Friday, August 14, 2009

Interview with: A foster care Mom

Today's interview is with a wonderful, busy mom. Nicki has a house full of children but welcomes more. How she does it???? I think you'll enjoy reading more about her adventures.


My Husband and I have been fostercares for nearly 13 years. We have had many ups and some very low points in our journey. Michelle has asked if I was willing to share some of that journey, so here I go.

Firstly, I will introduce us : I am Nicki and my husband is Tony. Together we have birthed a beautiful son, who is now 14 years old, adopted two amazing boys, now 10 and six years old, and have a beautiful daughter (we have long term legal guardianship) who was brought to us via fostercare, 11 years ago. She is now 11 years old. We are also caring for a sibling group of three children, who are five, three, and nine months. They have been with us for 11 months now. We live in sunny, warm Queensland Australia. Although the US and Australian fostercare system have many differences (i.e. we don’t have many adoptions from fostercare here and do not have waiting children lists for adoption), the reasons why fostercarers do what they do are no different from Australia to the US.

When my husband and I decided to become fostercarers it seemed like such an easy decision. I have heard that many people think about it for years before doing it, but for us it just seemed like an easy and natural thing to, for us, was very much a calling from God. At pre-service fostercarer training we felt comfortable with all that was put before us. We felt our life could accommodate just about any issue that would come very wrong we were.........

Fostercare is tough! Sure, there is joy, but there are also a lot, and I mean a lot, of tough days. Days when you don’t have answers for children's questions, behaviors or the systems responses to situations. Normal parenting experiences sometimes just don’t cut it when parenting a child who has never been given love, attachment or boundaries.

There have been days when I have called to God for help, peace and wisdom so loudly, I was sure he would hear me and come straight down and fix it for me............but the journey though some of the life’s most difficult social issues isn’t an easy or a quick fix and even with Gods amazing miracles, grace and love, it can be difficult.

It might sound like we regret becoming fostercares but we don’t. We have enjoyed it. We have been pushed to be better parents, more creative and stronger Christians and we have been blessed with some amazing miracles along the way.........some amazing milestones from children that we have been told will never amount to anything. We have watched birth families “make it” out of the system against the odds and go on to parent, and we have seen kids age out of the system and become amazing humans who we are proud to have known.

I was recently at a Fostercarer conference and most of the sessions was about “managing” difficult kids and behaviors, surviving allegations of abuse and information about some of the new laws being introduced here. It was a packed filled weekend and I have to say I was pretty depressed by the end of it.............that was until a beautiful 17 year old boy stood before us, at the closing ceremony, to share his experience in fostercare.........

Tears streamed down my face as this proud, well adjusted young man shared his journey, his abuse and then his triumph, which he totally credits to his amazing fostercarer who he says “was not a famous or rich person but a person with love, hope and stability who decided that under that scruffy, rude and naughty boy who had already destroyed three placements before her, there was in fact a child of worth, a child that had hope for the future!” It was amazing to me that all this child accredited to his success was stability, hope, love and feelings of worth..........

I mean we know that is what kids need to succeed but when you hear it said, in such a matter of fact way, it truly hits home. It makes you realize that you do make a difference. That giving back to a child the basic human rights of love, stability, self worth and dignity, that you do in fact change their life. Listening to him made me realize that it’s not about what I can give them in a material sense but what we can give in a emotional and nurturing sense that really makes the difference to these children(if not all children in our lives). But sometimes in our day to day scramble to make sure everyone is getting what they need physically we forget that all that matters is the basics of human emotions; the need for love, nurturing and dignity.

Some people ask us if we had our time over would we become fostercarers and we have always said yes............For us even though we have faced false allegations from someone in the community, who failed to understand the dynamics within our home, and have watched our children suffer under children who are battling with attachment and mental health disorders from their own abuse and neglect, and even though I sometimes know that I am not as perfect of a parent that I feel I should be, I think that we would do it all again.

I have seen joy beyond what most people witness (miracles in every sense of the word), I have been privileged to see a child walk, who we were told was too “brain damaged from parental drug abuse” to walk and I have seen a child that they never thought would talk get up before a school several years later and play a part in a school play. I have seen birth families pull themselves from the depths of drug addiction and learn to parent again. I have also seen some heartbreaking things; children returned to families that just didn’t get their worth or who themselves are so damaged from their own abuse that they just can’t parent with love and compassion.

It’s a mixed bag fostering, it’s not for everyone..........there are lots of highs and lows. I also don’t think that it’s something that everyone can do forever. It’s a high pressured job, its 24/7, 365 years a year..........but it is worth it, most of the time.

