Day 6: Discipline/Effects of Care Giving

"Too often we forget that discipline really means to teach, not to punish. A disciple is a student, not a recipient of behavioral consequences."
Dr. Dan Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child

And it came to pass, the class in which taught us how to become parents. As much as you can learn without actual hands on experience.

Several points taken from the class:

The ability to delay the gratification of a child is critical to their success. Remember the whole study with the kids and the marshmallow? They put a child in a room and place a marshmallow in front of them. They say that they can eat it then. But they can also wait. And if they do wait, then they will be rewarded with a second marshmallow. If we can delay the gratification of a child, we motivate them to do their very best, because they know that the second reward will be greater than the first.

For instance, when we were primary teachers, our primary presidency used marbles in a jar. When the kids were on their best behavior, they got a marble in the jar. When the jar was full, they received a reward. The instant gratification is the marble in the jar. And the delayed gratification is the reward once the jar is full.

As the parent, we should never take away something already earned. If we put a marble in the jar, and then they misbehave, we cannot take a marble away. The marble was placed for a good behavior. And bad behavior cannot cancel out the good behavior. If we make a mistake at work does our boss ask us for a portion of our paycheck to make up for our mistake? Makes sense now, right?

Discipline = Teaching
Discipline > Behavior Management

We are to discipline for good and bad behavior. Which means that good behavior and bad behavior provides us with good teaching opportunities as parents. And we need to be sure that we are taking opportunities to teach in all situations. Not just the good. Not just the bad.

The best consequences are the ones that get the child back on track. When we place children in time out, are they really learning from their mistake? Are they really sitting in the corner, pondering what they did wrong and what it is they can do better in the future so as to not end up in that situation again? We should be talking to our kids. Letting them take a break from the situation. An example was used as we talked about what we do as adults when we are in a stressful situation. Do we go sit in the corner, completely silent, for as many minutes as we are in age thinking about what we did wrong? {If you do.....therapy, my friend.} Of course we don't! We go for a walk. We go shopping. We eat some chocolate. We exercise. Give a child the opportunity to refresh themselves in a similar way.

I really enjoyed this class. It gave me a good opportunity to take what I was raised with, and mix it with the things that I learned to begin thinking about some ways I plan to teach the children that come into our home. As much as you can prepare without hands on experience, right?


Day 8: Cultural Issues/Primary Families

The final class of the series (not our final class, because we took them out of order). And how fitting that we talked about culture. After all the talk of development and behavior, we now focus on the differences in a family’s culture. We may share culture similarities with those around us, but all our families and home are different. We bring these children, that come from their own familial culture, into our home, into our family, which contains a completely different culture. We talked for hours about the different cultures that we may find through this process. Some are obvious. For instance, religion. Or food. But what about food, exactly? I’m not talking tortillas versus rice. I’m talking wheat bread versus white bread. We eat wheat bread in our house. That is the way we have chosen to live. It’s our food culture. But what about the kids that have never had wheat bread? Am I to think that when they come into my home they will just magically switch over to our culture? Most likely not. I will give them the chance to try wheat bread, and if they won’t try it or if they don’t like it, I will buy white bread. I mean really. Pick your battles, am I right? But what about those cultures that are less obvious. For instance, affection. Some of us were raised with hugs and kisses, but what about those that are raised with little to no physical affection? I mean, these are all things that we know in the back of our mind, but it’s bringing them to the front that really made me think how interesting of an experience this will be. It can’t be a ‘my way or the highway’ sort of thing. Which for me could be tough. I like things my way. But you know, if it’s not going to hurt or kill someone or something, then we are going to just have to let it go.

We talked about how because most of these kids come from such a different culture, we need to be careful about the effect we have on them. Because the ultimate goal is reunification with their parents, if our culture changes these kids too much, then when they go back, they may have a difficult time being placed back into their family’s culture. All while still having an influence on these children for the better. Such a complicated effort.

We discussed foster parents judging the culture of the biological parents. Just because we may feel that we can perhaps provide a better living, or a better education, or on and on, that does not make us the better option for the child. The goal is reunification. Once the biological parent has cleaned up their life, they will be eligible to get their children back. As long as they can provide a safe environment for them. And I think that is one point that is the most difficult for the foster parents. Perhaps knowing what they can provide and comparing it to what the biological parents could provide. Well that, my friends, is a cultural judgment. The best thing for these kids is to be with their biological parent, first and foremost. Any cultural differences are really just opinions. And opinions based on culture, do not count.

