Author: Nikki Lehman

Foster Care: A Sibling Story

“He has your eyes…”

We are sitting in a hospital room.  Our daughter has just given birth to our first grandchild and her biological and adopted siblings are gathered about.  Each taking a turn holding and admiring the newest addition to our family.

It was a traditional scene.  One where the family will “ooh” and “aww” over the beautiful life that has just entered the world.  But a certain comment took my breath away.

“He has your eyes Jose.”

Uncle Jose, only 14, looked up with pride.  It was an important moment.  Because in adoption, you don’t always get to see another who has your eyes.  A small symbol that provides a silent and powerful connection.

Our family is a patch quilt of sorts.  My husband and I have two daughters adopted from foster care.  They have a biological sister and brother adopted by my parents.  It’s a complicated little family that doesn’t make sense on paper and confuses most people who meet us.   But it’s our family.  And when those four children entered our lives, we knew they all needed to stay together.

And here we are ten years later in a delivery room and I am again struck by the power of the sibling bond. And so grateful that they could experience this miracle together.  That they could all take a turn holding the next generation of their family, of our family, and see tangibly the power of that sibling connection.

We are all woven together now, they and us.  Biology doesn’t define our family; the love and commitment knit throughout that hospital room is what makes our family.  But I don’t deny the power of biology – the miracle that is witnessed when you hold another and see your own eyes looking back.

Everyday siblings in foster care are separated because there are not enough families to keep them together.  And when that separation turns into permanency, these children will inevitably be denied the basic privileges and experiences that siblings deserve and need.  From the big moments like births and weddings to the small moments like raiding your sister’s closet or playing with your brother after school.

It’s hard work taking in a sibling group.  Helping each individual child heal and work through their trauma while also caring for multiple children with multiple needs.  But can I tell you something?  It’s worth it.

“He has your eyes Jose.”

Interested in knowing what it takes to be a part of this amazing work?  Check out our orientation page and get started today!

Arizona Faith and Families was founded by Paul and Nikki Lehman.  Paul and Nikki started their family by adopting two teenage girls from foster care.  They are now the proud parents to five children and one grandchild and work to equip others toward successful foster care and adoption. 

Separating Siblings

Today I received six different emails requesting foster homes for sibling groups.  Today I had to reply that I did not have any foster families available who could take in these siblings.  May I share this with you?

6 year old boy, 1 year old girl

3 year old boy, 1 year old boy, 2 year old boy

7 month old girl, 2 year old girl, 4 year old girl, 7 year old boy

Newborn girl, 3 year old boy, 1 year old boy

8 year old boy, 12 year old girl

8 year old girl, 9 year old boy, 11 year old girl, 13 year old girl

This was just yesterday.  Every day our office receives dozens of emails requesting foster homes for sibling groups, a surprisingly difficult population to place.

This is because sibling groups range in age and size.  While a new foster family might feel equipped and prepared to parent a 5 year old, not too many feel equipped and prepared to parent a 5, 7, and 10 year old.  And that’s ok, because it is no easy task!

But what happens when foster homes aren’t available for these sibling groups?  They are forced to be separated; often times into multiple homes or into group home settings.   Today they will not only experience the loss of their home and parents, but will also be torn from their siblings.

This is a tragedy.  Praise God we no longer have children sleeping in DCS offices (remember 20015??).  But the work is not done.  Arizona has nearly 200% more homes than it needs for children ages 0-2 but falls far short of what we need for children over age 7 and especially for children who are a part of a sibling group.  You can view the statistics on the DCS website.

Arizona needs foster parents.  Foster parents who are willing to step out in faith, possibly have a very hard 12 – 18 months of parenting multiple children with multiple traumas, and stick around long enough to inspire others.  This is hard.  It requires people with real grit.  It takes people who are teachable and who are willing to be flexible.  Foster parents who have space, the time, and the ability to transport multiple children.  Foster parents who have a strong support system for when things get tough (or are willing to build one).  Foster parents who understand our calling as Christians to care for the orphan and who are willing to follow this command despite how uncomfortable it may be.

This is a good work.  I would argue some of the best work that can be done.  But it is hard work.  Are you willing to work alongside us?  We’ve been there, done that and we want to give you the tools to do it too.  Check out our orientation page and get started today!

