One of our Case Managers, Melissa Hand, recently sat down with one of our foster parents and interviewed her about her experience with fostering. Read below for her story.
I recently interviewed an expert panel for a foster parent class. One of my panel members was our foster parent, Sharon Collins, who has been fostering for 18 years. I later spoke with her to gather more information. Here are some of her insights:
Melissa: How did you get into fostering?
Sharon: My niece, that I raised as my own since third grade, encouraged me to foster when she and my daughter both moved out. She did not want me to be lonely. I started with teenage girls, but after some time, I decided to take boys instead. I have fostered over 50 children in 18 years.
Melissa: What are some of the most important things you have learned?
Sharon: Have a backup plan for help, especially as a single foster parent – my significant other helps with picking up kids and serves as a mentor and a father figure. I also expect kids to be kids… my house is “lived in”. Also, don’t take things the child does personally, they are acting on what they’ve learned from their family, or because they are upset about their situation.
Melissa: What are some tips for working with birth parents?
Sharon: I have to earn their trust and build relationship with both the children and their parents. Birth parents will be watching everything you say and do. Just be yourself and encourage them. I give the parents my number (*optional*), and allow them to call me about their children. I brag to them about their children and remind them that I am not trying to take their child from them, just to love them and keep them until they can work it out to get them home. I encourage them to do what they need to do to get their kids back, and let them know they can always call me to get advice, encouragement, and sometimes, assistance.
Melissa: How can you help a child acclimate to your home, considering their trauma history?
Sharon: I help them ease into my home by watching TV or playing family games together, especially if I have another foster child in the home. That helps. If they want, I take them to a restaurant that is similar to their culture or one that they love. If they are really nervous, I joke with them to break the ice. I asked one teenager if he was scared and he said “yes”, so I asked him if he bites… He looked at me funny and said “No” … then I said, “Neither do I, So, we’ll be alright!” This made him laugh and it really helped. You have to keep a sense of humor!
I’d like to thank Sharon for sharing her experiences with us! If you are interested in fostering, please contact Chambliss at 423-693-2580, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to working with you! ~Melissa Hand, Case Manager