If you were writing a curriculum for adoptive or foster parents specifically for parenting FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) what would you say? I have long thought that truly there should be a required course for all potential parents. I know that one of the situations that is often the hardest are parents who say they will not adopt a special needs child and then end up adopting a child with FASD. This can often be a very hard situation. I think for people who have been very honest with themselves and others that they do not feel they have what it takes to parent a special needs child it can be absolutely devastating to end up in that situation. So here I would guess that I am looking at what advice would you also give to anyone looking at adopting or fostering?
I know the advice I give a lot is first of all to educate yourself. The more you know the more you will question things. See if you know the questions to ask the more likely you are to get the answers. I know I ended up having a list of questions by my phone when I fostered so that I didn’t forget to ask. I know that I became a much better advocate through this both for my existing family and for the kids coming into my care. It is important especially for the safety of everyone involved to know if a child coming into the home has any history of certain things (ie. violence against others, themselves or any sexual acting out). Learning to ask things becomes a very important skill.
Another piece of advice I always give is to talk to many other people who have adopted and fostered. Get their input. What do they feel is important? This will also help you to begin setting up your support system for after you add the child. I have learned that while you may have many close and wonderful friends already they will not always understand the journey you begin when you adopt. I know they certainly don’t if you are adopting a child with FASD. It is just honestly hard for anyone who has not experienced life with a FASD child to really be able to support you. I know that the “circle of support” I listed on our adoption paperwork when this started is not the same as the circle of support I would list now.
So if you have researched all about FASD and feel pretty confident that you want to parent this and now you have talked to people who are parenting this and still feel ready now what? Okay the one thing I also want is to not fall in love with a photo listing! Seriously there are such cute pictures out there. Make sure that you prepare lots of questions and stick to what you know you can do. I know so many people who fell in love with the photo online and then got more information that really did show that this was a situation they did not want to do but they could not “give up” on the dream child they had created from this photo. The fact is that I do not in any way regret any of the decisions we made as far as our adoptions go but I also know that there were times that I did not ask the questions I should have.
Now prepare to be a patient and fun loving parent. It takes a sense of humor and a lot of patience. I preach that you will redirect and remind a lot. I also preach that you have to remember most of the work and changes come from you not the child. I know that in the parenting classes that I do I often get the question “when are you going to tell me what the kids are supposed to do.” The bad news is that well see you are who is going to help your child to learn and grow.
I really hope to hear all thoughts on what you would say and what advice you would give.