 

Arizona Faith and Families was founded by Paul and Nikki Lehman.  Paul and Nikki started their family by adopting two teenage girls from foster care.  They are now the proud parents to five children and one grandchild and work to equip others toward successful foster care and adoption. 

Back To School Basics for Foster Parents

Going back to school is always a refreshing switch from the summer schedule.  Routines are great for children, and though it may cause anxiety for some students, it is always nice to get into a good schedule.  Here are 5 quick tips for getting back into your school groove:

  1. Family meetings. Life can get busy and hectic, so plan family meetings or one-on-ones to re-connect.  Maybe this is done over an after-school snack, or maybe it’s a weekly check in during Saturday breakfast.  Either way, find time to slow down and connect with the kids in your care.  A lot can happen during an eight hour school day!
  2. Get free meals.  Sign your foster children up for free breakfast and lunch.  While you might have great aspirations to pack healthy meals, it is still a great back-up to have on hand.  All foster children automatically qualify for the free breakfast and lunch program so be sure to take advantage of this support.
  3. Order groceries online. Time seems to fly out the window during the school year and you can save time and money by ordering your groceries online and picking them up or having them delivered!  Walmart offers this service FREE of charge and other stores such as Frys and Sprouts charge a nominal fee.  Pair this with a weekly meal plan and you will save yourself time, money, and energy!
  4. Prepare for battle. Homework can be your worst nightmare during school season.  If you have a child with a full visit schedule, counseling, and other appointments, school work becomes nearly impossible to get done.  Add in a learning disability or behavior challenges and you have a nice recipe for a migraine.  Work with your child’s teacher if needed.  Oftentimes homework demands need to be modified.  If you find that your child’s day involves school, an appointment, homework, and sleep…there needs to be some adjustment to include play!  Don’t be afraid to work with your child’s teacher if homework becomes too much or is difficult to fit into their schedule.  You are their best advocate.
  5. Get talking. Inevitably someone this school year is going to ask your foster child about their parents or their family.  It might be a teacher, some friends, or that nosy stranger, but the conversation is bound to happen.  Role play with your child to help them learn what they would like to say when the uncomfortable questions get asked.  Practicing these conversations helps children identify what they are comfortable sharing and gives them great tools to protect their own privacy. Remember your foster child’s right to confidentiality and work to protect their privacy.

Praying for all our families as they get back into the school groove!  Please feel free to share your own special tips, we’d love to hear them.

Astonishing Acts of 2017

Arizona Faith and Families is a family operated agency.  It is one of the unique characteristics that sets us apart and allows us to have rich and intimate relationships with each of our foster families and the children placed in their home.  We are also a Christian agency, centering our practices on faith in God, the power of prayer, and the redemptive work of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we prepare to begin a new year, we wanted to step back and praise God for some of the amazing ways He has worked through our foster families in 2017.  We are humbled by the incredible people we work with and thank all of you for stepping out in faith to serve Arizona’s foster children.

In 2017, our foster families showed that they not only love the children in their home, but the people connected to them.  Do you know how many of you emailed and asked to bring the children’s biological family to our agency’s Christmas party?  I promise you that is not standard!  We are humbled.  You never cease to amaze us with your generosity and fearlessness.  You supervise visits when parent aid contracts expire and the children are set to go weeks without contact with their loved ones.  You coordinate with other foster families to ensure the children see siblings they are separated from and even drive across the county to do so!  You model how to be a good parent.  This year, you attended doctor appointments and parent-teacher conferences with the children’s biological parents, ensuring they knew what kind of questions to ask and how to advocate for each child’s needs.  You even co-hosted birthday parties!  We know you were nervous at first, but did that hold you back?  No.  You are not a group of people ruled by fear but by courage and grace.  Thank you.  And did you stop there?  No. So many of you kept going further.  Whether it was having the single mom over to take her children trick or treating or inviting the family with nowhere to go over for Thanksgiving, you continually assessed each situation and found ways to show love and support.  Your love is relentless and it is a testimony to the true love of Jesus Christ.  Thank you for every awkward encounter, difficult conversation, and uncomfortable situation you overcame to ensure the children in your home were loved, supported, and connected to the important people in their lives.   We are so thankful for you.

