Climbing a mountain with no safety ropes

Following up on my SMART goals for LENT, I have finished the fourth book of my pile.

Everything but the kids: A Guide to Foster Parenting by Mary Ann Goodearle


The title of this review is taken from the book where the author compares foster parenting to climbing a mountain without safety ropes.

The only way to do this successfully is to have an experienced guide to help you, and thankfully the decades of experience Mary Ann Goodearle and her husband have accumulated has been distilled into this very readable format.  Mary Ann has experience as a social worker placing children in care, as well as a foster parent, adoptive parent and biological parent.  Her passion is to help foster parents and those looking into this area to be better prepared for the task they have ahead of them.

I asked to borrow this book from a friend who successfully adopted her foster son.

I was interested in this as my husband and I failed terribly at foster parenting 9 yrs ago.  We did all the training and excelled in our pre-placement phase, only to last barely 4 days before having to relinquish the children placed in our care.  If only we had had the opportunity to read this book first.  Many of the problems we had were from a wrong understanding of how the system works, and this book does a brilliant job of making it very clear exactly how the system works.

Our foster care training focused almost entirely on the legislation around foster care, whereas this book really delves into the bigger picture:  how will this decision impact on me?  my spouse?  my existing children?  my extended family?  my social network?  what should I do about feeling like I just want to keep and look after a child when it seems the agency, courts, and even the child themselves are all pushing to go back to their dysfunctional biological family?  how do we effectively parent a child with severe emotional and/or behavioural problems? what if after all our hard work, a child grows up to have ongoing severe emotional problems?

This book has been really helpful to me even just in a broader parenting sense.  If you could award a PhD for parenting, she would have to get one.  She has had so many years of success as a parent of 9, some her own children and some adopted after prolonged foster care.

Her husband was himself fostered as a child and this has contributed greatly to the passion they both have for foster parenting.

I appreciated the honesty conveyed in this book.  It sure ain’t no bed of roses, and not everyone lives happily ever after.  It challenged me to have a far more mature outlook on the whole vocation of parenting, particularly with severely disturbed non-biological children.

I like this, “expect the worst, hope for the best” approach.  It will help with retention of foster parents in an area with a ludicrously high turnover and burnout rate.  It raises the status of foster carer to a profession in its own right.

It also raises the issue of misconceptions and suspicion in the media surrounding the public perception of foster carers, as well as the lack of advocacy for foster parents.

And I thought I had it hard!  If you want a get to heaven quick card, then maybe this is the vocation for you!


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