-appropriate conversations with your child about your feelings, including “negative” ones, such as fear or sadness. They should also be able to see you practicing self-care, such as using the “quiet room” yourself when you need it.

In addition, having frequent conversations with your child about other people’s emotions and experiences will help them to develop empathy. For example, allowing your child to see you engage in active listening and small acts of kindness toward others can be a powerful tool for modeling EQ. Likewise, even very young children can begin to learn to practice compassion and to build relationships through sharing and helping activities, from helping Mom feed the dog its breakfast to brushing baby sister’s hair at night.

The Takeaway

Emotional intelligence isn’t just some soft skill that’s nice to have but relatively inessential to life today. Rather, emotional intelligence is fundamental to the well-being of children and adults alike. And that means that teaching and modeling emotional intelligence is a vital responsibility of every parent and caregiver.

Author's Bio

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

How Foster Parents Can Help Ease Mental Health Struggles

How Foster Parents Can Help Ease Mental Health Struggles

There is nothing better you can do with your life than to open your home and your heart to a child in need. But doing so is both a profound gift and a profound responsibility. No matter what your child’s experience, whether it is the death of a biological parent or a court-mandated removal from the birth home, your foster child will inevitably have experienced trauma. 

And that means that there will be an adjustment period not only for the child but for the entire family, particularly if your foster child is one of the nearly 80% of children in the foster care system to experience significant mental health struggles.

A History of Trauma

In the majority of cases, children often enter the foster care system because they have experienced significant and prolonged abuse or neglect. They may have experienced parental addiction and housing insecurity. And they likely lack the familial and social connections they need to provide them with a sense of stability, security, and safety in their lives.

And that kind of history is a lot for little shoulders to bear. Children reared in such volatile environments are likely to experience significant anxiety and, in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may be restless, fearful, withdrawn, mistrustful, or hypervigilant.

On top of the burden of the past, children in foster care are likely coping with feelings of guilt and shame, especially as they begin to bond with their foster family and to enjoy the new and more stable life their foster home provides. They may blame themselves for “abandoning” or “betraying” their birth family by entering into this new life without them.

What to Expect and How to Cope

Separation Anxiety

The history of instability at home that foster children often carry can lead to significant separation anxiety, especially as their bond with their foster family grows. Your little one will need lots of patience and understanding to help them feel more secure. This is going to mean reassuring your child that you will be back for them and giving them a time frame for understanding when, exactly, you will return for them. 

Because young children don’t usually have a clear understanding of time, you can use daily benchmarks to help them know when to expect you (i.e. after snack or nap time or when Sesame Street comes on), You can also create quick little rituals that you and your child share before you leave and when you return to pick them up, such as a quick fist bump or a heart hand signal. 

It can also be helpful to give your child a transitional object to hold when they begin to feel anxious or to miss you, whether that be a stuffed animal, a book, or, for older children, a more discrete item such as a keychain.  The more predictability you can build into the routine, the more reassured your child will feel and the more readily the separation anxiety will dissipate.

Mood and Behavioral Disorders

In addition to a troubled personal history, your child may also experience a range of risk factors for the development of mood and behavioral disorders, from prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol to insufficient nutrition and pediatric care. Such personal and physiological factors can significantly increase children’s risk of major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and PTSD. In addition, these children may experience substantially more aggressive and disruptive behaviors.

If your child is experiencing a mood or behavioral disorder, the diagnosis can have a ripple effect across the entire family, leading to stress, conflict, and depression throughout the household. For this reason, it is important to pursue strategies not just to care for the child, but for the entire household.

For instance, creating safe spaces throughout the home for your child or other family members to retreat to when they are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated can go far to defuse potentially volatile situations. Best of all, when your child sees you, and their siblings, taking a time out when needed to decompress and self-regulate, they’ll learn to emulate such behaviors themselves, both at home and in the bigger, louder world outside.

