Blog  /  Parenting  /  Orphan Sunday | Tools, Resources & Goals for Foster Families (Part IV)

Orphan Sunday is Nov. 7th. It is a day when we remember the commandments given in James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction….”

Here is the final part of a series about orphans by our guest blogger, and dear friend Peter Bartolini:

Tools, Resources, & Goals for Foster Families | Part IV

As a follow up to the first 3 blogs about fostering today’s abused, neglected, and abandoned kids, I want to share a few tools and goals that have made this one of the best decisions we have made.  As I previously stated, it isn’t easy, but if you understand the greater mission and purpose this opportunity gives us, the rewards are tremendous.

Our greatest support comes from our licensing agency.  Choose wisely, ask lots of questions (for instance, do their standards of care exceed the state’s requirements?).  We use Christian Family Care.

It ‘s important to understand what these kids have missed and what they need.  We take for granted a few simple things about childhood.  Imagine the countless hours of face-time healthy babies are given, the innumerable times a baby drops something on the floor only to have it re-appear in his her mother’s hand, the myriad of sounds and expressions exchanged by a baby and a parent.  Kids that are abused, neglected, and abandoned miss out on all of that.

It came home for us when our son joined our family at 3 ½ years old (literally).  Immediately noticeable was his undeveloped speech.  A lot of kids that come from hard places suffer the same delayed-speech.  There are many scientific reasons behind this but one of the main reasons is that he simply missed out on the noise making that naturally happens from birth to early childhood.  As he settled in his first night, I sat him down on my lap to read him stories and after the second page he got up and walked away.  It eventually became evident that he had never had a book read to him before.  The book was about farm animals and we were joined by our youngest son who was 15 months old at the time.  At 15 months, he could make the sounds of most everyday animals.  Our new foster son didn’t know any of them.  Other struggles for him were the inability to look people in the eyes and being too clingy and affectionate with everyone (friends and strangers).  Most of these issues are diagnosed or explained as Attachment Disorder.  Click on the hyperlink to read the in-depth Wikipedia entry.  The short explanation is that it happens in the first 3 years of life when a child has a need and that need is not met or inconsistently met.  Attachment Disorder effects psyche and brain chemistry.

One of the greatest resources to learn about what every child needs is Tim Kimmel’s Grace Based Parenting.  Tim explains that every child needs a secure love, a significant purpose, and a strong hope.  These kids have been deprived of all 3 and our goal as foster parents is to purposefully build these needs into each child’s heart.  Purposeful means that you can’t trust that taking over the parenting of a child at 3 ½ and treating them like nothing happened in the past will work.  My son loves to be held.  No, he actually craves to be held.  He’s a healthy 8 years old and he still asks for “uppy.”  I carry him around, in front, on my back, on my shoulders.  It doesn’t matter how much he weighs, he needs to connect with me, attach to me, and have distinct face-to-face time with me.  We are building into him a secure love that he will take with him for the rest of his life.  That is, he will always know that he is lovable and that someone loved him.

Another great tool is the Kids Flag Page.  Based roughly off of the DISC profile, this resource gives you the “heads up” on how your new foster child is hardwired, what makes him special, and why he may be unique in your family dynamic.  It will help you learn the best ways to connect and correct your child.  For instance, let’s say that you and your spouse are paced a little slower and lean more towards the methodical.  You are getting ready to leave for church so you excuse your foster daughter from the breakfast table and tell her to go upstairs, brush her teeth, comb her hair, put on her shoes, get her bible, and get to the car.  You get busy getting yourself ready and are soon in the car waiting.  Exasperated, you go back inside, head upstairs, and find her sprawled out in the hallway in front of her bible coloring the unfinished handout from last week’s Sunday school.  Based upon your profile, this is disobedience and needs to be punished.  After all, your own kids were all able to get ready for church.  The problem is, your foster daughter is not hard-wired like you or them.  She is from “Fun Country”, easily distracted and has a hard time remembering the laundry list of tasks assigned to her.  The Kids Flag Page will help you interact with different kids that have different styles.

Finally, Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross are the world’s leading authorities on attachment issues.  Their book, The Connected Child, is must read for all foster and adoptive families.  You can find out more about Drs. Purvis and Cross at their website: www.child.tcu.edu.

My wife and I have a simple goal as foster parents: that each child in our home, no matter how long they are there, will experience a loving relationship that will stay with them forever.  My vision is that when I end up in eternity and am strolling along the streets of gold, a stranger will approach me with a strong embrace and say, “You were my foster dad! You are the reason I’m here!”

Missed the previous posts?

Click HERE for Part I: Why I am a Foster Dad

Click HERE for Part II: Transformational Love for Foster Kids

Click HERE for Part III: What a Real Family Looks Like.

For more information on Orphan Sunday click HERE.

Peter Bartolini

Peter Bartolini is a member of Family Matters\’ board of directors and is part of our Speaker Team. He and his wife Julie have been foster parents since 2004. They have 3 children, Natalie- age 9, Morgan- age 8 and Sammy- age 6. They currently have the blessing of an 11 month old foster care placement living in their home and bringing them joy daily. Since they became foster parents, they have had 19 foster kids in their home and look forward to many more! Peter blogs at http://peterbarto.wordpress.com/

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