AND I truly think for some people it’s a calling from God. Some people are born fostercarers and it comes natural to them.............others just do it for a short time and that is okay. Some will only take babies or toddlers or even teens and some will only care for children with disabilities and medical issues. Fostering needs all types of people from all types of religious beliefs, income brackets and lifestyles because abused and neglected children come from all religious beliefs, income brackets, and lifestyles.

I would recommend everyone think about fostering. Some of you will not think that you could ever do it and that is fine, support someone that can. Some of you will think you would like to know more and that is great, learn more. Then there will be some of you that think that God is calling you to fostering and for them I Gods true will, pray about it, inform yourself and your family about fostering, read all you can read and prepare mentally and physically for one of the most challenging, rewarding and hard jobs you will ever do.

I am happy to answer any questions you have........nothing is taboo if your truly interested in fostering.


I know Nicki has some interesting stories she could share with us. She is very open to answering your questions, so please ask away. Remember that she can not give specifics about the children she has cared for or the ones currently in her care (besides her own), for safety and anonymity reasons. I look forward to reading lots more.

Come back next week as we read a story from the viewpoint of a woman who was in foster care. I cannot wait!


Yara said...

it is such a blessing the way your family takes cares of these children : )
I don't know if God will ever call my family to foster care, but I am proud to 'know' you & see how you bless these children

Twisted Cinderella said...

My hat goes off to you and others like you who open your homes and your hearts to children who need you.

Michelle said...

Nicki, I have a question for you.

You mentioned how hard some of the challenges have been.

Can you tell us about a child who gave you the most troubles and if you were able to help them.

Also, what kind of miracles have you seen...specificallly?

Nickimum said...

Thanks Yara and Twisted Cinderella, Michelle the most difficult issues in a child that we have dealt with is by far Attatchment disorder, It was originally thought that AD could be fixed or that enough "love" could fix it, but what has now been found its that certain types of attatchment disorders can now only be managed. The child we had, had Reactive Attatchment disorder, so the harder we tried to attatch to him the harder he unconsiously tried to protect himself from rejection,its also been proven that these children have changes to the brain when they have lack of attatchment to a primary care giver, those changes they now think are un fixable. SO can these kids be "help" or taught to attatch....yes and no. Some can for what ever reason learn to find new ways of attatching, but some of the baggage never leaves, others like the little guy that we had I beleive will never really learn to be truly attatched to another human in the way you are attatched to your children or husband.
Its very sad, but their is hope for alot of the kids, but you need a certain type of parenting style, home enviorment, its my belief that these kids also do not do well with other children, especially younger children. Some of the attatchment issue can display in very dangerous and harmful behaviours, self harming, pet hurting and marriage destroying behaviours. These kids are often though pure need and survival have learn't to manipulate everyone and everything around them. They are often destructive, violent and do odd things like poop or urinate in objects in their rooms, destory precious items of other members in the house etc. ITS more than difficult to parent kids like this, BUT this doesn't mean that every child that has a attatchment issue will not be able to be helped, attatchment issues I feel are in every child we have had come into this house, it the Reactive type which usually comes from repeated or very violent or distructive break in attatchment that I have found really sets these kids apart from the run of the mill attatchment issues we see in average kids coming into care. May the child has been or witness abuse of a violent or sexual nature, been rejected for what ever reason over and over by a birth parent or primary caregiver like a grandparent or family member.
Reactive Attatchment Disorder I think if we tested our prison population we would find 90% of the them that gives you some idea of the outcomes if untreated and sometimes if treated. ITS very difficult to parent these kids, but it should also not put you off fostering, REALLY you have no idea what is going on with a child attatchment wise until they are in your home. But if your starting out I would just be mindful of the damaging affect some of these children can have of a family with normal attatchments.
I am more than willing to talk personally with anyone about this, its a complicated subject and every difficult to understand.
Michelle the miracles I have seen are our 11 year old we have here we where told would never walk, talk or function, she had so called brain damage, but she is a straight B level student, can walk, talk and give as good as she gets from her siblings ;o)
One little guy we had was not surposed live past 6 months, he is now 3 and home with his birthfamilies.
We see miracles everyday. most are so small that the average person looking at them might miss them......but we don't,
Hugs Nickimum

Tamara aka Cheapskate Mom said...

Nicki-Bless you for what you do. Thanks for being so open and honest about the ups and the downs of being a foster parent. It is hard sometimes to see through all the negativity, but as you said - when you hear what an impact you are making, right from a foster child's heart, then that negative stuff pales in comparison to the miracles you help to create each and every day. No matter how small the action, you never know how big of an impact you are making in your children's lives.

Thank you. *Hugs*