Fostering a child under any circumstances takes all the love you have to give. That’s why you have committed to being a foster parent and it is this sincere love that can often break down the protective barriers they’ve erected around themselves. However, not all kids are removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Some have come from a family with an emergency need such as their home being levelled by fire or a parent who was taken ill and will be hospitalised for an indefinite period of time.
Others have sadly lost a parent to death quite unexpectedly and with no near relatives able to take them in, they are placed in emergency foster care while a more permanent solution can be found. With that said, and the massive amount of love and compassion you feel for these children, you might be just as unprepared to face death as they are. What can you do to help them through this most difficult time in their young lives?
Don’t Push Personal Beliefs on Them
Let’s start with something you should not do under the circumstances. When kids are placed with you for emergency care, you’ve hardly had time to get to know them before bringing them into the fold of your family. You don’t know how they were raised and whether they had any religious affiliations at all. Normally, if you signed on to fostering through an agency like fosteringpeople.co.uk, lots of information would be shared with you and in some circumstances you would even have the opportunity to spent some time getting to know the kids to see if it was a good ‘fit.’ Even if you are a firm believer in life after death, this is not the time to broach that subject.
Be an Active Listener
Rather than telling them how they should feel, let them express their feelings if and when they are ready. Let them know that you are there for them and they can talk to you about anything they feel like talking about. You can also tell them that it’s okay if they don’t feel like sharing at this time, but also that at some point the only way to heal is to begin letting that grief out. True empathy is what a situation like this requires, so consider how you would respond if someone was forcing you to share feelings you weren’t ready to address just yet. Sometimes even sitting in silence with them is enough to help them begin processing the loss of a parent to begin the healing process.
Find a Therapist to Work With
This is something the agency you’ve signed on with can help you with. They have lists of resources like child psychologists and therapeutic groups. There may be times when those kids just aren’t ready to express their feelings to you out of fear they won’t be accepted. Other times they just want to keep their memories to themselves for just a bit longer. For whatever reason, if you feel like these kids need that extra level of emotional support, getting them into grief counselling would be the first step in the healing process.
Thankfully, there are loving adults like yourself who are committed to helping these kids who have gone through so much in their young lives. The death of a parent may take many years to process, but your love and support can make that road a lot less rocky and that’s often exactly what they need.