This was the first class that I sat through that really made me want to cry. I have had such a rollercoaster ride going through these classes. When we started, I was so ready to be a foster-to adopt parent. Could not even wait. Then I went completely opposite and was worried that I didn’t really want to do this at all. Luckily, I overcame that pretty quickly. When class was over last night, I told Mike that maybe we should just do foster care, and not adopt. Which I know is just to cover up the fact that I suddenly have found the compassion for these parents that have their kids taken away. What an awful thing, to have your child taken from you. I know, it is because of poor decisions by the parents that these things happen, but don’t we all make poor decisions every day? Maybe not on the scale that these parents do, but don’t we still feel bad when we screw up? Don’t we have guilt? When we have made mistakes, we do what we need to do to reconcile them. Whether that is an apology, repentance, etc., we do whatever we need to do to make it right. And then we hopefully never make the mistake again. So absolutely these parents need to be given second chances. And for a time, their children might come into my home and I might fall in love with them and want them to stay forever, but they were never mine to keep. I did not give birth to them. God did not place them in my home in the beginning, he just put me in the position to help these children when their parents could not.


Day 4: Impacts of Abuse on Development

I realize that there are 2 days of classes that I skipped, however, based on our crazy schedules, we weren’t able to attend days 2 and 3. Fortunately, you do not have to attend the classes in order, so we will be able to pick them up in December.
Did you know that it is worse for a woman to drink alcohol when she is pregnant than it would be for her to use illegal drugs? It’s true. Women that drink alcohol while they are pregnant have more of an effect on their baby’s development than any illegal drug would. And that includes crack cocaine, heroin, meth….you name it. It’s disgusting really how uninformed we are as a society. And yet, alcohol is not only legal, but it is also legal to drink while you are pregnant. I know, the whole thing seems backwards.
In class, we discussed the effects that an abusive home can have on the development of a child. We made comparisons of typical behaviors of children, and the ages in which they develop these behaviors {which just reminded me even further that even though I took child development courses in high school and even some human development courses in college, I definitely do not know when some specific behaviors are developed in children} to the behaviors of children that may be delayed in respect to children that have gone through some form of neglect and/or abuse.
It was reality smacking me in the face, really.
They compare children that enter the foster care system to members of the military that have served on active duty. These children, just like those in the military, suffer from PTSD. In any situation, suffering from PTSD is horrific, but these children unfortunately go through these traumatic situations while their brains are still developing. It literally becomes part of them. It’s molded into their brains. These kids are taken from everything they know {even if it isn’t that great} and placed in a world that is completely foreign to them, all while trying to cope with their traumatic past. And so how do we expect them to behave? Of course they will struggle. Of course they will act out.
I think I had my ah-ha moment.
It’s really getting down on their level. Having empathy for what they have gone through. Trying to understand why they do the things they do. Is it psychological or physiological? Did you know about 80% of kids in the foster care system are diagnosed with ADHD? Many of which are misdiagnosed. When we make this diagnosis, are we taking into account their developmental delays because of the abuse?
There were stories upon stories of food hoarding. How your primal brain takes over. It becomes livelihood. The instructor shared how her aunt would hide food throughout her entire house, and still does to this day, because of the effects the depression had on her. Because she remembers going to bed hungry when she was a kid. And another story of a lady that adopted 4 boys from Guatemala and once found a raw pork chop under one of their mattresses.
A lot of these kids have experienced some neglect, many times in the form of not being fed. And because they weren’t fed while their brains were developing, it stays with them. They will never be rid of the idea that they may not know when they are getting their next meal.
Awful, awful stuff you guys.
So let’s just say Mike and I have already decided that we will have a basket in the pantry with their name on it. It’s their basket. And they get to pick what’s in there. Healthy options of course. It’s their food. And no one else’s. We hope to not find any pork chops under mattresses, but if we do, we’ll deal with it. Because we need to understand where they are coming from. And hopefully we’ll be able to convince them to hide something a little less perishable next time.
These classes are amazing. We are learning so much. We actually think it would be good if all parents took these courses before having kids. So much you should know before you jump into parenthood.
And a bit of a side note, most of these posts are going to be super depressing. The instructor explained to us that in the classes, she doesn’t often talk about the good. Because it’s not the good times that we need to train for. It’s the bad times that we need to understand how to deal with.


