Foster Parenting Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Conversation with Kevin (Podcast Episode 10)

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN, one in nine girls and one in fifty-three boys under the age of eighteen experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.

The effects of child sexual abuse can be long-lasting and can have a profound affect on the victim’s mental health. Victims are four times more likely than non-victims to develop symptoms of drug abuse and/or experience PTSD as adults, and they’re three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults.

Out of the 63,000 sexual abuse cases substantiated by Child Protective Services each year, 80% of perpetrators of sexual violence against children were parents. Many of those children are placed in foster care, and it is vital for foster parents to be equipped to support children who have been traumatized sexually.

My guest for this episode of A Fostered Life Podcast is Kevin, a man who knows all too well how being sexually abused as a child affects a person’s life. As he shares from his experience, Kevin offers invaluable insight and advice for those of us who may be called on to care for children who are victims of sexual violence. 

I’m so grateful for Kevin’s transparency, vulnerability, and willingness to share about this extremely hard topic, and I know you’ll gain as much from  this conversation as I did.

Kevin’s Suggested Resources for Victims of Sexual Trauma and Abuse:

BOOKS*

“Victims No Longer” by Mike Lew

“Not Quite Healed” by Cecil Murphy and Gary Roe

“Beyond Betrayal” by Richard B Gartner

“Writing Ourselves Whole” by Jen Cross

“The Courage To Heal; A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse” by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

WEBSITES

malesurvivor.org

livingwell.org

PODCASTS:

MPower Survivors

Healing Warriors Male Abuse Survivors

Beyond Surviving with Rachel Grant

CRISIS LINES

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; 1-800-273-8255

crisisconnections.org

24hr Crisis Line; 206-461-3222,

local7-1-1, WA relay

866-4CRISIS national

For more information and resources for foster parents, please visit afosteredlife.com, where you’ll find blog posts, youtube videos, and social media links so you can connect with others on the foster parenting journey.

If you’re interested in supporting my work at A Fostered Life, please go my Patreon page, where you can become a patron. Just one dollar a month helps offset the cost of producing these resources and enables me to offer them freely to new and prospective foster parents, and I’m grateful for the support of my patrons.

Thanks for listening and thanks for caring about foster care.

*Amazon Affiliate Links

Photo by Trần Toàn on Unsplash

When Foster Parents Fight for Reunification (Podcast Episode 9)

One of the things many people say when they hear that I’m a foster parent is, “I couldn’t imagine getting attached to a child and then having to give them back.” While I can appreciate that people are just expressing their honest feelings, the truth is, that sentiment shows a total lack of understanding about the main point of foster care, which is precisely to love a child to the point of getting attached and then “giving them back” to their parents.

Reunification is the first goal of foster care. When a child is removed from their parents, usually the plan is to provide a safe and loving and nurturing home for them while their parents do the hard work of getting to a place where they can safely parent their children again. It’s messy. It’s an emotional roller coaster. And it’s not always possible. Just over half of children in foster care will be reunified. The rest will be raised by relatives, adopted by foster parents, or remain in foster care until they “age out.” 

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that foster parents can play a crucial role in supporting reunification, and in today’s podcast, I’m speaking with a fellow foster parent named Lauren who did just that. The focus of today’s episode is how foster parents can be intentional and proactive in supporting the mothers (and/or in some cases fathers) of the children in their care, championing their efforts to get their children back.

Let me be very clear, though, before we launch into this conversation: this is often the hardest part of foster parenting. The emotional toll is high, and the grief a foster family experiences after reunification is real. 

I’m grateful that Lauren shared from her experiences with me, and I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

If you’re interested in supporting my work at A Fostered Life, please go my Patreon page, where you can become a patron. Just one dollar a month helps offset the cost of producing these resources and enables me to offer them freely to new and prospective foster parents, and I’m grateful for the support of my patrons.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

3 Things to Do Before Becoming a Foster Parent

Back when we were in the process of becoming licensed to be foster parents, we were focused on the checklist of things we needed to do to prepare. Smoke detectors in every bedroom? Check. Medicines locked up and alcohol out of reach? Check and check. Crib slats the correct distance apart? Yes. Mattress thick enough? Yes.

The list went on.

And on.

And on.

Now, nearly six years and many children and family systems later, I realize that there are a few things that are not part of the required preparation for becoming a foster parent—but should be.

I shared about them in this video, but if you prefer to read rather than watch, here they are:

Listen to, read, and watch resources that amplify the voices of Former Foster Youth (FFY) and Adoptees.

As a new foster parent, I sought out other foster parents, therapists, teachers, social workers, and more in my endeavor to learn and grow, but it was years before I discovered resources that came from the perspective of children in care and/or adoptees (who have a lot in common). Unfortunately, without learning from FFY and adoptees, I was only one side of the story.

As the saying goes, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But once I started listening to those voices—as I sat on foster care panels and attended workshops and conferences—I realized how vital it is for foster parents to gain some insight into how things look and feel to the kids in their care.

Here are a few places to start. There are more. Some are really hard to read. Some will make you very defensive. You’ll wan to say, “Not all foster parents! Not us!” Don’t do that. Just listen, and try to do better.

Befriend foster parents and offer them support.

My brother and sister-in-law were foster parents for a time. Some cousins of my husband were as well, and we knew of some friends-of-friends who were foster parents. However, we never really discussed foster parenting with them before becoming foster parents, and even then, we didn’t reach out to them much.

What it took me nearly two years to learn, though, was that having friends—close friends—who were also foster parents was huge as we made our way through the ups and downs. Having people we could talk with and confide in was so important in not only surviving but finding a way to thrive in some of the crazy seasons and emotional rollercoasters we found ourselves on!

If you are thinking of becoming a foster parent, start finding support groups to attend. Offer to provide childcare or babysit for a foster family. Get involved before you have children placed in your home.

Study positive parenting practices and learn about trauma-informed parenting.

I meet so many foster parents who are caught completely off guard by the challenges of being the primary caregiver for children who have trauma in their backgrounds. Traditional parenting strategies, which are often dependent on punitive measures for addressing behavioral challenges, simply do not work.

Even if you have raised children of your own, even if you are sure that you know what you’re doing, if you’re planning to parent children with trauma in their past, and you are not equipped with positive, empowering, connecting parenting practices, it will not work.

Do yourself a favor and get some training now. I highly recommend Positive Parenting Solutions,* which is not specific to trauma-informed parenting, but is rooted in empowering kids and helping them experience ongoing positive connection with their parents/caregivers. Other resources can be found at Empowered to Connect and the Karyn Purvis Instititute of Child Development. I have also listed a number of books on my web site, including my favorite, Beyond Consequence, Logic and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children with Severe Behaviors .*

If you are in the process of becoming a foster parent, or you’re just thinking about it, it’s not likely that anyone will tell you to do these things. However, I can tell you from experience that these suggestions are as important as checking the batteries in those smoke detectors and finding the right size lock boxes for your medicines!