While at one of my children’s meetings for services through the schools, I kept these words close to heart: “You can catch more flies with honey.” I had to be firm; however, I also needed to remind myself that the teachers sitting in front of me have their own families, own insecurities, struggles, wishes and dreams. They have a gazillion other students to care about and teach.
If I had chosen to walk into the meeting room with the expectation and attitude that they had to drop anything and everything else they were doing for other students and only give their attention to my child, then I would have failed in advocating for my child. In other words, I would have not gained any ground with these teachers if I had approached them in a hostile manner. Instead, I was gentle, kind and understanding of their own schedules and expectations. By doing this, I was able to successfully advocate for my child’s needs.
In nearly every aspect of life, the ability to advocate for oneself and/or for someone else is an awesome opportunity and responsibility. Becoming an advocate through your profession or personal life requires conviction, steadfastness, and the unwavering hope that what you are saying or doing will make an incredible difference in your life or the lives of others.
When people become foster parents, they learn about the difficult and diverse parts of the role they play in the lives of children. They are parents but asked to be professionals; to work as a member of a team but also to never sway from their advocacy for children placed in their home. This can be a challenge, but my goodness, what a remarkable experience in life; to care and advocate for abused and neglected children.
It really is a God-oriented role; applying the words of Scripture in caring for orphans and the least of these, doing so in the name of Jesus and being a living example of what it is to follow through on a calling in life.
However, in the area of advocacy that foster parents must navigate, emotions can be all-consuming. At times, they can be overwhelming. Foster families are the ones wiping away tears, cleaning up messes, showing up at the school and doctor’s appointments, and speaking words of wisdom and encouragement into the ears of children. It may be easy to think, “It should be simpler than this” or “It’s obvious what needs to happen” or even, “That case manager or attorney or therapist (insert any role) just doesn’t care about children.”
The reality is foster care cases are NOT simple. Professionals are required to do what the law and statutes dictate. They have to show reasonable efforts in reunification even if these efforts drag the cases out. By not making effort and not documenting it, the entire case can crumble.
In the seventeen years that I have worked in child welfare, I have yet to find one professional in the field who doesn’t CARE for children – not one. Smart and often multi-talented, they could be making more of an income in another field. Yet, they have CHOSEN to work in child welfare. They have chosen the long hours, late nights, and missed time with their families. Their wages do not at all represent that sheer amount of work and responsibility handed to them. However, they continue to carry on with the audacity of believing they are making a difference one life at a time.
If you are a foster parent or find yourself in a position that you are advocating for a child, please remember that you can catch more flies with honey. Here are a few other things to remember:
- If your advocacy includes demeaning or disrespecting other people, it is not advocacy, it is bullying.
- If your advocacy doesn’t take into consideration all of the legalities, then educate yourself.
- If you are advocating for a change in the law, policies, or processes, keep in mind the responsibilities and rights of persons affected by what you are pushing for.
- If your advocacy is focused more on your own feelings and less on the role of being a foster parent, then do a “heart-check”.
- If your advocacy is done in way that makes others question your motives, then perhaps, you should be questioning them as well.
- If you are a Christian and stating that foster parenting is a ministry in your life, then by all means, act like it. Pray about your upcoming meetings. Consider how Jesus would treat others if in the same position.
I have found that in advocating for my own needs, my family and the clients I have served through my years in child welfare, more often than not, the “sweeter” I approach the task at hand, the better I am to “catch” the attention and respect of others.
Looking back on my own foster parenting experience, decisions were made that I didn’t always agree with, but I am able to tell my children that we (my husband and I) treated everyone on the team with respect. Kindness was shown to their birth parents. Respect for the law was in place.
If you find yourself full of fury at things happening or not happening in your (foster) child’s case, please, take a deep breath and remember the words of my Mamma.
“You can catch more flies with honey.”