In 2017, our foster parents persevered.  Twice a year, agencies are required to report on the number of disruptions in their foster homes.  Do you know how many reports we submitted this year?  One.  Just one.  I promise you, this too is not standard!  While we do take pride in the training and support we provide, we know ultimately the decision to keep going lies with you.  It is through trauma that the children placed in your home have come to live with you.  Children need a place to heal.  To bear the ugliness of their trauma in a home that will not judge them for it, but lead them through it.  IT – IS – HARD.  But you do it.  Every day you step up to the plate and do it.  Some of you have had a really rough 2017.  Thank you for persevering.

In 2017, our foster parents exchanged the ordinary for the extraordinary.  There are the empty nesters who gave up quietness and freedom to continue raising children.  From newborns to teens this group does it all!  And can we all just give a huge round of applause to our single parents?  You never cease to amaze us.  And our adoptive parents, thank you!  Over a dozen children found permanency through adoption into your homes and many more of you are set to finalize in 2018.  Such a beautiful picture of redemption and love. 

2017 astonished us.  To quote the apostle Paul “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6

Want to be a part of this amazing journey?  Attend an orientation today and find out if 2018 is your year to start the foster care or adoption journey: Orientation Events

Back to School Basics for Foster Parents

Going back to school is always a refreshing switch from the summer schedule.  Routines are great for children, and though it may cause anxiety for some students, it is always nice to get into a good schedule.  Here are 5 quick tips for getting back into your school groove:

  1. Family meetings. Life can get busy and hectic, so plan family meetings or one-on-ones to re-connect.  Maybe this is done over an after-school snack, or maybe it’s a weekly check in during Saturday breakfast.  Either way, find time to slow down and connect with the kids in your care.  A lot can happen during an eight hour school day!
  2. Get free meals.  Sign your foster children up for free breakfast and lunch.  While you might have great aspirations to pack healthy meals, it is still a great back-up to have on hand.  All foster children automatically qualify for the free breakfast and lunch program so be sure to take advantage of this support.
  3. Meal plan. This is one of our favorite suggestions that we give to our families.  Meal planning will save you both time and money as you jump back into the craziness that comes with a busy school schedule.  There are so many amazing tools to help family’s meal plan, but here are a few of our favorites:

http://www.cleaneatingmag.com/meal-planning/meal-plans-shopping-lists/

http://wellnessmama.com/1612/kid-friendly-meal-plan/

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/my-favorite-quick-and-easy-dinners/

  1. Prepare for battle. Homework can be your worst nightmare during school season.  If you have a child with a full visit schedule, counseling, and other appointments, school work becomes nearly impossible to get done.  Add in a learning disability or behavior challenges and you have a nice recipe for a migraine.  Work with your child’s teacher if needed.  Oftentimes homework demands need to be modified.  If you find that your child’s day involves school, an appointment, homework, and sleep…there needs to be some adjustment to include play!  Don’t be afraid to work with your child’s teacher if homework becomes too much or is difficult to fit into their schedule.  You are their best advocate.
  2. Get talking. Inevitably someone this school year is going to ask your foster child about their parents or their family.  It might be a teacher, some friends, or that nosey stranger, but the conversation is bound to happen.  Roleplay with your child to help them learn what they would like to say when the uncomfortable questions get asked.  Practicing these conversations helps children identify what they are comfortable sharing and gives them great tools to protect their own privacy.

Praying for all our families as they get back into the school groove!  Please feel free to share your own special tips, we’d love to hear them.

Home Inspection Fails: The Top 10

The Top Ten

A portion of the process to become a foster parent includes an inspection of your home by the state of Arizona.  This can feel intimidating but is intended to make sure that licensed homes are safe environments for children in care.  The state provides each family with a comprehensive list of inspection standards and relies on agencies to help get you prepared.  Below are the top 10 reasons families fail to pass an inspection the first time through, as provided by the state of Arizona:

  • Smoke detectors are not installed in each bedroom
  • Dogs over six months of age are not current on rabies vaccines
  • A record keeping tool is not available to document review of emergency evacuation plans with foster children
  • Smoke detectors are not installed in each living area
  • Electrical panels and outlets are in poor repair
  • A written emergency evacuation plan is not available and posted on each floor
  • Emergency phone numbers are not posted in a prominent place
  • Medication is not in locked storage
  • Highly toxic substances are not in locked storage

And the current number 1….

  • Lack of proper first aid supplies

We want all families to feel confident as they go through their inspection and do our best to ensure that each family passes an inspection their first time through!  To help prepare, please take a look at the most current inspection book closely and begin the process of preparing your home.  You can also review home inspections 101 to get an idea of the inspection process.

