Foster parents, let’s celebrate the children in our care!
Let’s celebrate BIG! Let’s celebrate often!
And since we know celebration can and does exist outside of social media,
let’s celebrate privately.
Y’all remember that time I was a Christmas villain?
Please know this: I needed to celebrate my brand new foster son that Christmas morning, and he needed to be celebrated. He was worth celebrating, and we were overjoyed for such an opportunity. It wasn't the photo that broke confidentiality, as it didn’t reveal his identity in any way. And it wasn't our BIG celebration that broke hearts. The public privacy setting broke confidentiality and the public words of celebration broke hearts. And to be clear, we had not yet met Jaiden's family. However, all of our names were on paperwork that all of us received, making that photo and those words quite easy to find.
My son has a biological big brother and sister. They are precious to us, they love their brother endlessly, and will never cease to be an integral part of our family. But back then… it never once crossed my mind that they might see that Christmas celebration, nor did it cross my mind that these might be people I would one day fall in love with, deeply desiring to protect them from all of this pain.
But they did see... and I do love them.
His biggest sister has been reading these posts.
She sent me a text recently and gave me permission to share part of it:
“I was just reading your blog and I'm in terrible tears right now... I remember nana sitting us down and telling us that jaiden had to leave and momma couldn't keep him… I cried and cried for SOOO long and nothing else mattered to me at that point, I was just numb after that… and I remember hugging him for the last time… I thought I would never see my brother ever again… and as I was just reading your blog I saw how much you talked about his cheeks and that picture of him under the Christmas tree… and I'm not gonna lie, I remember seeing those words hurt EXTREMELY bad or even seeing pictures of jaiden was soo painful.”
She was eleven years old when I broke her heart that Christmas, and I’m not sure I can forgive myself for that...
...but I could have avoided it simply by celebrating privately. She and her big brother were worth not having their hearts broken, and worth the sacrifices I would have had to make to spare them heartache on top of heartache.
Hindsight is 20/20, right? If I could celebrate Christmas 2014 all over again (and the many months that followed), there is so much I would change... I'm mean, I've got a pretty long list going, but I know I can't do that. What I can do is learn from the past, and make those changes next time.
What about you? is there anything you would (or should) do differently to protect the identity of the children in your care?
On a different note...
I know foster parenting isn't easy. Neither is parenting, if we’re being honest. I know you’ll be desperate for advice and have physical needs you can’t meet yourself. If I had it all to do over again, this is the “chain of support” I would follow when seeking advice or meeting a need:
First, go to your agency. There were SO many things the agency would have taken care of for us, but we were completely unaware. If you don’t ask, you don’t know. They can also contact the child’s family, who may be able to meet some needs or answer some questions. There’s a good chance they desire these opportunities to parent from a distance and provide for their children. Jaiden’s biological mama met many needs during his time in care, but if she hadn’t known he needed anything, how could she have helped?
Next, go to your close friends, family, church, or school. These are people who have met your foster child and fully understand the confidential nature of his or her time in your care. They might have some special skills you were unaware of, or be able to connect you with someone who can help.
Next, check with your local (closed) foster care support/advocacy group on Facebook. Social media has it’s downsides, for sure, but it also has some truly amazing benefits. It allows us to connect with like-minded people in private groups where we can easily bring questions and needs. I can almost assure you that every community in this country has one of these facebook groups.. and of course, continue to use discretion.
If all else fails, and you must ask on your personal timeline, make sure the privacy setting is “Friends,” or “Friends except,” don't share details or information about the child's health or difficulties, and be as vague as possible. It may not always be necessary to reveal that the advice or need is in regards to your foster child (example: “We have an aspiring fisherman on our hands... can anyone help?”) And if you go this route, I strongly advise weeding through your Facebook friends. It’s just better to be safe than sorry when making a personal request of 1,000’s of people, likely more acquaintances and strangers than friends.
Please share options I've missed in the comments!
Y'all, obviously not everything shared on social media is harmful… but everything can be shared in a potentially harmful way.
Again, this was not a position I wanted to hold so strongly... God softened me and created in me a heart that was willing to look at this. Then, with a semi-willing heart to work with (and that’s all it takes), He began tightening my grip on protecting these hearts and identities, and loosening my grip on my desire to share those cheeks.