There are two words that have become very instrumental in shaping the lens through which I understand my role as a foster parent:
EMPOWERMENT and AGENCY.
Empowerment refers to “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”
Agency refers to “a means of exerting power or influence; instrumentality.”
All children need to feel a sense of empowerment and control in their lives. They need to feel like they have a say in the matter, that their voice counts.
All children need this—but children in foster care need this most of all.
Children in foster care have had everything familiar taken from them, as well as the opportunities to have a voice in the biggest aspects of their daily life (where they live, where they go to school, who is taking care of them, etc.) This leaves children feeling frustrated, depressed, angry, and confused.
Foster parents would do well to find ways to help rebuild these kids’ sense of empowerment and agency.
In this video, I give a simple look at how these two concepts inform my approach to children in my care. This is just a starting point, of course—there are so very many ways foster parents can help to give the kids in their care a sense of empowerment and agency. In this video, I talk about how to do it in the home. I did not even begin talking about how to help foster youth feel empowered to advocated for themselves outside your home—with social workers, educators, etc.
I hope you find this insightful as you consider how to support and relate to the children in your care!