Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Foster Club: Connecting Kids In foster care!

Kids in foster care often feel like the odd one out. They may go to schools where they are one of the only children in foster care, and may live in homes where they are the only non-birth child. Unlike most kids, they may have to move from home to home and from family to family. Unlike their friends, their lives may be complicated by court dates, meetings with case workers, an dbeing unable to do things like sleep over at other kids' houses or get their drivers' licenses.

One website, Foster Club, does its best to give kids in foster care a place where they can see that they are not alone, and that there will always be people out in the world rooting for them.
Kids who have just entered foster care, or about to enter it, might read the "intro to Foster Care", and the "Q&A About Foster Care," where some general information about foster care is given. [Although these articles are written in as positive and gentle way as possible, reading through them can give other people a glimpse into what life must be like for kids just entering foster care. The questions like, "Will people go through my stuff?" (Yes), "How long will I have to be in fsoter care?" (Possibly indefinitely), "What will happen to my stuff?" (You can't really bring more than a few items from home), "Will I be able to bring my pets?" (Probably not), left me feeling so sad for the kids who have to go through that!]

The site also supplies fill-in-the-blank "FYI" forms, which kids can use to write down the things they want to happen to them while in foster care (more, or less, visits with birth parents? Hoping to be adopted in the future, or would rather work towards reunification with birth parents?), general information about them that they can hand to new foster parents to save time on having to explain the same things over and over again (like favorite foods, favorite things to do, etc), complaint or request forms that they can give to their foster care agencies, and even forms that they can use to interview new foster parents! There are also printable templates for kids to use to make their own Life Books.

Most of all, the site encourages kids in foster care to be their own advocates, to speak up when something is wrong, and to believe that they can achieve a lot in life.

But probably the most popular part of FosterClub is the Message Board, where kids can correspond with other kids in foster care, all over the USA. The kids can write about anything they want, as long as they do not give out their email addresses or other personal information, use degrading language, or "cyber kiss!".

Many of the messages left are things you would expect to see on any message board geared towards kids... questions about getting along with the opposite sex, messages of excitement about upcoming birthdays or events, and questions like, "What Is Your Favorite Movie?" Some write about not fitting in at school because of the type of clothes or music they like, and some write about the unfairness of not being allowed to do certain things that "all the other kids" get to do. In these ways, kids in foster care are just typical kids!

But there are also more serious messages. One 13-year-old girl writes, "I was in a foster home in Colorado, and there my foster dad raped me for 2 months. At first i did not say anything, and when i did no body believed me. I came out with it in February of this year, and nothing has happened to him."

Writes one 16-year-old, "Why did our parents do this to us? If our parents were the ones that would take care of us and protect us we wouldn't end up being foster kids!!! its like we never told them that we wanted to be born!!! Its all there fault and it wasnt ours!" An eleven-year-old boy's heartbreaking response to that: "I hate to tell you, but it is our foult and not theirs, because we are the ones who did it, stupid!" An 18-year-old retorts, "This is not our fault. I didn't have anything to do with my parents doing what they did. I was three when I had to go into foster care, and it is NOT my fault that they decided to break the law. It's almost as if you're trying to blame me for existing. Hate to break it to you, but that just happens to be my parents fault too."

A 16-year-old writes that she feels like running away from home because her life is so bad... and recieves a plethora of responses from other kids, telling her not to run away, and offering ideas for alternatives to running away.

Another 16-year-old girl writes that she is finally going to be adopted by her foster parents, and recieves congratulatory notes from other kids.

In a message titled, "I LOVE MOM!", an 11-year-old writes simply, "When I see my mom, I cry." And a 26-year-old former foster child assures her that those feelings are pretty normal!

A 10-year-old exclaims, "Foster sisters can be fun but they can be crazy!" and her foster sister replies, "You're funny... Not!"

The message boards are monitored by adult FosterClub staff, who also can sometimes answer kids' questions and give them advice.
The site has a separate page for older teenagers, called FYI3, and a page for adults who want to help kids in foster care.

It is great that kids have a place where they can get support, no matter where they are!

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