Dear Director: The Podcast Edition

Dear Director,

I feel like I went through training to be a foster parent, then more every year, then even more when we agreed to adopt our children. Now my Post Perm Case Advocate is suggesting that we do even more training, and sent me a list of podcasts and websites, and even offered to pay if I found one to attend in person! What is the point of learning new stuff all the time? Shouldn’t I just know it by now?

Signed, Up to Here With Education

Dear Up To Here,

I wish the world worked that way, that we learned something and there was never anything new to learn about it, but the world is full of wonder and new things are learned, identified, understood, and developed all the time. I have been doing this a really long time, over thirty years, and when I started, we had no idea what a child’s brain looked like, let alone what it looks like after trauma and how it then changes when that child has a strong attachment to a safe caregiver. Out of this knowledge, brain based parenting was learned.

Thirty years ago, we thought that all we had to do was love abused and neglected children and parent them like all the rest of our children and they would learn to love us back. But now we know this is not true, or not always true, or not mostly true. We have learned that for some children, the lessons they learn from interacting with neglectful birth parents even prior to birth, or whose parents experience violence themselves before their children are born pass this on to the child, just like illegal drugs are passed along. We recently have learned a lot about what happens to babies before and after they are born, as well as how best to parent them, so that children’s brains might grow towards healthy attachments.

When I started in this field, we also believed that physical abuse was the worst thing a child could experience, but that was before I met so many toddlers who had been left crying and hungry in a Pack-n-Play until they came to believe that nobody loved them, that they were unlovable and were bad and deserved to be ignored. They learned that adults were untrustworthy, because they don’t always show up with food or change diapers that need changing. Then some foster parent has to try to undo all that and prove that adults can consistently care for children, and see the child as lovable, all while the child ignores their parenting or shows how they learned to get attention through negative behaviors. Don’t you wish we had the key to preventing or quickly changing that? Someone is already working on it.

It was my father who told me that if you are not learning, then you are preparing to die. He was a voracious reader, crossword-puzzle doer, lecture attender, conversationalist, and life-long learner. He seemed to know something about everything, except the trivia that was my mother’s job. They lived their life astounded by the new things that happened in their time on earth. You should too. You never know when the thing you really need was just figured out and someone is ready to teach you all about it.

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