Welcome to my circus.

April 17, 2014
by Maralee
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Foster Family Sibling Perspective- Karen

I love seeing the way being a foster family has positively impacted my kids and how they view the world. But it’s easy for me to be biased as the foster parent. When I meet an adult who has experience as a sibling to foster children, it’s important to me to hear what that experience was like for them. It helps me have empathy for my kids and influences how I handle our fostering situations.

So I wanted to provide you with some perspective from siblings of foster kids. Each person is sharing her own perspective on foster care and it may differ a little or significantly from mine. It’s important to me to hear these stories and reflect on them even if I disagree with their conclusions. They are the real stories of the people who have lived this life and there’s always something I can learn.

This interview is from Karen who writes about her family’s experiences at her blog Borrowing Babies.

When did your parents become foster parents? For how long? What ages of kids did they work with?

My parents became licensed foster parents in May 2011 for one placement at a time, boy or girl, newborn-2 years. We got our first call two months later, and welcomed a newborn baby girl into our home. We are currently fostering our fifth placement, a baby girl who also came to us as a newborn.

How did you feel when your parents first brought up the idea of being a foster family?

Well…this is kind of a funny story. They didn’t bring it up… my siblings and I did. I’m the second oldest of four biological children (Three girls and a boy). My sisters and I begged for another baby brother or sister. My mom told us that her and Dad were “done” and that “we only borrow other people’s babies now.” She meant that we go to church and hold somebody else’s baby, hand them back, go home. I learned about fostering, and after a lot more begging, pleading, and praying, God moved in my parents’ hearts and they started the application process. My dad was much easier to convince than my mom, and finally they were both on the same page.

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April 15, 2014
by Maralee
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Minimize the negative impact of foster care on your kids

Yesterday I wrote about the very real difficulties kids can experience when their family decides to become a foster family. Honestly, it was emotionally tough for me to write. I have seen such beauty and maturity in the lives of my kids because we’ve made the decision to foster that I don’t like to think the concerns would keep people from making the same choice. But the truth is that we went into it with eyes VERY wide open. Because we had done years of group home work before we had kids, we knew what kind of potential risks were involved and we were very realistic in our expectations. My goal is to give you that same kind of perspective without you having to spend five years working with teen boys :)

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Josh and Danny when they were foster brothers

Some of the reasons our experiences and the experiences of our kids have been so positive is because we have understood the potential for the negative and we’ve worked hard to minimize it. Here’s how we’ve done that.

Minimizing the negative impacts of foster care on your kids:

Respect birth order. I know I’m a broken record on this topic, but I really believe it is the number one way we can protect our kids. I was just talking with a man the other day who told me his parents had been foster parents when he was a kid. He was an only child and had really fond memories of the foster kids who were in their home. I asked him about any negative experiences and he said the one thing he regretted was that his parents had taken in a child who was older than he was. He said he and this boy made poor choices in jockeying for position and to prove who was the biggest/strongest/smartest. It was distressing to him and he knew they did things they shouldn’t have because he was trying to prove himself to this kid. Our kids need to feel confident they are safe in our home and part of how we do that is by being sure they are old enough and big enough to say “no” when something inappropriate is suggested. Our older kids also help set the tone for how our house runs and can help a new, younger child acclimate. Now I know there are many families who choose not to respect birth order and God blesses that decision. Even this last summer Brian and I were discussing the possibility of one of our former group home kids coming to live with us, if needed. There are times when there is a previous relationship with a child or there’s a family placement needed where this doesn’t have to be such a big deal. There are also times where a family feels called to taking older kids and they have the skills and resources to make it work. If that is what you choose to do, just make sure your kids are on board with this decision and you have a safety plan in place for any potential problems.

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April 14, 2014
by Maralee
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“We’re considering fostering, but I’m worried about the impact on my kids.”

*This is part of a series of posts on common concerns of potential foster parents.*

Becoming a foster family will definitely have an impact on the children already in your home. Whether those kids are biological or adopted, toddlers or teens, this experience requires the participation of every member of the family and there are sacrifices for everybody. Potential foster parents are wise to consider the ramifications making this decision will have on their kids.

It’s important to acknowledge the very real difficulties that can come with adding a foster child to your family. These kids aren’t in foster care because things were rosy and happy at home. We can’t expect them to seamlessly transition into our homes and our structure. We need to be fully prepared for the realities this will bring into our home and how it will uniquely impact our kids. Look through this list. Talk about it with your spouse. Think through the personalities, strengths, struggles and gifts of each of your kids and imagine how these issues will manifest themselves. (But don’t get depressed! Future posts will talk about the positive impacts of foster care on your kids and ways to minimize the difficulties listed here along with some great interviews with adults who grew up with foster siblings.)