Home Inspections 101

During the licensing process, the Office of Licensing and Regulation (OLR) will conduct a life safety inspection in your home. This is to ensure that your home is in compliance with the safety requirements for licensed foster parents. We know this can be a stressful time for families, but no need to worry we have you covered! Simply, look over this document to learn about some of the major safety concerns addressed during the inspection.

*This is a brief overview of the most commonly asked about safety requirements. A full detailed list of safety requirements for foster parents will be given to you during the licensing process by your agency. Your licensing agency will also do a walk through with you to help you prepare for the States inspection.

Medication and Toxins    

(Many families attach magnet locks to existing cabinets for the locking of medication and toxins.  You can view a sample here)

  • Medication must be maintained in a securely fashioned and locked storage, unless:
    • The foster child may access their medication specified in their case/service plan
    • The medication must be readily and immediately accessible i.e. asthma inhaler or epi-pen
  • Refrigerated Medication
    • Must be safeguarded in a locked box within the fridge. (Many families use a tackle box with a lock)
  • Highly toxic substances are in locked storage (substances that can cause serious bodily harm or death if improperly used)

Fire arms

  • Fire arms and weapons must be unloaded, trigger locked and locked in a storage container of unbreakable material
  • Ammunition must be locked in a separate storage from the firearm
  • Other than some provisions for law enforcement officers, no foster parent is permitted to carry a weapon around or near a foster child. This includes individuals with a concealed weapon permit

Safety

  • 2A 10BC fire extinguisher is to be stored near the kitchen. If you have a multilevel house, you must have a fire extinguisher on all levels
  • Families are required to post and review emergency evacuation plans with foster children and maintain a record showing when it was reviewed
  • First Aid supplies must be maintained and available
  • Emergency phone numbers are to be posted in a prominent location (Poison control, 911, non-emergency local police, Family emergency contact, and crisis hotline)
  • Smoke detectors are to be installed in each living area and bedroom
  • If necessary, a functioning carbon-monoxide detector is to be properly installed on each level of the home

Animals

  • No animals on the premises should pose a threat due to behavior/venom/disease
  • All dogs over 6 months of age need to have documented proof of current rabies vaccinations

Pool Safety and Spa Safety

  • If you have a pool and intend to take in children younger than 6 years old, you must:
    • Have a pool fence that is at least 5 ft. high
    • Keep the pool gate locked, except when in use and there is an adult in the pool enclosure to supervise
    • Surround the pool with an enclosure (if your house acts as part of that enclosure you will need to read the Pool Safety section to see how to be in compliance)
    • Have a shepherd’s crook and a ring buoy
  • Hot Tubs and spas must have safety covers that are locked when not in use
    • In addition, a hot tub/spa is required to be fenced in compliance with R21-8-113.B for homes providing care to a child of six years of age or less
    • If drained, fenced or unfenced, you must keep the spa:
      • Disconnected from all power sources
      • Disconnected from water source supply
      • Covered at all times

Sleeping Arrangements

  • Each child in your home needs their own bed.  Futons, pull out couches, and trundle beds do not constitute a bed
  • Children need to be provided with a bedroom but they can share a bedroom with other children.  Lofts, or rooms without windows, walls, and a door, do not count as bedrooms
  • The state does not allow more than 8 total children, or more than 5 foster children, to reside in a licensed foster home.  There are some provisions available for sibling groups
  • Children over the age of 6 must sleep in bedrooms with children of the same gender

For a complete list of the state’s life safety inspection guidelines please click here

Who are the kids in foster care?

With over 21,000 children in the Arizona foster care system, it is important to stop and reflect on who these children are and what help they need.

Why are they in foster care?

The number one reason children come into care is neglect (85% based on the latest report).  This means lack of appropriate food, supervision, and shelter.  Children also come into care when they experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.  Often times children who come into care because of neglect later disclose that they have also been physically and or sexually abused.

How old are they?

The largest percentage of children in care are between the ages of 1 and 5 (approximately 33%) followed by the ages of 13-17 (21%).  When foster homes cannot be found for these children, they are placed in shelters and group homes.  In Arizona, approximately 1 out of every 5 children in state care live in a group facility.

How long do they stay in foster care?

