I’ve often thought that I could never be a foster parent. It’s often tough, in-the-trenches work. I have the utmost admiration and respect for foster parents! They are my heroes. In large part, they are dedicated, tenacious, and creative. They are truly “called” to what they do for vulnerable children. But if you are a foster parent, you are also human! You have your personal limits. You sometimes struggle with burnout, discouragement, and anger at a system that has so often failed children in care. These feelings sometimes lead to what has been called “block care” and “compassion fatigue.” You get to a point where you love the child(ren) in your care, but you just don’t like him/her/them anymore. You’re becoming numb.
Children coming into foster care bring with them a lot of baggage. They’ve struggled with abandonment, abuse, neglect, and anxiety, often in major doses. Their lack of trust has been fueled by these experiences. They bring this baggage into your home. For them, it’s like starting all over again. Due to their overload of negative emotions, the slightest change in schedule, rules or even a simple request can send them over the edge—repeatedly. A tiny 30-pound four-year-old can sustain a seemingly inhuman two-hour temper tantrum. Your six-year-old daughter can curse like a truck driver, and she aims her venom at you repeatedly. Your three-year-old sleeps only two hours a night for a month, and has nightmares when he is asleep.
As a foster parent, your initial step in dealing with blocked care and compassion fatigue is to actually recognize it. Authors and veteran foster parents Melissa Corkum and Lisa Qualls share nine signs of blocked care for the foster parent:
1. You are caught up in coping with your child’s behavior and lose your curiosity about what’s behind that behavior
2. You feel defensive and begin to insulate yourself from rejection
3. You feel burned out, constantly overwhelmed, and fatigued
4. You are becoming irritable with your family and friends
5. You isolate yourself
6. You become cynical and skeptical about helpful ideas
7. You feel you have lost compassion, which in turn, leads to shame
8. You experience a crisis of faith or challenge of a personal belief system
9. You get no pleasure out of parenting
Can you identify with any of the above? If so, you are struggling with blocked care and compassion fatigue—simply stated you are dealing with burnout. Foster moms and dads, you can overcome this malady! In my next blog, I will share how.
Corkum, M. and Qualls, L. (2020) The Nine Signs of Blocked Care http://www.theadoptionconnection.com/nine-signs-of-blocked-care/
From the same authors: From Apathy to Empathy: How to Regain Compassion for Your Child and Yourself. (A 30-day online course).