Fostering in the Time of Corona: A Newbie Perspective
I began the journey toward becoming a foster mom a little under a year ago. After acquiring approval, I had several hiccups before getting my first placement. Before my foster teen moved in, I was among the many people working from home due to COVID-19. When I learned that I would have a young person in my home whose education had been interrupted by the pandemic, I decided to adjust my Slash Room (cats' room/den/guest bedroom/office) with one more slash: classroom.
After spraying chalkboard paint onto the wall and moving my desk so that it would be facing the rest of the room, I developed a curriculum of classwork including English Language Arts, Spelling, Spanish, Statistics, and Reading. I bought lap desks, erasable pens, and erasable highlighters. I made a schedule which incorporated approximately three hours of coursework daily, five days per week.
When my foster teen arrived, I explained the expectations, offering to answer any questions. During our first couple of days together, I learned that she owned a violin which had been left in a previous foster home. I made arrangements to acquire the instrument, and a friend who understands such things helped with tuning and providing information on free and low-cost resources.
So, how did my first several weeks as a foster mom go? I've enjoyed it! I like teaching, and there is a sense of accomplishment when I see that my teen understands something which had been difficult for her to learn on her own. I like cooking, and there's something rewarding about your child thinking dinner was so good she will even eat what's left of the vegetables! Also, my teen is helpful, sweet, and silly. She has helped with the cooking and cleaning, and she loves to laugh.
It hasn't been all fun. This individual eats like...well, a teen! I mean, I feel like I have to make five servings of every meal to keep her from starving. It kind of makes me glad she's not a 6'3" teen like my brother was. If you're still struggling to gain a clear picture of her eating habits, try this: think of what you usually eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Add one extra serving of each. Double that, add snacks, and top it all off with hot sauce. That is this child's appetite. She could put hot sauce on top of hot sauce on top of a habanero pepper on top of a whole chicken and still not have enough heat or food. It's kind of scary.
It has been a bit of a challenge for my teen without the option to mingle with people her own age. The apartment complex includes a pool area, which only recently re-opened with social-distancing guidelines. Unfortunately, my observations have shown that people are not engaging in such behaviors. I have had to speak with my teen about this, and explain that until I can figure out a way for us to safely use the pool and other community amenities, I don't feel comfortable agreeing to enter such areas. While she definitely acknowledges the need to be safe, I can tell that the teen is frustrated with current circumstances. A recent problem with the cable and internet added to the exasperation, as the individual was briefly unable to watch her TV shows. We have attempted to make the best of it all. We played board games and Dominoes, and took time to drive around the area. I think we both did pretty well given the interruptions and otherwise unexpected limitations.
So what's the takeaway from this post on my experience? I hope that you are able to recognize that fostering is just parenting. It's loving. I feel fortunate to be able to open my home in this way, and I feel blessed that my foster teen has come into my life. I look forward to continuing the process... perhaps with a little less COVID-19.