Children can come into your home for as short as a few days and as long as a few years.  Many factors affect the amount of time in care, but 50% of the time their stay lasts between 1 and 12 months.  56% of children are eventually reunified with their parents.

What behaviors do I need to be prepared to parent?

Behavior is the language of children.  As such, children will display a wide range of behaviors such as tantrums to express frustration, hording to express fear of starvation, lying to express fear of abuse, and bed wetting from night terrors.  They need loving foster parents who will not personalize or shame them for these behaviors but rather hold their hand through the healing process. Foster parents need a good support team and behavior management skills in order to meet this challenge.  Behavior and behavior management are addressed at length during the 30 hours of pre-service training.

What resources are available?

Children come fully insured with Arizona’s comprehensive medical and dental program (CMDP).  CMDP covers a child’s need for dental, health, and behavioral care.  There are also many non-profit organizations ready to help with clothing, educational resources, and access to scholarships for extra-curricular activities.  Arizona also provides WIC services to children under five and the free lunch program to school aged children.  Children in state care also qualify for financial assistance in enrolling in day care or before and after school programs.

Godly, patient, and loving foster parents are needed to care for these precious children as they wait to re-unify with their birth families or to be placed in an adoptive home.  Who are the children in foster care?  They are real children, with real needs, and real stories.  If you feel God might be calling you to this task, please consider attending an orientation to find out how!

Not ready to foster?  Here are five ways to help now!

Battling Mom Guilt

This morning I woke up in a cold sweat.  It’s the day before Thanksgiving.  I home school my children and I woke up realizing that I’m a horrible mother because I have not taken the time to prepare a lesson on the Pilgrims.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I haven’t taught my kids about the Mayflower; I am a total failure.

This is a small snippet of the ridiculous and absurd thoughts that I have to intentionally flush down the toilet each day.  I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone.  Mom guilt is real, and it is vicious.

As a foster parent, you will be more susceptible to these assaults of guilty thoughts.  Did I make the right decision?  Am I capable?  Did I force my family into this?  What am I doing to my children?  These kids would be better somewhere else.  And it goes round and round and round.

It is funny how only the bad and negative thoughts seem to get whispered in our ears.   There is definitely no cheerleader in my subconscious.  Just an angry, bitter spirit who seems to hone in on all my fears and anxieties with some super powered magnifying glass.  What’s up with that?

As Christians, we know what’s up with that.  We just have to remind ourselves.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

We are at war.  We are at war with an enemy we can’t see.  It should be no surprise that he whispers.  But how to silence those whispers?  I don’t want to wake up each day feeling like I’ve failed before I have even started.

Ephesians 6:10-11 tells us

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 

The ability to defeat mom guilt has been provided for us. The Bible tells us to be strong in the Lord.  The Bible tells us to depend on His might.  The Bible doesn’t just tell us to put on armor.  It tells us to put on the armor of God.  Our God is aware of our enemies’ tactics; He has not left us defenseless.

When I wake up in a panic about some area of failure, my temptation is to pull the covers over my head and go back to bed.  Being a mother is such an important role.  Our enemy knows that, so we must not be surprised that we will be frequently assaulted, and often from within our own minds.

Ephesians 4:22-23

lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Those twinges of mom guilt are important.  They are important reminders that I must lay aside those feelings and fears and instead be renewed in the spirit of my mind.  I must put on the new self, a self that has been created in the likeness of God, created in righteousness and holiness and truth.  A creation like that can recognize a guilty lie.  A creation like that can laugh when mom guilt sails their way in the form of pilgrims and the Mayflower.

So I woke up today freaking out.  But I will not live the day that way.  I will begin my day with joy and in victory.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

To read about the approach of Arizona Faith and Families to foster care and adoption click here.  Or to find out more about becoming a foster parent in Arizona please visit our Licensing page.

Keeping the “Merry” in your Merry Christmas

The holidays are intended to be a very exciting time of year.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas there are two months of family gatherings, feasting, gift giving, and family traditions.  This is also the time of year when it can be very fun to be a parent.  We are excited to share with our children the joy of the season and to capture a little bit of the magic that is childhood.  As foster parents, we often times come in with even a little more gusto!  We can’t wait to share the joy of the holidays with these precious kids.  Who is not more deserving of joy than children such as these?

