Becoming an Instant Family
A personal experience from a current foster family
You have probably heard about the upcoming movie “Instant Family.” It stars
Mark Wahlberg, and tells the story of a couple that didn’t have their own kids and were drawn to becoming foster parents instead. This story has particular relevance to our journey with the foster care system.
After difficulty with having our kids of our own and wanting to become parents, our journey led us to explore and pursue becoming foster parents with the goal to one day adopt. One year ago, my wife and I got the call for our first full time placement. About two months ago, we got the call for our second full time placement.
On that day we became parents to two pre-teens that couldn’t be more different. A boy and a girl of different races, ethnic backgrounds, level of experience with the foster care system, and personalities.
Here is some insight into how my wife and I are making our instant family work:
Our first and biggest challenge in the last few months is figuring out how to manage family dynamics with two kids from different places.
Our foster daughter has been with us for a year and was used to her independence and exclusive use of space in the home. Her interests were very similar to that of any pre-teen girl to include hip-hop, nails, her own personal space, shoes, and hair! Additionally, based on her background, she took some time to gain trust in my wife and I, and be able to open up to the new attention and a different family dynamic. Therefore, we knew it was going to be a challenge for the family accepting a new placement, especially a young boy.
Our foster son is also an ordinary pre-teen boy with some very different interests from our foster daughter. He enjoys spending his time fishing, playing video games, hanging with the family in common spaces, and other acts of attention.
Needless to say they are different from each other, and different from us. This forces us to spend a lot of time meeting them where they are. Looking at things from their perspective. Recognizing how to let them have space to be who they are and realizing that is how we gain their trust.
Like most kids that have experience with the system, they are not used to trusting adults. Most of them don’t have a good track records of adults being helpful for them in the moment. This is the starting point for us trying to figure out how to help the kids get used to us and us to them. We have found consistent relationship building and giving kids opportunity to exercise independent decision making have been helpful in navigating the minefield that is understanding our kids trauma.
We have had to learn to be flexible in how to provide feedback and advice, while recognizing that how we guide one of our kids is not always effective with the other. One advantage in our situation is my counseling background with its lessons in the importance of constantly evaluating the strength of the relationship I have with each kid.
I have recognized that when I get resistance from one of them, I need to take a step back and work to strengthen the relationship, while providing appropriate discipline in the moment.
We do our part to provide reassurance to them when explosions may happen. They have also taught us to allow them freedom to make their own mistakes in order to have the opportunity to learn from their actions. Through this process, my wife and I have learned that we will never stop developing and changing from different scenarios and situations that arise.
For us, foster parenting is a calling. Even if we feel overwhelmed or lost, we know that if we keep the eye on the prize, we can have a positive impact on these kids lives.
We know that it can take a village, and are grateful for the support and backup of friends, family and our fostering community to help through this learning process. What has made this work so far is getting and using the support we have to get through the rough times, and knowing that we are making a difference in these kids lives. Slowly but surely, these kids are being changed because we gave up being comfortable to meet them where they were when they found themselves at our door. Even if we don’t see it today, or tomorrow, one day we will.