Working in foster care is both rewarding and extremely challenging. It reaches out to the most vulnerable children. The children who have been disappointed by their birth parents. The ones who should care for them the most, helping them to know and believe that they are precious and valued! Foster Care establishes hope in a child’s emptiness, giving them new birth, born again to the nurture of which they were robbed, assisting them in feeling secure, safe, and learning to trust.
This hope is the foster care team’s job, the entire team, from staff to foster families.
God created children dependent on moms and dads care and love. They help them learn to love, help them know their needs are met, diapers will be changed, hunger fed, cries soothed, and they will be held. All of this is translated into the child’s spirit and soul as “You Matter.”
“You Matter” is the philosophy upon which I supervise. I help each staff person know how very valued they are to the ministry, to our work, and to the call. It’s essential that they have confidence in themselves so that they can pass along confidence to the families, who, in turn, must pass it along to the children.
Called to Minister
I am reminded of Jesus and His call on earth; when He was led into the wilderness; and His encounter with Satan. After Satan left Him, we are told that the angels came and ministered to him. He was here to do a job, as God’s son and He mattered. As he sat, the angels ministered to him. (Matt 4:11)
What we first must remember is that every professional is a human being with emotions that need to be nurtured. And many times, those professionals, likewise, may not have had the nurture necessary to magnify what they really can do in their profession. So the first task is simple, two words, “You Matter!” So, when a new staff member joins our team, the first thing they get is a framed sign stating, “You Matter. It’s my pleasure to serve you”. In that, I would hope that they feel welcome. That they understand that while they’re there to do a job, we’re there to also minister to each other.
Every employee is there to do a job and expects to do it, but we have to be there to minister to them. We must help them reach their full potential. During hiring, employees are given a job description with all of the expectations they must meet. They sign the job description to assure that they agree to it and feel capable of fulfilling the job. Once they come in for employment, we give employees the tools necessary to succeed. One tool that they’re given is the encouragement to ask for more. We share what we know to help them succeed, but we believe that they are individual beings and know what they need to be successful. Thus they are encouraged to ask and tell what would make them successful.
Our quest is to help them know that they’re unique. While their job description is similar to other employees, we recognize that they are uniquely and wonderfully made, with gifts and talents, which we are there to help them display in all manner. Most importantly, we are here to assist them in accomplishing the task of serving God through serving His children and families. We desire that when they go out and make contact with families and children, they feel confident, so that they can help foster families feel confident in knowing that they can do all things, including serving that child and meet that child’s need through Christ who strengthens them.
While we know about child development and the impact of trauma on children served in foster care, we also know it is important that staff be competent and compassionate and able to both inspire families with the knowledge and hope when they are faced with the challenging behaviors that many children in foster care present. Placement stability is most successful when families believe that they can be successful, which comes from the support from the social worker, who works alongside, serving them and the foster child.
Seed for Resiliency
“You Matter,” says that God loves you, and I am called to love you. Staff are encouraged that their primary responsibility is to inspire and instill hope in the family and child. We’re not just going to families with tools to address behaviors, but belief in what they are doing and for whom they are doing it: Christ. We recognize that we’re all working for the same goal, to bring glory to Christ. Staff pass along “You Matter” in their engagement and connections with families. We then see families pass along “You Matter” to the children. It is the seed for resiliency in the child, who has his basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter is provided. Still, his emotional and psychological needs met as well, which impacts his abilities educationally and behaviorally.
Through “You Matter,” foster families tell and demonstrate to the children that they are indeed important. That they are valued members of their family, as long as they are with them. Foster moms and dads put aside themselves to devote time with the child continually, not just upon arrival to their home. These parents know the importance of letting the dishes wait for an impromptu game or conversation; they make going to bed special, with a prayer of encouragement. They are proudly present as the parent of the child, not the foster parent; but as their advocates in school, court and with the agency. Yes, the child hears, “You Matter,” but he also feels it.
How it plays out
The staff genuinely demonstrates care and concern, praying for and with families. During the home visit, the staff member will ask the family if and how they can pray for them. When incidents occur, staff not only have a need to know what happened and document it for the case file, but also so that they can be there in the moment with the family and child.
When one of our staff noticed that a child was hurt and hospitalized, the team immediately adjusted her schedule. This allowed her to meet the family at the hospital, and even return on the weekend. She was able to spend hours with the child and family at the hospital. No, this is not required, but it is what allows us to demonstrate “You Matter.” It says, “Let me share in what you’re experiencing.” Through this, we have seen strong relationships built between staff and families long after their case is closed.
Go the Extra Mile
“You Matter” is a simple philosophy; it’s a simple principle that builds connection, attachment, and relationship. No individual, who is negated, feels like attaching or responding. However, when an individual is respected and encouraged, he is strengthened to go the extra mile.” You Matter” helps workers go the extra mile. In our office, it is likely that we are needed to pitch in and help. Without any hesitancy, everyone, leadership, and workers step up to act in the absence of a staff member. If the job needs to get done, the job gets done.
“You Matter,” says what you do in the office is very important, but you and your family are also important. We understand that we must minister to the spirit and the heart of the employee. Their families and homes are important. There was a situation where a staff member from a different state received word that her loved ones needed care. It was evident the staff member very much wanted to go and be with them. “You Matter,” says, “Go! Go right away, and how can we help you get there?”
Although not expected, this staff member continued to serve her families and children from a distance. But, that is what “You Matter” does. It inspires one to serve, even from a distance, and when not expected. The motivation is to serve God and serve Him well. The byproduct is the productivity that is received in the care of the families and children.