Suzan (34) and her husband Leon and daughter Lonne (6) take care of an 8-year-old boy, Sam. He comes every other weekend, often a little longer during the holidays.
“We sometimes jokingly say that Lonne was made to take care of foster children. On Friday she is already eager, because then she knows that Sam is coming. He is here every other weekend to relieve his single hardworking mother. As soon as he comes in he and my daughter start cuddling and playing.
The first months took some getting used to and she mainly played the boss, but now he also dares to indicate what he wants. After a weekend I sometimes ask if Lonne still likes it when he’s there, but it’s always good. Fortunately, because I was worried in the first period if I wasn’t favoring anyone.
“I was worried that I wasn’t favoring anyone”
But my husband and I were saying just yesterday how natural it is. That we really treat them as equals. That also goes without saying, because our daughter picks it up so well. She also never asks why Sam can’t be in his own house. I don’t think she cares. She especially likes it when he is there, but she also likes it when he goes again.
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More than half of all foster children are cared for part-time; it is better for a child if it can still be at home as much as possible. For us it was mainly a good way to see if foster care is something for us: we both had the wish to take care of a child who is less well off for some time.
It took another year after registration before our foster son was placed with us. That time was needed to make a good match, and we succeeded. Sam needs a lot of structure, and I’m kind of into that. He picked up our rules very quickly. He stays at the table until we finish eating, he cleans up after himself. We have good contact with his mother, who notices that he also listens better at home.
Sam does not expressly indicate that he is having a good time with us. That made my husband insecure in the beginning: am I doing it right? I work in childcare so I am used to reading children, also non-verbally. He sleeps well, eats well, he laughs, likes to play with our daughter and wants to be seen.
Our foster care counselor also explained that a child will not easily say that he enjoys living in a foster family: then it is as if he has abandoned his parents. With that knowledge I notice that my husband gets more peace of mind. He also consciously does things together with Sam, also because he has no father at home.
“If he’s there, we don’t have to do much to give Sam the peace he needs”
My husband is a carpenter, so they go together in the work bus to collect and saw wood. I use that moment to be alone with our daughter, who also needs that one-on-one time. But other than that, we don’t necessarily do special things on the weekends he’s here. It was not; Sam needs rest and structure. And we actually too. We are always on that rumbling train in which everything has to be done, and quickly too. If he’s there, we don’t have to do much to give Sam the rest he needs. I enjoy being together more then, and I see that my daughter does too. Unnoticed, his presence therefore also benefits us.”
Also room for an extra plate at the table?
If parents are temporarily unable to care for their child and care within their own network is not possible, the child will go to a family from the database of a foster care organisation.
There are different types of foster care: crisis, for as long as necessary and part-time. The latter form is most common. Families then regularly take care of a child during the weekend and part of the holidays or on a few weekdays. Parents who need this support are, for example, single mothers who can take a breather thanks to foster care. But also children who live in institutions and thus still experience the dynamics of family life. In the case of crisis foster care and foster care for as long as necessary, the child will be placed in the foster family full-time.
For an overview of foster care organisations, go to www.fostercare.nl/fostercareorganizations
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