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 at Extra Special Parents, we want to give a small glimpse into a foster parent's life and ways you can support foster care in Virginia. During National Foster Care Month, we sat down with a few of our foster parents and interviewed them about their experiences as foster parents in Virginia.
The interview below is with Chrystal, a foster parent with Extra Special Parents for over eight years.
Chrystal takes us from the beginning of her journey, where a family friend suggested they become a foster family. There was some initial hesitancy because she didn't know 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 and hardworking people. 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 care for the child that is placed there.
She believes in being a voice for young people who have been abused or neglected by others.
There are so many titles that Chrystal answers to; Mom, Auntie, wife, mentor, friend, travel agent, cook, and many others. 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.
The children and families in the child welfare system come from backgrounds of trauma, child abuse, and neglect. 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 somewhere else to go where they get their needs met, even if it's somewhere other than 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."
The children in foster care are respected as though they belong and are at home; no matter how long they reside in their home, they are in their hearts forever.
During our interview, Chrystal comments on her son AJ's recorded message about his own experience as a youth in foster care. He touches on being a foster sibling and his responsibilities as the big brother. AJ also explains the patience and understanding that his family has to serve the greater good.
Chrystal explains that you must have the mental fortitude to be a foster parent. It is important not to let negative people get in the way of your journey. One example she gives is when people say, "You are just in it for the money."
Chrystal recalls a conversation like this where she explained, "Fostering is hard work. I run appointments, I run meetings, I go to meetings, I document all things surrounding the child."
She recognizes that she must be organized and ask hard questions sometimes. This responsibility 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 these conversations from the heart to ensure 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 her success is when the whole family is involved and feels everyone has a role.
This highlights the need to rely on our training as foster parent families. Seeking support from professionals, social workers, and other parents from a place of strength-based trauma-aware care will help us 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 they provide the best support to that child and their families. They ensure that the child is welcomed and that the biological parents are reassured that they are in a safe 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 that has been included in their life.
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 said, "Ah! We are almost there for pickup, and 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 saying, 'We are glad you are here.'"
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 they will be a fantastic foster parent and make a foster child feel like they belong in the home.
If you're ready to learn more about becoming a foster parent like Chrystal, click here.