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Four things foster parents want you to know

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According to recent statistics, roughly half a million children are in the foster care system in the U.S. About half are eventually reunited with their families, while one-fifth are adopted. Many of them entered the foster system as victims of abuse and neglect.


But what about the foster parents who step in to care for these vulnerable children when they are in crisis? While there is plenty of data about foster children, information about foster parents can be elusive.

I talked to foster parents, not to obtain statistics, but to hear their stories. This is what they want you to know.

1 | Foster parents aren’t superheroes

Most foster parents I talked to want to dispel the myth that they’re saints.

Colorado foster parent Heather Grimes says she’s accustomed to people telling her “I could never do that.” Grimes and her husband have one biological child and have fostered two younger children, one of whom they adopted.

While she says it took a lot of soul-searching to become foster parents, their decision was not driven by the conviction that they were somehow superhuman. Rather, they chose to take on the challenge in order to show their biological daughter the value of helping others. They also felt it was important to be open to the experience, rather than ruling it out based on fear of the unknown.

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Foster parents are, in many ways, like all parents, says Dr. John DeGarmo. Having fostered over 50 children and the director of The Foster Care Institute, he understands how vulnerable foster parents are to fatigue, setbacks, and disappointments:

“There are times when we succeed, and there are times when we experience failures. We are not the perfect parents. We are simply trying our best to provide a home and family for a child who needs one, and help a child in need.”

2 | Yes, dealing with loss is hard (but not impossible)

Many foster parents mentioned they frequently field questions about what happens when a child is taken away from them. Mary and Ken, foster parents in Rhode Island whose foster child was ultimately reunited with his family, talked about how frequently people express apprehension over the idea of getting “too close” to the child only to have the child reunite with their biological family.

Mary says she finds that perspective “peculiar,” considering people rarely, if ever, take this stance on other relationships. “We don’t avoid having good friends or a romantic relationship because those engagements might someday come to an end. In fact, many of them do end, and we accept that as part of our life experience.”

As an expert in the field, Dr. DeGarmo encounters this question several times a week: “Doesn’t it hurt it too much to give them back?” Of course it hurts, he says; heartache is to be expected. “When the child leaves our home and our family, our hearts should break. We should experience feelings of grief and loss. After all, we have given all of our hearts and love to a child in need.”

Heather Grimes, whose first foster child ended up being returned to her biological family, says it was extremely challenging – though certainly not impossible – to be separated from that child, who lived with the Grimes’ for nearly a year.

Two years later, Grimes says, “Her photo is still on our fridge, from her first birthday, in that adorable denim jumper, sitting on the fake grass outside of Sweet Cow ice cream. Her eyes are the most gorgeous shade of blue.” While the Grimes’ may have moved on with their lives, that little girl is still in their hearts.

3 | Foster kids are not bad kids

Many parents said they often receive comments about how hard it must be to deal with difficult, out-of-control kids. In reality, says Emily, a foster parent in Missouri, most are not bad kids.

Currently the foster mom of a two-year-old and having fostered three children previously, she explains, “They just grew up in chaotic, unhealthy environments without proper adult supervision. They are capable of learning the right way to behave, express their emotions, etc. if you take the time to show and teach them.”

Tammy Hoskins says being trauma-informed is crucial in supporting foster children. Hoskins works for a Virginia non-profit serving the needs of high-risk youth. She is the mother of 10 children, four of whom are biological children and six of whom she adopted through the foster system.

Because their brains are still developing, children are especially vulnerable to the deleterious effects of trauma, including difficulty with learning, social-emotional development, brain structure, cognition, physical health, and attachment.

Says Hoskins, “To understand, to empathize, and to work with them in collaborative ways to solve problems is crucial to their healing.”

The work of Daniel Siegel, Karen Purvis, and webinars available through the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) are among the many resources she recommends foster parents take advantage of.

4 | The foster system isn’t just a cold bureaucracy

While the foster system can be impersonal and frustrating, known for its many rules and regulations, it has its upsides, too.

Heather Grimes was surprised to find how much she appreciated being part of the foster system. “I appreciated interacting with the parents of [our first foster child] with the social workers, medical professionals, everyone. I felt like I was supporting a bigger cause. I felt such a sense of pride that my family chose to go to such great lengths for others.”

Dr. DeGarmo points out that foster parents are helping not just the children, but the whole family. “Part of being a foster parent is helping the parents of the children living with us…helping our fellow human beings.”

