by Marc Bermann, JCFS Foster Parent Recruiter and Support Specialist
1) "I Appreciate You"......We often take friends and family for granted, especially when things are going well and we're not in a crisis. Where our children are concerned, both bio and foster, it's important to catch them doing something good and acknowledge how good we feel about that. Nothing makes children feel better than knowing they are appreciated by the people who are caring for them.
2) "I Forgive You".......When our children do things that make us angry or offend us, it's easy to hold on to that negativism so it channels to other situations. Forgiving children for their poor judgment and related behavior, helps clear the air and gives them an opportunity to think about what they could do differently next time.
3) "I Respect You"......Informal surveys among foster parents indicate that "being dis-respected" by their children creates the largest conflict among family members, which can lead to bigger escalations. If we show respect for our children in the way we talk to them and make requests of them, we are "modeling" the type of respect that we would like to receive from them in everyday situations.
4) "I'll Support You"......Given the trauma history that is so much a part of foster children's personal history, it's important to remind them that we are in their lives to support them in any way we can; in home, in school and in the community. It is also our responsibility to introduce foster children to other adults with whom they can have "supportive relationships." In this way, children can be mentored, coached and guided towards better choices in their lives.
5) "I'll Protect You"......Children who have been traumatized by adults who were supposed to be "trustworthy", need to feel safe. In a new foster home, children will constantly test foster parents to determine how safe this new environment feels to them. Setting limits with your child and providing a structured set of activities and routines, helps children feel safe. Additionally, the patient and caring way we talk to children, reinforces their sense of safety.
6) "I'm Committed To You".....Children in care often don't have a sense of the future. They live for the moment because their placement goals are influenced by many factors beyond their control. We can help foster children "stabilize" by giving them re-assurance that things will improve and that we will do our best to help them through the tough times in their lives.
All of these phrases apply equally to our everyday relationships and encounters with our own family, friends and co-workers. JCFS Chicago appreciates all the work that our foster parents do for the children and youth in their care. Remember, we're all in this together.
For more information, call Marc Bermann, JCFS Foster Parent Recruiter and Support Specialist at 312.673.2755.