A Glimpse Into The Life Of A Foster Parent

A Glimpse Into The Life Of A Foster Parent

A Glimpse Into The Life of A Foster Parent In Virginia

An Interview With Chrystal

Here are Extra Special Parents; we want to give a small glimpse into the life of a foster parent and ways that you can support foster care. During National Foster Care Month, we took some time to sit down with a few of our foster parents and interview them about their experiences as a foster parent in Virginia.  The interview below is with Chrystal, a foster parent with Extra Special Parents for over 8 years. I'll cover some of the highlights from our interview below, but I would encourage anyone who is interested in becoming a foster parent to take the time to listen to her story.  Chrystal takes us from the beginning of her journey where a family friend suggested that they become a foster family and the initial hesitancy she had by learning how to lead with her heart and advocate for children who don't yet have a voice of their own. Chrystal and her family are amazing human beings, and you will hear in her interview about how they all work together to help every foster child who comes into their home.  Chrystal is brave, patient, honest, loving, dedicated, direct, and funny.   Her family opens their heart and homes to the kiddos that are placed there.  She is tenacious and believes in being a voice for the ones that don't have one yet. There are so many titles that she answers to, Mom, Auntie, wife, mentor, friend, travel agent, cook, but the one that always stands out to me during our conversations is Advocate. During my one-on-one conversation, we discussed several important topics in the journey of fostering. I want to share just a few of my takeaways from my time with Chrystal. 

The children and families in the child welfare system come from backgrounds of trauma. Chrystal highlights in our interview the need to Create Circular Communities. She saw this in her preschool and recognized that she tries to accomplish this for the children. She expands that everybody needs to have somewhere else you go where you get your needs met even if it is different from their home environment. "Foster parenting doesn't have to be negative. If we nurture the relationships with the biological family, we can become Auntie and Uncle once they return to their families." They are treated and respected as they belong and are home; no matter how long they reside in their home, they are in their heart forever. During our interview, Chrystal comments on her son AJ's recorded message from him about his own fostering experience. He touches on being a foster sibling, how he was the big brother and the patience and understanding that his family was doing this for the greater good.  

Chrystal explains that to be a foster parent, you have to have mental fortitude. It is important not to let negative people who may try to offend you by saying, "you are in it for the money." Chrystal recalls a conversation like this where she explained that "fostering is hard work, I run appointments, I run meetings, I go to meetings, I document all things surrounding the child." Chrystal recognizes that she must be organized and ask the hard questions sometimes, which shows how she finds herself in the role of an advocate. When asked to explain that role, she stated, "I didn't even know I was an advocate; I didn't realize that was what I was doing as I was just being a mom." She is aware that she needs to have difficult conversations. She starts each of these conversations from the heart to make sure that she can communicate without letting her emotions interfere, especially during tough conversations.

"Get ready for the unexpected..."

Crystal's best advice for potential foster parents is "get ready for the unexpected," whether that be a pandemic, appointments, or how you need to take care of yourself. She states by always being prepared for the unexpected, she can meet the needs of her family without causing additional stress. She believes that her success is when the whole family is involved and feeling like everyone has a role. This highlights for her family that we must rely on our training, support of professionals and parents from a place of strength-based trauma-aware care so we can meet the needs of the children placed in our care. 

My conversation with Chrystal is one of the many joys I have with my job. I was so honored that she would sit down and share her family's story with me. I enjoy watching families grow and meet the children where they are in their healing journey.  I have been blessed to be able to start the journey with so many of our foster parents. I see the families prepare and hit the ground running to ensure that they provide the best support to that child and their families. They make sure that the child is welcomed and that the biological family is reassured that they are in a good home. I receive many forms of communication from our foster parents. They express their nervousness, bounce ideas off of me, and share adorable pictures that show the foster child has been included in their life. The photos capture simple things, a spot or 2 in the family picture frame, a child getting to pick out their toothpaste, or interacting with the family's pet or other family members.  One such communication from a foster parent meeting the child for the first time made me smile, and I hope it will make you smile as well. She says "Ahhhh!!! We are almost there for pick up. I'm terrified! I'm prepared and unprepared all at the same time. Why can't I remember all of the classes! I have notes though !! I left a stuffed giraffe on the bed and a little card that simply says we are glad you are here." When I read this, I know that this is where I tell the foster parents to take a deep breath and remind them that they are ready and we are here for them. With this nervousness, we know that they will be a fantastic foster parent and that they will make a foster child feel like they belong in the home and are not visitors. 

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