By: Katrina Land, Practicum Counselor

In the last year, I have begun working with children in foster care, along with the wonderful individuals who have chosen to give of their time, talents, and treasures to care for these wonderful–though perhaps challenging–children. The work of taking care of a child is challenging enough for a mother who has spent 9 months carrying a child in her womb, feeling the kicks, sacrificing sleep, and spending months in discomfort, but all of this leads to incredibly deep bonding with a child. By the time she delivers, the love has already grown to cover sleepless nights, endless diaper changes, and the various individual challenges of each unique child. The fathers, who upon meeting their children for the first time, see a resemblance and understand that their own DNA is imprinted within this child’s being.

For those who choose to take on the task of caring for a child, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without this genetic and time-tested bond, I have the utmost respect. The intentional choice to foster or adopt is a noble goal. The sad reality is that many assume that it will be similar to caring for a child of their own, but it’s not. The children who have come to need a foster home have some circumstance in their lives that have made it impossible for them to remain with their families – if they still have a family. This is a trauma, and as we know in the mental health field, trauma impacts neurological development.

A normal healthy attachment can become disrupted at this point, or perhaps there never was a healthy parental attachment to begin with. The mental, emotional, and physiological impact that this has on a child is significant. That’s why those who step in and provide foster care have such a huge role in the lives of these children. They are able to help the children process what is happening, or simply provide love and care that is needed for an indefinite period of time.

When you are caring for children, remember the following:

Be patient.

Every person’s story is unique, and it takes time for anyone, child or adult, to open up and trust someone with their story.

Work on your stuff.

Your perspectives from your own family of origin will impact how you treat children in your care, both positively and negatively.

Live in the moment.

Every time you take a minute to connect with a child has a positive impact.

Take care of yourself.

When you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, give yourself permission to take a break. Go for a walk, take a shower, read a book, find something that recharges you.

Know that you ARE making a difference!

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” -Frederick Douglass