How will foster care impact my kids?
It’s a question that many new and prospective foster parents ask themselves as they learn more about what life may look like as they welcome children who have experienced trauma into their homes, and their family’s everyday life. Most foster parents say that the impact of foster care on their biological kids is highly positive in shaping character and values.
How do I help my kids to understand what foster care is? How do I help them to heal from hard goodbyes? How do I help them to share their toys, home, and my attention with others?
These are real questions that many parents ask themselves. They are questions that the Daley family found themselves asking four years ago as they started their journey as a new foster family.
Kimber Daley and her husband had both had foster care in their heads (and their hearts) as teenagers. In 2018 the pair, now parents of two school-age kids in Colorado, were ready to start welcoming kids into their home through foster care. The family dove into foster care with passion and zeal. They later realized that they wished they had resources in their hands from the beginning to prepare their family, but especially their children for what was ahead.
Quickly after licensure, they welcomed a young sibling pair. There were the initial challenges of young kids learning to share stuff as well as the greater challenges caused by trauma and learning to parent children who had lacked healthy attachment in early years. Together, the family navigated some hard days and celebrated amazing growth. Nineteen months after placement, the siblings were forever adopted into the Daley family.
On a trip celebrating their finalized adoption, Kimber found she had a new dream in her heart. The family would no longer offer long-term foster care though they were still open to short-term respite placements. Kimber wanted to tell their story. She dreamed of being able to help other families enter into the journey of foster care intentionally with a resource for young children.
She took some writing courses and sat down to write her book, The Stuffed Giraffe: A Foster Care Story. That was the first week of March 2020. Two years of pandemic and homeschooling later, her book is released into the world. A true gift to those wanting to learn about foster care, share the concepts with their children, or to raise awareness.
When Kimber first read her book to her beta readers, her four kids, she got a standing ovation. Kimber chased down the Amazon driver to receive the “author proof copy” of The Stuffed Giraffe in excitement to share the first book with her kids. One kid cried. The best review a mom could get.
Kimber wrote the book in hopes that it would help other families and raise awareness about foster care. She imagines families reading it together, with kids gathered around, to read and have family discussions. She envisions teachers reading it to their classroom and discussing different types of families, each family beautiful in its unique way, fostering conversations about empathy, compassion, and inclusion.
The story is a sweet one. Touching, relatable, and bittersweet.
“The Stuffed Giraffe” is the story of Ben, a little boy who is understandably nervous (and excited) about becoming a foster brother. As he anticipates the arrival of baby Hope, he wonders if he will like having a baby in his house. What if she’s stinky? What if she cries all the time? With the gift of a stuffed giraffe, Ben begins to bond with baby Hope. Now he wonders, how will he cope when she has to leave?
The illustrations, done by Stephanie Kaye Smith- a former CASA, depict the every day scenes in the life of a family. You see Ben in his classroom, with his friends, checking out the new nursery in his family’s home. And children will have a tangible image to hold on to in the process of getting ready to welcome a new child into their home. Ben’s facial expressions show all the emotions a child might have in doing something new – nervousness, confusion, frustration, sadness. But also as time goes on, we see Ben and Hope settle into life together as a family. You see Ben’s excitement, joy, and care for Hope. You see a family that evolves and loves each other well.
Foster care isn’t all joy or all sorrow. There are so many mixed emotions on the roller coaster ride of being a foster family. And you can see them in this book. Young kids will be able to recognize the change in Ben’s feelings as he learns more about what his role means. And they will be able to understand through story that speaks to them on their level, that foster care holds changes for your family, but the love of your family changes, grows, too.
Intentionally printed in a large size, this book is perfect for reading together as a family or class. Children will enjoy the story and the illustration.
How has foster care changed your family? Tell us in the comments.
Want to hear from children in a family that has fostered? Read or watch this interview with Mari Austin (16) and Ella (13).