Day 1: Orientation/Team Building

Orientation was last night. I was surprised with the number of couples in attendance. There were well over 50 people there. We sat next to the nicest couple. They have 4 boys and are looking to add a girl to the mix. I loved hearing about the other couples and what brought them into the foster care system.
Our instructor is fantastic. Sitting in 4 hour classes after a 9 hour work day seems daunting, but she somehow makes it bearable.
She said something that struck me. In discussing one of the keys to becoming a great foster parent {one of many, I’m sure}, she said that if your heart doesn’t break when the children leave your home, then you aren’t doing it right.
I’ve talked about this in an earlier post. How hard it is going to be to have these kids come into our home, and then have them leave. The average amount of time a child remains with a foster family is 15 months. 15 months! That’s Christmas. That’s a birthday. That’s family reunions, and new school years, and worn out jeans. That is a long time. And another statistic for you: nearly 70% of children return back to their families. And I’m scared I’m going to be a wreck when it’s all staring me in the face.
But then I remember what she said last night. If you aren’t a complete wreck, then you didn’t do something right. Then you didn’t love these children fully. Then you didn’t give them everything that you had. Then you didn’t provide them with what they needed to feel like they were a part of your family.
She says rid yourselves of anyone that thinks that you need to guard yourself. Or that tells you not to get too attached. The most successful children that come out of foster care were the ones that were loved.
We watched a video about a boy named Richard. Richard was in foster care from the age of 4 until he committed suicide when he was 17. Richard was shuffled through 28 different homes and shelters. {Mind you, this was in Canada in the 70’s and 80’s…and the foster care system has changed a lot since then.} Richard was also a journal writer. How unfortunate that Richard’s experience was so awful that he felt that suicide was the only way out but how fortunate for us that we have record of his thoughts and feelings so that we can learn from him. Richard wrote about love. Such a foreign concept to him that scared him yet fascinated him. He wrote about how he couldn’t remember the last time he was held by anyone, and how much he missed it. He wrote about learning how to block out emotions, guarding himself from those around him, to keep from getting hurt.
“Love can be gentle as a lamb, or ferocious as a lion. It is something to be welcomed. It is something to be afraid of. It is good, and bad, yet, people live, fight, die for this. Somehow, people can cope with it. I don’t know, I think I would not be happy with it. Yet I am depressed and sad without it. Love is very strange.”
This can’t happen. And I know we are just a drop in the bucket to the foster care system, but it matters.
Because these kids matter.

If you want to watch the documentary, click here. {Caution: there is a picture of Richard after he committed suicide within the first few minutes.}


This is an addition brought to you in part by Abby's husband.  I thought I would surprise Abby, she doesn't know that I have taken over her blog, and all of you with my thoughts. I suppose this may happen periodically now that I have done it once. 

I just wanted to share the realization I had while sitting in the orientation.  I realized that as much as these kids need me, I need them more. I need these kids to know that I am there to help them, that I am there to protect them and that I am there to love them.  These kids will become a part of my life as much as I will become a part of theirs.  They will teach me things, they will be my heroes and I will owe them so much.  I just want people to know that while the children are benefitted through this process, we too, as the foster parents will receive so much. 

I too anticipate feeling overwhelmingly sad when a child leaves our home but my consolation is the knowledge they have imparted to me during their time. 

I'm so happy that Abby is my willing partner and that she will give me the strength to work through this. 


On Our Decision To Become A Foster Care Family

Our 32 hours of foster care training will commence this evening. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the outside looking in. I think those are lyrics to a song. But they seem so fitting at this time when I feel like my life is taking a path that I had never before considered.
I never really told you about how Mike and I came on this decision. Well one minute I was buying a shower curtain on Amazon and the next minute, Mike was sitting next to me and we were looking at the list of children waiting for adoption in the state of Utah through the foster care system. Honestly, I really don't even know how it happened. (Meant to be?)
We found these two adorable boys. And I instantly felt the need to help them. I dreamed of what it would be like to bring these two brothers in to our home. How would it be to suddenly be a mother of 6 and 9 year old boys? My heart ached for their sad situation. And then just as simple as seeing their faces, we felt pushed to inquire further and two days later we were in contact with the foster care system in Utah.
Those two boys are no longer on the list of available children. And I am sure they have been placed in a loving home. But I’m so glad that they were on the list that first time that we looked at it. Because it was those two boys faces that placed us where we are now. Prepared, or unprepared, to jump into this world of foster care.
We dream about that first phone call. Which we hope is only a mere few months away.