However, we must be careful.  Good intentions, especially when it comes to traumatized or neglected children, have a tendency to blow up in our faces.  If you want to keep the “Merry” in your Merry Christmas, it is important to approach the holidays with a plan.  Here are five easy steps toward achieving just that…

  1. Expect a change in behavior

A time of year intended to bring happiness and joy can be extremely uncomfortable for a child who has experienced trauma, neglect, or abuse.  Often times, childhood trauma leads to a negative self-image.  Healing takes time.  LOTS of time!  Despite prayer, counseling, and love, your precious children might still have a feeling that they are not good and do not deserve good things.  When we introduce them to happy situations like Thanksgiving or Christmas, expect that your child might unconsciously need to restore their equilibrium.  They will do this by soliciting negative behavior.  Don’t be shocked.  Take it as a reminder that your child is still healing and will need to be introduced to positive experiences slowly and with care.

Holidays also trigger past memories.  The season will provide them with plenty of reminders that their life is not traditional and the reality is not Hallmark.  Even if your child is in safer, happier, more loving situation, there is still room for sadness and grief.  Grief expresses itself in behaviors.  Expect a change in your child’s behavior and be prepared to meet the needs they are expressing.

  1. Make a family plan

Holidays mean a change in routine.  Children need routine.  Plan the season with your children, prepare a calendar so they can visually see places you plan to go and activities you plan to participate in.  Let them participate in the planning.  Is there a family tradition they want to share with you?  Is there a special food they would like to help cook?  Mold the season together, do not just plan the holidays and throw your child into the mix.  This needs to be a family experience, and as a newer member of this family, let them provide input and help create new traditions.  Giving your child a voice will give them a sense of control.  Control will help calm their nerves and ease behaviors.

Also be aware of sensory overload.  During this season our senses are assaulted on all fronts.  The sights, smells, and sounds of Christmas might bring us joy, but are a nightmare for a child who has trouble processing their environment.  Bringing a child with limited sensory processing to a crowded shopping area or a loud party is a recipe for disaster. Pay attention to your child’s triggers and adapt your schedule as needed.  Understand that they may be more easily triggered because they are already over stimulated and “on edge”.

  1. Lower Expectations

This can be difficult.  We enter this time of year with so much hope and anticipation.  We want to provide the very best for our foster children, that’s partly why we’re here!  But save yourself the grief and lower those expectations.  Provide the very best, but expect less.  This is a hard time of year for many children.  There will be behaviors.  There will be ungratefulness.  There will be tears or screaming or fighting.  There will be these things because there will be feelings.  And where there are feelings, there are behaviors.  You can help with your child’s stress by lowering your expectations and meeting their true needs.  They need to feel safe.  They need to feel secure.  They need to feel loved.  And love doesn’t mean you show up with the coolest bike on Christmas morning.  Love means when they are raging on Christmas Eve, you’re right there with them.  And you could care less that you are missing the family party.  Remind yourself in those moments that love is allowing that child to express their feelings, and love is letting them know they are in a safe place to do so.

  1. Help foster connections

Make sure to honor your child’s connections throughout the season.  Do they get to see their biological family?  Help them make gifts and cards.  If safe and approved, invite them to holiday events like the church’s Christmas play or a tree lighting ceremony.

Make sure your child has opportunities to give back.  Many people want to give to our children this time of year.  While this is kind, it can also be hurtful.  We don’t want our children to see themselves as needy or as takers.  Help foster connections by making them givers!  Help them make cards and presents for the important people in their lives, whether that is their biological mom or a teacher at their school.  Everyone has connections.  Help your child stay connected to theirs.

  1. Share, teach, and demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas

This is the most important step.  The meaning of Christmas gets lost.  Somewhere in the smell of sugar cookies, the mountain of presents, and the lights on our tree is the true reality of this holiday.  The reality that our savior was born in a stable and placed in a trough.  The reality that the king of this universe was born so that he could one day die on a cross.  But why death?  So that there could be life.  That is a powerful truth.  That is reality.  Don’t let it get lost.

Isaiah 9:6 tells us, “For us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Is that not everything our children need?  Is it not everything we need?  Our counselor, our mighty God, an everlasting father, and the Prince of Peace!  It is so powerful, so healing, and so true.  Keep this truth at the center of the holiday season and you will surely keep the Merry in your Merry Christmas.

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

To read more articles on what it means to be a foster parent please visit our blog page and read see FAQ to find out more about fostering in Arizona.