He also notes that many biological parents of foster children were in the foster system themselves and, for lack of resources, are stuck in this cycle. As most foster parents were quick to point out, the biological parents aren’t necessarily bad people. They, too, love their kids, and they have flaws – like all parents.

From talking to foster parents, I learned that being a foster parent doesn’t require a superhero cape, sainthood, or limitless patience. It does take commitment, compassion, and a desire to help others.

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No kid is born a picky eater, but there are plenty who will give you a run for your money come mealtime. Whether it's a selective eating phase or simply a natural resistance to trying something new, getting your little one to try just.one.bite can be easier said than done.

But sometimes your attitude about eating can make the most impact. A 2017 study found a direct correlation between "mealtime emotional climate" (AKA, how positive meals are for parents and children) and a child's consumption of healthy food―meaning the difference between your child trying their green beans or not could depend on how positive you make the experience.

Not sure where to start?

Here are 10 positive parenting techniques that can help overcome picky eating and lead to more peaceful mealtimes for all.

1. Make them feel special.

Sometimes just knowing you have a special place at the table can help kids eat better. Create a special place setting with dishes just for them.

Try this: We love OXO's Stick & Stay plates and bowls for creating less mess at mealtime. Not only will the kids love the fun colors and designs, but the plates also come with a suction cup base that prevents little hands from knocking plates to the floor (or in your lap). Trust us—we've tried it.

2. Take off the pressure.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Plate

Think about it: If someone kept telling you to take one more bite during lunch, how likely would you be to go along without bristling?

Try this: Instead, use the Satter Division of Responsibility of feeding, which lets parents be responsible for what, when, and where feeding happens, while the child is left responsible of how much and whether. Besides promoting a more positive environment at mealtime, this method also boosts your child's confidence and helps encourage better self-regulation of food as they get older.

3. Serve a variety.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Divided Plate

It could be that your child is bored with the usual rotation. Keep things interesting by regularly introducing new ingredients, or reworking a familiar ingredient in a new way. The familiar setting might make your child more likely to take a bite without a struggle.

Try this: Sub in spaghetti squash with their favorite pasta sauce, or add in a new veggie to a beloved stir-fry. We love OXO's Stick & Stay Divided Plate for creating a "tasting menu" of new flavors for little ones to pick and choose or using the center spot for an appetizing dip.

4. Don't bargain or negotiate.

Many kids resist trying new foods or eating at all because it gives them a sense of control over their lives. By resisting an ingredient―even one they have tried and liked in the past―they are essentially saying, "You're not the boss of me."

Try this: Instead of resorting to bargaining tactics like, "Just take one bite!" or "You can have dessert if you try it!" lower the pressure with a neutral statement like, "This is what we're having for dinner tonight." There's no argument, so you avoid tripping their "Don't tell me what to do!" sensor.

5. Serve meals in courses.

Even adults are more likely to eat something when they're really hungry. When their tummies are rumbling, kids will usually put up less of a fight even when they're uncertain about a new ingredient.

Try this: Serve up vegetables or other new foods as an "appetizer" course. That way, you won't have to stress if they don't fill up because you can follow up with food you know they'll eat.

6. Make it a game.

The fastest way to get a toddler on board with a new idea is to make it more fun. Turn your kitchen into an episode of Top Chef and let your little one play judge.

Try this: Use each compartment of the Stick & Stay Divided Plate for a new ingredient. With each item, ask your child to tell you how the food tastes, smells, and feels, ranking each bite in order of preference. Over time, you just might be surprised to see veggies climb the leaderboard!

7. Get them involved in cooking.

You've probably noticed that toddlers love anything that is theirs―having them help with preparing their own meals gives them a sense of ownership and makes them more likely to try new ingredients.

Try this: Look for ways to get those little hands involved in the kitchen, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer or gets a bit messier. (We also love letting them help set the table―and OXO's unbreakable plates are a great place to start!) You could even let your toddler pick the veggie course for the meal. And if your child asks to taste a raw fruit or vegetable you planned to cook, go with it! Every bite counts as training that will ultimately broaden their palate.

8. Cut out unstructured snacking.

Not surprisingly, a hungry kid is more likely to try new foods. But if your toddler had a banana and a glass of milk (or a granola bar, or a handful of popcorn, or a glass of juice) an hour before dinner, odds are they aren't feeling truly hungry and will be more likely to resist what you serve at mealtime.

