My name is Brittany Whittingstall and my family started hosting foster care children when I was 6 years old and have continued for the past 20 years. I have loved hosting foster care children and hated it all at the same time. It has been such a wonderful way to give back and show love to those young ones who need it, but it is also heart-wrenching to see the situations they come from.
How are children in the foster care system supported?
I feel like children in the foster care system are supported quite well. A child in foster care has many resources available to them. It is ensured that they see the top trauma specialists, get proper dental care and receive ongoing counseling for years. Once they are of age to be eased into independent living, they have a one-on-one social worker who ensures they are in a safe environment and that their basic needs are met. While a child is in foster care it is the responsibility of the foster parents to log everything daily for records.
Are there specific areas that these children need support?
Foster children have many different emotional, physical, mental, sexual and health issues depending on the child, and the situation they came from. Being ripped out of their home and brought to total strangers is quite emotionally traumatic for a child; even if they are being taken out of a negative situation, that experience can still be scary. All of their senses are assaulted; everything is different and new to them. Whether it is the house they are taken to, the different smells, different food, or a new school, all of this sudden change is extremely difficult to overcome for a child. Even though their home was not a safe environment for them, these children found comfort in that, as it is all they have ever known. Physically, the children can be medically fragile. They can have anything from ADD, Autism, FASD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and many more behavioral and developmental disorders. Currently FASD (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) is the most common. Many of the children who enter the system are globally delayed (almost in all areas) due to neglect and abuse, which is quite common for children to experience before being placed in foster care. These children tend to learn negative “techniques” or “survival skills” that can cause issues such anger, stealing, or hoarding food in their bedrooms (because perhaps they didn’t have a lot in their house).
In what ways do you feel healthcare providers, teachers, and other individuals could be more sensitive to children who are in the foster care system?
They do a very good job so far, but perhaps they could educate themselves more on the unique needs of foster children and make an effort to not label them as “bad” children, “disruptive” or “disobedient”. These children ARE NOT “bad”; many have a medical reason for why they act the way they do (FASD, ADHD, emotional trauma or something similar). Too often, foster children have these negative labels forced onto them but many do not know what these children have been through, seen or had done to them at such young ages. Once a child is diagnosed with a medical or behavioral disorder, they have allowances made for them (In school they are allowed to have more time to take a test, they have counseling etc) I think it is crucial that teachers and healthcare providers never discuss the child’s case with anyone, and that they avoid making them feel different from their peers.
Are there any practical ways that families can support these children?
As soon as a child comes into a foster home it is crucial that the foster parents ask them questions, such as what activities they like to do, if they like sports, and what foods they like so that these things can be added into a routine for them to make them more comfortable. If the child is from a different ethnic background then making food that they are used to eating can be a comfort to them. Physically, just making sure they have clothes that fit them and are season appropriate (this sounds like common sense but too often these children don’t have proper clothing or clothes that fit them), and making sure that they are dressed similar to how the other kids at school are dressed. As soon as a child comes into a home they must get a full physical just to stay on top of their physical health, as some have never been to a doctor before. It is so important to make sure that these children are not treated differently than anyone else. Foster parents go through monthly trainings, which are crucial and very informative, as these children need special care. Being a foster parent is no easy task and it is important that parents take measures to make sure that they are rested so that they can be the best support they can be to these precious children.
Meet the Author:
Brittany Whittingstall is a resident of Austin, Texas, but she is originally from Toronto, Ontario. She and her husband, Brad have been married for 4 years, and they enjoy traveling to the beach, and spending time with family. Thank you Brittany, for sharing on the blog today!