Another highly beneficial strategy is to bring a pet into the home. There’s already a mountain of evidence supporting the mental health benefits of a companion animal. Petting an animal has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, decrease heart rate and blood pressure, and promote an overall sense of happiness and wellbeing. Plus, the love and care of a pet can be a wonderful way for the family to bond and for the child to build self-esteem and a sense of belonging and unconditional acceptance and love.

The Takeaway

There is perhaps no greater gift than to open your home to a foster child, but it is important to be prepared for the mental health challenges that may accompany this process. Learning to care not only for the mental wellbeing of the child but also of the entire family is the first step in building the beautiful future that your growing family deserves.

Author's Bio

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

How to Help Your Foster Kids Pass Their Developmental Stages with Flying Colors

How to Help Your Foster Kids Pass Their Developmental Stages With Flying Colors

According to ego psychologist Erik Erikson, all people go through eight specific stages of development. These psychosocial development stages help to determine self-actualization later in life. 

As you might expect, healthily going through those stages is important for all children. For foster children, however, it becomes even more imperative. Foster kids have often gone through traumatic experiences or may not have experienced a real “home” until recently. 

How can you provide a support system for them in your home? How can you help them pass their developmental stages now, so they can be more stable and secure as they eventually transition into adulthood? 

Let’s take a look at Erikson’s stages and what you can do to help your foster kids through each one. 

Developing Stages Through Relationships

Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development are: 

  • Trust versus mistrust
  • Autonomy versus shame and doubt
  • Initiative versus guilt
  • Industry versus inferiority
  • Identity versus confusion
  • Intimacy versus isolation
  • Generativity versus stagnation
  • Integrity versus despair

If you take a look at that list, you’ll see that all of the “positive” sides have one thing in common – they can all be achieved by forming a healthy relationship with your foster kids. To encourage them, you have to build trust. From there, you can work with them through each additional stage. 

One way to earn that trust is to make sure they know they’re in a safe environment. They might have experienced trauma or even abuse in the past. When they know they’re safe and won’t be harmed, they’re more likely to open themselves up to learning and growing in different ways. Keeping them safe and comfortable every day is important, but it’s also crucial to have emergency preparedness plans in place for your whole family. If you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters like storms or flooding, incorporating your foster kids into your safety plan will further assure them that they are loved and cared for. 

Familiarizing yourself with Erikson’s stages of development can help you better determine where your foster kid currently is and where they might need help. Trust versus mistrust often begins at infancy, but it can “start over” when they are somewhere new. If you have a preschool-aged child, you can focus on initiative versus guilt. Adolescents often need guidance through identity versus role confusion, and young adults can struggle with intimacy versus isolation if they aren’t taking the right approach. 

So, what can you do to help your foster kids through these developmental stages? A combination of research and experience is the best way to work through them. There are plenty of resources available that can help you to guide your foster children at any age. But, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember what it was like to be a child at that age and think about how you were feeling, where you were struggling, and what your own parents or guardians did to help you through. You have more existing knowledge than you might think. 

Helping With Roadblocks

There will be challenges along the way. That’s true with every child. But, for a foster kid who has already had a hard life, it’s normal to expect roadblocks. Learning how to navigate them and how to keep moving forward will be an important key in helping them pass their developmental stages. 

They might have emotional delays due to what they’ve been through. Trauma impacts everyone differently. In some cases, your foster kids might benefit from professional mental health help. 

Everyday “roadblocks” can also become a problem. You want your foster kids to feel comfortable in your home, but you shouldn’t let those creature comforts keep them from growing. For example, you might have a child who loves playing video games. But, too much gaming can cause problems like

  • Emotional suppression
  • Anxiety
  • Social disconnection
  • Relationship issues
  • Decreased motivation

Make sure the comfort and fun you’re giving your foster kids aren’t hindering them in other ways. It’s about striking a healthy balance and finding ways to make them feel safe, secure, and happy while encouraging them through each developmental stage. You have a unique opportunity as a foster parent to make a big impact, no matter how old your foster kids are. Take advantage of that as much as you can, and take pride in knowing you’re doing something beneficial for the future of those children. 

Author's Bio

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn