I had the privilege of maintaining a relationship with my foster daughter once she went back home to her mom. She was with me for 17 months when she was a toddler and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I still can’t say what was harder—giving her back or keeping contact. Foster care is designed to heal the family of origin. In a perfect world, children are quickly returned to their parents after being fostered and the family is surrounded by levels of new community support. Social workers, job training centers, anger management counselors, substance abuse support groups and… their foster parents too.
Not always popular, or even do-able, the community model of placing foster children in their own neighborhood encourages foster parents to partner and co-parent with a child’s mom and dad and then to continue that community support during after a child returns to their parents (see Annie E. Casey Family-to-Family Model). Knowing that I might continue to see my foster children after they went home, enabled me to wrap my mind around fostering and not see it as a masochistic act.
One of the many lessons I learned was how to continue giving gifts to my foster daughter. At first I sent “nice” things home with her and her mom. All educational or helpful to her development, I was conscientious not to send anything that would tempt one of the many drug-addicted family members in and out of her house to steal and then pawn off for cash. I gave children’s books galore, a book case that my artist friend painted with the child’s name on it and (don’t yell at me) an iPad. The iPad enabled us to chat face-to-face almost daily for several months. Needless to say, it was all sold off.
Now when I give gifts to foster children, I’m careful to create a present that has almost no resale value. This gets harder as the child grows older, but I’m determined to keep it up. The photo here is of an arts and crafts box that I made for one of my foster children’s siblings. She’s in elementary school and I hope that sparkly stars, glitter, and googly eyes excite her as much as they do me.
Any suggestions for future gifts that aren’t resellable?
Also from Rebecca this month on Babble:
And, you can follow her Fosterhood blog here.