Good Info to Have.
A Walk in Their Shoes.
A few months ago I completed a training to be certified as a teacher for licensing classes. (To train people to be foster parents.) During the classes, one of the exercises that we do is an ‘imaginary journey.’ The purpose is to help the potential foster parents to start to understand the emotions that the children coming to their home may be experiencing. I think this is a good exercise for potential foster parents, as well as a good refresher for people currently fostering. I realize this is long. But if you have time, read through it.
Anyway, normally I would tell you to relax and close your eyes as I read this to you, and for you to pay particular attention to the emotions you experience. But since you have to read it – just try to imagine the journey in your mind’s eye.
All of us have a place that we call home. A place that, hopefully, makes us feel secure, is familiar, and even though it isn’t always perfect, it is what we know. Picture the place that you call home. Picture the people that live in your home with you, or spend a lot of time in your home. Maybe your spouse. Maybe your children. Maybe close friends or extended family. Picture any pets that you have. Your dog, your cat, your fish. Perhaps there is a particular place in your home that is especially comfortable or inviting. A place that you can relax, a place you like to snuggle up in, a place that has a lot of sentimental value. Picture that special place. Picture those special possessions that make your home uniquely yours. Smell the aromas of your home – perhaps the lingering smells of your favorite foods, or a loved one’s perfume. Listen to sounds you often hear in your home. The ticking of a clock, the notes of music. The sound of television. The sound of children. Hear the voices of the people in your home.
Now that you have your home and people and things clearly in your mind, I need to tell you who I am and what I do. I am a person with many responsibilities and much authority. My job is to move people. I move people to live in new homes, to live with new people. That is what I will be doing with your right now. I am going to move you to a new home, to a new family. In the new home will be new people who have been waiting for someone like you for a long time. There are children who want to call you mom or dad.
How does this make you feel?
Now, picture me at your front door. Knock. Knock. Knock.
We do not have a lot of time. We do not have a lot of space. So you will need to quickly pack up only a few things that you really need. Only enough to fill a cardboard box, or a small trash bag. Look around your home. What will you pack? You are only allowed to bring things, no people, children, or pets. The new family does not have room for pets.
So what are you packing?
Now we need to leave. Sorry there hasn’t been more notice, but there isn’t time – it’s been decided that you have to leave. We walk out your front door and get into my car. If you want to, you may look back. Picture your house, with the faces of any people who may be there looking out the window to watch you leave. We get into the car and begin to leave, but you’re not sure where we are going. We drive through the area around your home – this all looks familiar to you – but soon we are in a different neighborhood, town, even county, and things are not familiar anymore.
If you look around you will see that this neighborhood is much nicer than yours. The homes are all bigger and much more fashionable, and the cars in the driveways are much nicer than any you’ve ever ridden in. The house where you will live is much nicer than your own. You will have all the things in your new home that you always wanted but could not afford.
Let me tell you about the family with whom you will be living. They are so excited to meet you and that you will be living with them. They have been waiting for a mom or dad to come live with them for so long, and they have lots of plans for what you can do together. I have told them all about you and they have wanted someone like you for a very long time. Just think, there is an adult in this home that wants to call you a husband, wife, or partner. There are children who will call you mom or dad, and they are so excited for you to be a real part of their family.
How are you feeling as we near the house?
Do you have any questions about the family? Any concerns? Any reservations? Yes? Those are all very good questions. Unfortunately, I’m so busy moving people that I don’t quite have the time to find out the answers.
We drive up in front of the house and pull into the driveway. You seem tentative to get out, but it’s getting late, and we need to get inside. We walk up to the front door and knock. The door opens and there is a family, all smiling and very excited to meet you. Just look at all the smiling faces.
How do you feel about the people at the door?
How soon do you want to see the family and friends that you left behind?
How do you think your new family will feel about you wanting to see your old family?
How long will it take for you to feel like you fit in with this new family? Will you ever fit in? Feel the same way as you did with your old family?
Despite the fact that you thought you couldn’t ever fit in, or that it would take a long time, you have done so. The family members have helped you meet your needs and attach to them. Think about your strengths and coping skills, and using these to live successfully with this new family. Remember that this family has helped you attach to them by helping you meet your needs. You have learned to trust them. It has not been easy, and it has taken time. In fact, it has been 12 months.
I know that you wanted to see your old family and friends immediately, but I forgot to mention that the only way that could happen is if I arrange it for you. You cannot have contact other than through me. And I have been too busy to make arrangements. So, you have not had a chance to see your people. In fact, it has been a full 12 months since you came to live with this family and you have not seen your old family.
Despite the fact that you have not seen your old family, you have done a wonderful job fitting in. In fact, you have done such a wonderful job, that I have good news for you. You get to go home. We will not have a lot of time or space, but you may pack anything you want to take back home with you.
How do you feel about this news? Are you ready to go home? Do you want to go home? Do you want the family that you are living with to want you to go home? Do you want the family you are living with to help you to go home? How do you want the new family to feel when you leave?
There have undoubtedly been some changes in the year since you left. What sort of changes do you think have been made? If you have children, how old are they now? If you have a spouse, how has that person managed without you? If you live alone, how are your friends spending their time now? How do your children feel about you now that you are returning home?
Will your relationships be like they were before you left? Will there be problems adjusting back in with your old family? Would you come to me for help with those problems?
In just a few minutes of imagining this journey, how are you feeling emotionally?
This is why we need good foster parents. People who can consider these things. How would the story have been different if you went to a home who was only taking you for the money? A family who did not try to help you fit in? A family who could not help you go back home? It happens. All the time.