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Hey, Come Down from There!

2011 November 23

children looking up

“I always squat down as far as I can when I meet a child,” Kim told me, “so that I’m eye level with them. You’re a big guy; looking up at you can be scary for a kid.”

Let’s face it; any of us can be scary to a kid, but especially when they’ve just had the experience of being taken from their home, introduced to complete strangers and told they are going to stay with these people!

So what should you say to them?

“Ask them about their favorite food,” she told me. “I always start with food.”

Kim is a veteran foster mom. A few years ago she and her husband, along with their two daughters, adopted a sibling group of three girls.

You’ll want to talk to people who are foster parenting. If you don’t know anyone, ask at your church or the agency you are working with; people who do this want to share their experiences and encourage you.

The advice she gave me seemed simple, and being very tall I usually squat down to the smaller kids, but when I thought about it I realized I didn’t always do that; now I’ll have to be intentional. Foster parenting is professional parenting; what you will be doing is always going to be intentional.

“Sometimes we have met the bio parents,” she told me. “It’s always uncomfortable, especially for them because they don’t know you and you have their children. I’ll say something like, ‘Johnny really likes mashed potatoes, did he eat those at home?’ and they’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, he loves them!’ and that will break the ice.”

Once that happens you can assure them, “We’re going to take really good care of your son. We’re making sure he eats right and gets to school and we’re helping him with his homework. You do what you need to do.”

You may never meet the bio parents. It depends on the policies of the agency with whom you are working. This is one of the questions you will want to ask, and ask it more than once and in a number of ways.

Ask the agency what their policy and procedure is for visitation. Will you have to take them? Our agency’s policy is that they take child to and from visitation.

So ask the next question: Is that always the case? Is there ever a time, perhaps because of scheduling, that we would be asked to take the child to visitation or court?

Okay, that’s two questions, but the point here is: Be pushy when it comes to questions.

Most important: don’t stay way up there; get down to the child’s level. And make sure you find out if they like mashed potatoes.

Photo: “My Kids” by Hector Landaeta




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