The The Foster Parenting Toolbox is precisely what it says, a collection of tools for parenting foster children. While the sections of the book are specific to foster situations, there’s a lot of parenting wisdom in this book that applies more generally to raising children.
Over 100 contributors wrote short pieces to contribute to this bulky tome of 446 pages. The style and tone of the pieces vary, from the first hand account from an experienced foster mother about her first foster experience to data-based treatises from academics and case studies from social workers.
- Why Foster
- Birth Family Connections
- Loss, Grief & Anger
- Attachment & Trust
- Trauma & Abuse
- Family Impact
- School Tools
- Parenting Teens
- Nurturing Identity
- Respite & Support
- Reunification, Adoption & Beyond
Obviously, some of these sections don’t apply at all unless you are a foster parent or are considering fostering. I’ll talk about those first.
Content Specific to Foster Parenting
I’ll admit that I wasn’t completely sold on become a foster parent when I picked up this book. There was a particular child I knew in need of foster care, and I hoped to foster, perhaps adopt him. It didn’t end up working out; he is instead in his grandmother’s custody. I figured that would be the end of any thought of fostering, but I leafed through the book anyway since I’d ordered it.
By the time I’d finished the 11 pieces in this “Why Foster” section, I was sold on fostering. It didn’t hurt that the tenth story was one of identical twins boys fostered because of neglect who were ultimately adopted by the author. That’s how you get to me: a story of a child in need with a happy ending, and twins at that.
I had a lot of questions about the financial realities of fostering. The articles that address this issue are refreshingly honest. Caring for a child costs far more than the stipend a family might receive for fostering that child. I would need my finances in order before I would want to register as a foster mother.
I had hoped for more guidance from the book on talking to the children I already have about the realities of foster care, but found myself going alone on that. Issues of sibling integration are woven into many of the first-person stories, but I would have loved a section devoted to this. The focus of the book is certainly on foster children, although it touches on life after foster care in foster-to-adopt situations.
General Parenting Advice
There is no section of the book intended to provide generalized parenting advice, but the anecdotes, recommendations and research on helping the most vulnerable children in our society can be brought to bear on parenting our forever children too. For instance, I find myself sitting quietly with a screaming child (my own and others’) just to let him or her know that I’m there for whenever they’re ready to talk. Before I read this book, I would have spent more effort to trying to reason and be heard over the screaming.
I found reading through parts of the Trauma and Abuse section very difficult, but still healing for the little girl inside me who still hurts from the emotional and verbal abuse of my childhood. I felt a little less alone and wanted to reach out to the children just coming out of those situations to let them know that there is happiness and security on the other side.
I haven’t read the book from cover to cover. This is another one of those resources that makes the most sense to approach from the index for inspiration in dealing with specific challenges. Having read selections, though, I feel more knowledgeable about what foster parenting would really be like. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, if a foster child or children do enter our family some day. I hope they do.
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs atAdoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.