Try this: Stick to a consistent eating schedule. If your child leaves the table without eating as much as you think they should, remind them once that they won't be able to eat again until X time―and make good on that promise even if they start begging for a snack before the scheduled meal.

9. Model good eating habits.

Kids may not always do what you say, but they are much more likely to follow a good example. So if you want a child who eats vegetables regularly, you should do your best to fill your own plate with produce.

Try this: Pick a new food the whole family will try in multiple ways each week. For example, if you're introducing butternut squash, serve it roasted, blended in soup, cut up in pasta, as a mash, etc.―and be sure a healthy serving ends up on your plate too.

10. Don't worry about "fixing" picky eating.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Bowl

In most cases, children go through relatively consistent eating phases. At age two (when parents tend to notice selectiveness ramping up), growth rates have slowed and most children don't need as much food as parents might think.

Try this: Focus on keeping mealtime positive by providing children with a variety of foods in a no-pressure environment. And remember: This too shall pass. The less stress you put on eating now, the more likely they are to naturally broaden their palates as they get older.


This article was sponsored by OXO Tot. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Learn + Play

Her songs were the soundtrack to many of our youths, and the visuals from her wedding day are the perfect complement the season of life Michelle Branch and many of her fans are now in.

Branch, 35, recently married Patrick Carney of the Black Keys in a beautiful ceremony celebrating their blended family—and she was a beautiful, breastfeeding bride.

Branch is now a mom of two, sharing her older daughter, 13-year-old Owen, with her former bass player Teddy Landau and her 7-month-old son, Rhys, with her now husband, Carney.

Little Rhys was part of the action on his mom and dad's big day last weekend, and like any 7-month-old, he got hungry and needed to nurse, wedding or no wedding.

"A baby has to eat when a baby has to eat," Branch captioned a photo of Rhys nursing while his mom relaxed in her wedding dress.

Branch's beautiful portrait proves that parents can't—and shouldn't—be forced to leave their party or head to a private room for a breastfeeding break every time baby needs to nurse.

Weddings are a celebration of love, and there's nothing more loving than a mama nourishing her child.

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It's been less than a year since Olympic skier Bode Miller and his wife, volleyball player Morgan Beck Miller, tragically lost their 19-month-old daughter Emeline Grier after she drowned in a swimming pool. Morgan had just announced a pregnancy a few weeks before losing Emeline, and gave birth to her little brother, Easton Vaughn Rek Miller, back in October.

Now, little Easton is taking Infant Swimming Resource lessons, something his proud mama explained in her Instagram stories this week.

"I cried tears of hope watching my baby boy learning this lifesaving skill," Morgan wrote in a series of Stories explaining that Easton is taking swimming lessons every weekday for 10 minutes.

Since losing Emeline, Morgan has been trying so hard to raise awareness of the fact that drowning is among the leading causes of death in kids under four.

In an interview with the TODAY show last summer the grieving mama asked other families to remember that pool safety isn't just an issue if you have a pool, but if you're visiting anyone who has one. Morgan and her children were visiting friends the day Emeline drowned.

"A child under 30 pounds can drown in 30 seconds. And I just keep counting to 30 in my head. That was all I needed," Morgan said.

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This week she wrote about her gratitude for Infant Swimming Resource lessons, which are designed to give very young children water survival skills. After mentioning how the sight of Easton learning to swim brought her to tears of joy, Morgan wrote: "and then tears of sadness because it was all I had to do to keep my baby girl here."

We hope she's not blaming herself because Emeline's death is so not Morgan's fault—and she's so not alone. That's important to know, and it's also important to know that the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't even recommend swimming lessons until children are a year old.

While ISR lessons like Easton is taking are popular with parents, the AAP states that "there is no evidence to suggest that infant swimming programs for those younger than 1 year are beneficial" when it comes to reducing drowning risks.

Still, parent-and-baby water like Bode and Easton are taking part in can be a fun way to get everyone used to being in pool together and prepare parents and babies for later swimming lessons, which the AAP says can reduce drowning risks.

The AAP wants parents to be aware that swimming lessons at any age can't "drown proof" a child and stresses the importance of constant adult supervision around water (we should always be within arms reach), pool barriers and CPR training for parents.

