Doorsteps and Dishwashers

By: Courtney Edge-Mattos

You enjoy a lovely meal at a friend’s home.  The food was delicious, the conversation delightful.  The host rises to clear the table and you, excellent manners in hand, leap up to help.

“Oh, thank you so much,” the homeowner says with a smile.  “I would really appreciate it if you could help load the dishwasher.”

As he hands you plates, cups, bowls, and silverware, you arrange them neatly in rows.  Cups in front, plates one after the other, forks tines down, spoons facing up. 

“Did you rinse first?” the host asks.

“Oh, I didn’t know you rinsed first.  My dishwasher just gets it done”

“Well, we like to make sure they really get clean,” he says, pulling dishes from the rack and running them under hot water.  You swallow your grimace and heartily pitch in.  Once rinsed, you start re-loading the machine. 

“Oh, plates on either side, bowls in the middle, glasses on the top rack, and we keep the silverware pointing up.”

That isn’t how you do it in your home, but you nod and adjust the items you’ve already loaded.  You add in the small salad plates when your host plucks them from your hands.

“You know what, how about I just do it?”

Dejected, you slink into the living room.

Did the host do something wrong?  Was the way they loaded the dishwasher incorrect?  Were you incorrect?  How do you feel after this interaction?

While you would probably recover from this situation pretty readily, this situation is an everyday, every-task issue for kids in care.  Every home is different.  The moments waiting on every doorstep are filled with nerves and questions.  Shoes on or shoes off and left in the foyer?  Toilet seat up or down?  Do they fold shirts shoulder-to-shoulder or arms in, then fold over?  Can you get a snack from the fridge at will or do you have to ask permission?  Can you turn on the television or are there specifically approved TV times?  What if you like different shows than your foster family watches?  Can you close your bedroom door when you sleep or does it have to be open?  Can you wear make-up?  Can you date?  Can you…Do they…Should I…?????????

Questions are constant for kids in care.  Sometimes, finding themselves completely overwhelmed, they will avoid taking up a task, because they know they will probably not do it right.  Why take initiative if you are just going to be corrected?  Some kids are seen as “sneaky,” opening drawers, closets, and cabinets when they hope no one is looking, just to get a lay of the land, know where things are.  It is no wonder that kids in care are filled with anxiety, because every new home means learning a new family culture. 

How do we help ease the anxiety?  Skilled foster parents do this with every new arrival.  Some parents who let a child pick out their first dinner and next day’s breakfast, so that some of the food-anxieties are soothed.  Other parents walk children through the house, open every cupboard and closet so that a child knows where things are and what lies unseen.  They help their new household members through small chores, let them know what the routine is, and give them key information about what to expect.  Is it a 100% cure-all?  No, surely not, but it makes a difficult transition a little bit easier. 

To our parents who put so much effort into every next step, thank you for your wisdom and careful intention.  To our kiddos who bravely enter the unknown at every new doorstep, we are sorry that you have to be so brave and will work to ease your burdens.

#FosterHopeFosterCare #OpenHeartsOpenHomes


JRI Service Navigator

Do you have a question about JRI services?

Rachel has been a part of the JRI team since January, 2000. For over 20 years, Rachel has been working in the field of human services assisting families with accessing and navigating services. Rachel received her Bachelors degree in psychology and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Bridgewater State University. She was promoted in July 2005 to Family Networks Program Director where she closely worked with the Department of Children Families for 10 years ensuring that children and families received the highest quality of individualized services ranging from community based through residential care. Rachel is very dedicated to helping the individuals she works with and is committed to improving the lives of children and families. Rachel’s passion for creative service programming inspires her in her role as JRI Service Navigator.