By guest blogger Jonathon Sampson
There’s this nasty idea going around that foster parents are special, amazing, incredible people who’ve got it all figured out and are the best parents in the world. I’m here to tell you that the rumors aren’t completely true. Yes, foster parents are great people doing a great thing, but there’s nothing special about them. They certainly don’t have it all figured out. I know this because I’m a foster and adoptive parent, and I’m far from perfect. Foster care isn’t a special thing special people do. It’s an imperfect system full of imperfect people doing their best to make the world a better place for children who have experienced trauma.
There’s good news though – children in foster care don’t need perfect parents, they need present parents. According to the most recent AFCARS report, 61% of children who enter foster care have experienced neglect. By comparison, 12% have experienced physical abuse and 4% experienced sexual abuse. Abuse and neglect affect children in different ways. Kids who experience abuse get the message they are bad children who deserve to be mistreated. They feel inadequate in who they are. Children who are neglected get the message they don’t exist. They feel as if they aren’t worth caring about and have no value. Children who have been neglected don’t need perfect parents, but they need people who will care about them and show them that they have value and are worthy of love.
I’m far from a perfect foster/adoptive parent. I apologize to my kids almost daily and constantly work to improve my interactions with them. But my kids know that they are valuable and loved, and hopefully, they are learning perfection is unattainable and handling imperfection with humility and grace is possible. By consistently being present to show care, reliablity, listen, and give support, kids in care begin to believe they are seen and have value.
If you are like me, an imperfect person who cares about showing children they have worth and deserve love, you could be a great foster parent. Obviously, there’s more to foster parenting than just being present and showing love, but most flow out of those two foundational things.
Kids don’t need perfect. They need present.