The Difficulties

Loss of parental attention. Whatever way you choose to add another child to your family (birth, adoption, fostering), parental attention gets divided. This is especially true with foster kids who may come with their own baggage and struggles that require extra attention from foster parents. Even foster babies may come with unforeseen medical problems or developmental delays that mean more appointments or time spent researching what will best meet their needs.

Loss of privacy. Depending on the age of your kids, they may feel this more acutely. There is a home study process involved in becoming a foster family which requires information and potentially interviews with each member of the family. Caseworkers and attorneys may now be coming to your house on a regular basis. If a child shares a room with a foster kid, caseworkers may need to look into that bedroom occasionally. This loss of privacy is an obstacle many adults have a tough time overcoming to become foster parents, so we can imagine it’s also a struggle for kids who may not even have words to express how uncomfortable or even violating that can feel.

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April 13, 2014
by Maralee
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A Life in Status- March #3 & #4, 2014

Come be part of the fun on Facebook or Twitter.

Choosing where to eat dinner after listening to a sermon about gluttony = awkward.

The seven year-old is reading bedtime stories to the two year-old. Is this why they say parenting gets easier when you have more kids? I could get used to this.

The toddlers who play tea party with a pitcher of water
Will be the toddlers who later forget they are potty trained
-Ancient Maralee Proverb

An organization I partner with compensated me for something I wrote for them with a Dairy Queen gift card. So NOW my family believes I’m a professional writer.

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April 10, 2014
by Maralee
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An Intentional Easter (with audio)

This month’s radio interview was on the topic of helping our kids embrace Easter. It’s easy to get distracted by the bunnies and dresses and candy of the average Easter celebration, so how do we help our kids see what this is really about? You can listen to my answers to that question here and I’m also providing a summary below. Enjoy!

How do we prepare our kids for Easter?

Lent: Help them think about what Jesus gave up in becoming human. What can they give up to remind them of that sacrifice? This also intensifies the sweetest of Easter when Lent is over. You don’t have to be in a faith tradition that recognizes Lent to make it part of your family’s experience.

Passover: The death and resurrection of Jesus took place in the context of Passover. There is something I think we miss by not connecting those experiences in our life and for our kids. Ideally, you’d want to do this with a group of Messianic Jews, but not everybody has their own group of them available :) There are resources available online for explaining how to celebrate Passover and at a minimum it is great to watch “Prince of Egypt” with your kids and read the Biblical story to connect them to Passover.

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April 7, 2014
by Maralee
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The sexual abuse survivor as a foster parent

It is a passion of mine to recruit quality foster parents. Part of that process involves dispelling the myths around foster care and giving people good information. Sometimes that information will encourage people to pursue fostering and sometimes that information will help them understand why foster parenting isn’t for them. In the last couple posts I’ve been addressing the issue of sexual abuse and foster care. Many potential foster parents are deterred from pursuing it because they are worried about the potential of bringing sexual abuse issues into their home. But there is also another group of people who may be intimidated by foster care for another reason— their own history as a survivor of sexual abuse.

This isn’t an issue I can speak to personally, so I’m really thankful for the guest post here from a friend of mine. Because of the prevalence of child sexual abuse, I know MANY people who consider foster parenting or who are currently foster parenting share some of my friend’s experiences. She is a wife, mother, a social worker, and a sexual abuse survivor. She has been a great sounding board for me as we’ve walked through our foster care journey (she also read and gave feedback on my prior posts on sexual abuse before I posted them) and I’m thankful that she’s willing to share her story and thoughts here.

 Thoughts from a Survivor, Questions to Consider: 

While I am not a foster parent, I am a mother as well as social worker, and most importantly a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse can have a range of effects on an individual. For some the effects seem manageable, with less long-term implications, while others can affect the survivor’s functioning the rest of their lives. If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and you are a foster parent considering a placement of a child who also has this in their background, I think there are some questions that would be helpful to consider.

April 4, 2014
by Maralee
2 Comments

Preventing sexual abuse in your home

In my last post I wrote about how worries regarding the potential for sexual abuse can keep people from providing foster care. I provided some background information it’s good to know before providing foster care for a child who may have been sexually abused. I think having a healthy perspective about this issue is very important. I also think it’s vitally important to create a safe environment in your home with the potential for sexual abuse in mind. For us, that has been striking the right balance between openness, honesty, and privacy. Here’s how we do it.