Tips to reduce the risk of childhood drowning from the AAP:

  1. If you have a pool, install a "4 foot, 4-sided, isolation fence that separates the pool from the house and the rest of the yard with a self-closing, self- latching gate". Also keep "a telephone and rescue equipment approved by the US Coast Guard (eg, life buoys, life jackets, and a reach tool, such as a shepherd's crook)" by the pool.
  2. When visiting a home or business with a pool or hot tub, parents "should carefully assess the premises to ensure basic barriers are in place, such as sliding door locks and pool fences with closed gates in good working order and ensure that supervision will be consistent."
  3. Learn CPR.
  4. During a pool party, parents and adults should take turns tapping in as the "designated watcher" and fully focus on the kids playing in or around a pool.
  5. If swimming at a beach or lake, choose a location with lifeguards and designated areas for swimming.
  6. Teach kids to stay away from bodies of water in all seasons, even winter when they are covered in ice.

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Thanks to the phones at our fingertips and the cars on our roads, today human beings can do so much in a day without actually moving very much at all, and we know this is having a negative impact on our health.

The World Health Organization is worried about the sedentary habits of today's children, and this week it released new guidelines suggesting kids under 2 should not have any screen time at all. According to the WHO, infants and 1-year-olds should not have any screen time at all, and 2-year-olds should only have an hour or less per day.

This is in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines, which recommend no screen time other than video chatting for children under 18 months, but parents should view these guidelines as part of a bigger picture of childhood health, and not worry too much if their baby has seen a few episodes of Peppa Pig.

While the WHO report spawned a flurry of headlines focused on the elimination of all screen time for infants, the screen time suggestions are just one bit of 17-page report called "Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age".

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This is not so much about taking away screens as it is about adding activity.

"What we really need to do is bring back play for children," says Dr. Juana Willumsen, an expert in childhood obesity and physical activity with the WHO. "This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime, while protecting sleep."

So before parents start feeling bad because they've breastfed their baby in front of the TV, or put on some Paw Patrol so that they could load the dishwasher, it's super important to have the full context. Yes, we should limit screen time, but we should also limit all kinds of sedentary time infants and toddlers are spending strapped into strollers, chairs and swings. Lifestyle patterns are established early in life, so we really do want to encourage our kids to move their bodies as much as possible (which will help them get better quality sleep at night).

This is about movement, not about demonizing screen time, and some doctors disagree with the WHO's guidelines, suggesting there should be more room for parental flexibility.

Earlier this year the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in the UK recently released its first guidance on screen time, which did not take such a black-and-white approach to the issue.

The RCPCH didn't ban screen time for infants or young kids, but rather suggested that parents use their own judgment and take care to support an active lifestyle that values movement, socialization and quality sleep. The organization found it was "impossible to recommend age-appropriate time limits" because "there is not enough evidence to confirm that screen time is in itself harmful to child health at any age."

Basically, the top pediatricians in the UK recognize the need for nuance in the conversation about childhood screen time. We absolutely should not be plopping babies down in front of the TV for 8 hours a day, but don't beat yourself up if you didn't cut the cable the instant your baby was born, mama.

Parenting is about more than following rules—it's about doing what's best for your family. It's important to know why the WHO is making these recommendations so that we can make the best decisions we can, but it's also important to recognize that parenting isn't a one-size-fits-all deal.

For some parents, ditching TV altogether is the best thing for their family.

But if you felt like you had to put on Baby Shark today so that you could drink your coffee in peace, that's okay, too, mama.

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Every time Amy Schumer posts something to Instagram we're expecting a birth announcement, but in her latest Instagram post, Schumer let the world know she's still pregnant, and unfortunately, still throwing up.

Schumer made her "still pregnant" announcement in a funny Instagram caption, noting, "Amy is still pregnant and puking because money rarely goes to medical studies for women," suggesting that hyperemesis gravidarum, the extreme form of morning sickness that's seen her hospitalized multiple times during her pregnancy doesn't get as much attention as conditions that impact men.

She's made a joke out of it, but she's not wrong. Gender bias in medical research is very real, and something that the medical community has just recently begun to address.

And while more people suffer from erectile dysfunction than hyperemesis gravidarum, let's consider that five times as many studies are done on erectile dysfunction than premenstrual syndrome (PMS) when about 19% of men are impacted by erectile dysfunction but 90% of women experience symptoms related to PMS.

Schumer's point is important not just for women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, but for women and vulnerable pregnant people with all sorts of under-studied and under-diagnosed conditions. The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and bias in medicine is part of the problem.

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