I just found a thought I jotted down last June. “Eight months. Honestly been missing our life before all of this lately. The case has been so stressful and confusing lately, but he's worth it. His safety and security outweigh our comfort. Things I remind myself.” That was a particularly difficult season of our current placement. I’m thankful to be past it. The case itself was painful, but I was also unintentionally adding to my own stress.
Sometimes I get asked what advice I’d give to someone just starting to foster, or what I’d do differently if I could start over. I usually give some sort of vague answer, because I’m only 16 months into my first placement and still have a lot to learn. When I found this note from last summer though, I felt the need to provide the two main things I’ve picked up. I share in hopes of helping someone else avoid some of the anxiety I felt 8 months ago.
1. Have healthy boundaries.
Some people are really good at setting clear boundaries, and/or putting their foot down. I am not one of those people. Since I already knew this about myself, I should not have provided my personal contact info to certain people involved in my case. This first thought could also be called, “Don’t give out your phone number if you’re a pushover.” When things slowly progressed over a few months from “Maybe we’ll call for Thanksgiving,” to “Sure, I guess we can call again tomorrow,” I was in a tricky spot. This could, of course, have been avoided if I’d picked a method of communication that was more appropriate for my emotional capacity. It’s less awkward to give out an email or just exchange notes at visitation (at least while you’re “testing the waters”) than it is to set up new phone boundaries 9 months into a placement.
2. Connect with more experienced foster parents as soon as possible.
I didn’t really exchange ideas with other foster parents until things in my case got difficult. If I’d connected earlier, they probably would have been able to steer me away from some well-intentioned but damaging decisions I made.
These are just a couple things I’d do differently if I could go back. I think they would have actually helped me to have a better relationship with other people involved in my case, by preventing certain uncomfortable situations. I’m thankful for all I’ve learned during our first placement, and am even more thankful that I’ll be better equipped for the next.