Specific to foster families:

Respect birth order when taking foster kids. I know not everybody is going to agree with me about this and I’m okay with that. God has blessed the ministry of many families who have chosen to take kids out of birth order. I’m not arguing against that if you feel called to that and you have the skills and resources to ensure the safety of all kids in your home. But for our family, respecting birth order has been a big part of how we prevent sexual abuse from happening in our home. We always want our kids to be big enough and old enough to know what is appropriate and be able to say “no” to things they know are wrong. This is a decision we make for the protection of our kids and we don’t let pressure from an agency that wants to place older kids in our home push us into something we aren’t comfortable with. If you feel called to take kids older than your kids, do it with much prayer and with honest conversations about how you’ll protect your kids. If you don’t feel called to take kids older than your kids, don’t be pressured into it and work to recruit foster families who are in a position to take those kids you can’t.

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April 2, 2014
by Maralee
3 Comments

“I’m considering fostering, but worried about sexual abuse.”

On my Facebook page I recently asked people to complete the sentence, “We’re considering foster care, but. . . ” so I could hear what those issues are that keep people from taking the next step. It was really enlightening. You’re welcome to add your input by leaving your ending to that sentence in the comment section of this post and I’ll try to address it as this series goes on.

In my experience, the number one concern of people who already have children is the fear that there will be sexual abuse in their home. And quite frankly, if someone doesn’t bring up this concern with me, I bring it up to them. It is a valid concern and one that I take very seriously. I don’t think anyone who has children in their home should be naive about this issue. I want to break this big topic down into some smaller ones because I feel it is so important. In this post I will be discussion some background info about children and sexual abuse. In the next post I’ll be discussing how to protect your kids from sexual abuse in your home. For the third post I’m thankful to have a guest writer who is both a social worker and a childhood sexual abuse survivor talk about how being a survivor can impact the foster parenting process.

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April 1, 2014
by Maralee
3 Comments

An April Fool’s Day PSA

I’ve never been accused of not having a sense of humor, but it’s true that I don’t like pranks. I don’t like things that feel dishonest. Being tricked gives me a kind of anger response that I don’t like in myself and work to avoid. This is probably also why I don’t like when people dress in costumes. It just feels dishonest and gives me the creeps. Anyway, my agreement with the world is that I will engage in no pranks, I will wear no costumes and I thank my friends for respecting that and leaving me out of their hijinks. So I can admit that I come at this whole April Fool’s Day situation with some inherent frustrations.

On days like today as a woman who is pretty involved with social media, I’m aware that I can’t avoid running into somebody’s idea of a joke. I’m mostly okay with that, but I think sometimes we aren’t aware of the unintentional implications of what we consider jokes. And sometimes what seems like a hilarious idea to you can be a moment of pain for someone else. So in the spirit of education, I’m going to ask you not to do something today.

For the sake of your infertile friends, please don’t announce a fake pregnancy today. 

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March 30, 2014
by Maralee
1 Comment

A Life in Status- March #1 & #2, 2014

Come join the dialogue on Facebook and Twitter.

Am I the only one?
Pull something out of the fridge. Notice it’s past the expiration date. Smells fine, no mold, but seems shady to eat it. Put it back in the fridge until it is sufficiently disgusting and you feel justified in throwing it out.

Sometimes I console myself by remembering the actual baby Einstein didn’t have Baby Einstein brand toys to play with either and he seemed to turn out just fine.

Sign you have a one-track mind: You can’t figure out why you’re not getting any google results for French toast recipes. Then you realize you actually googled “foster toast” recipes.

Good gracious! Now I know if I need encouragement to keep writing in spite of the chaos of having five kids under age 8, I just need to tell God I’m thinking about quitting. I’ve had a different stranger email me each day for the last week asking if they can share something I’ve written with a group they work with or letting me know they’ve been encouraged to start or continue fostering by something I wrote along with many friends from different moments of my life who have written me this week to say something encouraging. Thank you to all who read, who offer feedback, and who partner with me to help kids in crisis. It’s obvious to me how much God cares about these kids and I’m thankful I get to be part of expressing that heart.

Sign your two year-old is used to having a baby around: he wants a washcloth for his bath but accidentally asks for a burp cloth.

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