Being a lifelong learner is something I value highly; so, identifying things I thought I knew and have since realized I didn’t, or how I’ve changed along the way is something I often reflect on. As we approach 5 years of being foster parents, there are quite a few things that stand out. I like to think it’s the time spent reflecting on these things coupled with the commitment to continually be better that makes me a decent human being, mom, foster parent, wife, and friend. Here are a few areas where I have changed my perspective through lived experience, listening, and learning.
Learning to seek out and value the voice and lived experience of a few different groups has also become an integral part of our fostering journey. It is directly because of the shared knowledge from adult adoptees and former foster youth, as well as people of color, that I do many things differently these days. To be the best foster parent I can be, I realize the need to learn from those that have lived this. There is so much to be learned and gained from valuing those perspectives. I will admit there were many moments along the way I pushed back at what I was learning. There were hard, uncomfortable truths shared that forced me to examine my motivations, my ethics, my preconceived notions and personal biases, as well as my involvement in the system. I had to learn that intent does not always equal impact, and that the feeling someone is left with from interacting with us is by far more impactful than what we said or did.
Looking back, there are plenty of things I wish I had known back then; but there’s also so much that could only have been learned along the way. Realizing some of my fundamental concepts and ideas have shifted for the better is what encourages me to continue to pursue learning and growing as a foster parent. I fully believe that we will never arrive at the spot where we know it all, and get it right every time, but being able to admit where we messed up and being willing to change going forward is what is critical to true growth and development. As Maya Angelou says, “do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.”
I encourage each of us involved in this work to commit to knowing better and doing better every day. Consider what ideas and approaches you have changed along the way and who you can look to learn from. We must be committed to helping each other do and be better together.
Katie would like to thank those who have encouraged, inspired, and pushed her to grow as a foster / adoptive parent – Bri, Seren, Jay, and Meghan. It’s because of the spaces you and others have created that I can look back and see where I came up short and look forward inspired to keep working to make it better.