Self Esteem and Foster Parents

Parenting and Self Esteem Go Hand In Hand

By: Courtney Edge-Mattos

It is an undertaking that can be hard on the heart.  When we mention good self-esteem as a quality we seek for potential foster parents, people often give us a quizzical look.  Why would that matter?  Well, let’s explore that.

Gaining Contol

When kiddos lack control in life, they often seek to find ways to create control.  For children placed in foster care, all of the control of their lives has been stripped away.  Where they live, how long they are there, the routines of that household, the expectations of that household are all out of their hands. 

A readily available area of control kids can exhibit is you, the foster parent.  How can they make you feel what they feel, how can they change the mood of the home?  Kids of all descriptions are experts in finding that an adults button is and pressing it.  If you are a little overweight, older, balder, a first time parent, a cruddy cook, it is likely that you will receive “feedback” on those qualities.  For a parent who is seeking gratification and assurance by providing care to a child, this can really further open a wound and make one feel vulnerable. 

Comfortable Chaos

For some of our kiddos, their entire life has been lived in a state of chaos.  They have moved frequently, couch-surfed, had no rules or boundaries, have communicated via shouting or fighting.  That’s their normal, and we all feel most comfortable and in control in the environment we identify as normal. 

Most of our foster homes do not operate like that (hopefully none, tbh).  The home doesn’t change, it is where it is.  Disagreements should occur safely and with respect.  There are mealtimes, bedtimes, rules about screen time, and rules about where people can put their hands.  Foster homes might have a parade of professionals coming in and out (social workers, case managers, therapists, lawyers…), but most don’t have a ton of other guests in and out.  There is a routine.  To someone who has not lived in that routine, it feels restrictive and uncomfortable.  Everyone else knows how to survive in that home except the new child.  It feels comfortable to create a little chaos, sometimes by refusing to comply, sometimes by fishing for arguments.  This can shake a parent’s confidence and wound the ego.  Why isn’t this working?  What am I doing wrong?  I must be a terrible parent!

Behavior is an Externalized Expression of the Internal

Most behavior, from children in care or adults you work with, is more about the person, less about you.  If a person gives you an ugly look in the grocery store, it is probably about their bad day, not something you did.  If a child lashes out at you and says you stink at parenting, it might be that they miss their parents and are telling you “I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t ask for a new parent, I want my person.”  Every parent can work on their parenting, of course. We can all ALWAYS work on learning something new in every area of life, but unless you are really making poor choices, you’re probably okay.  For a parent with good self-esteem, they can see through the words or behavior to the root: grief and loss.  For a parent with poor self-esteem, this can crumble their confidence and make them throw in the towel. 

It is About You, Too

As you prepare to become a foster parent (or are in the very midst of it), take a look inside.  What does YOUR reaction say about how YOU feel?  Yep, it goes both ways.  If you are reacting strongly, there moght be something deeper for you, too.  Take a moment to breathe, assess, write it down.  Call your Foster Parent Supervisor and talk.  “When I was growing up, I said I’d never be like my parents…and I feel like I’m no better.”  We’re here to work with you, to remind you of why you are choosing to open your home to a child, of why your heart beats for those in need.  Let us help you find techniques to work through those uncomfortable feelings and find your success story.

Self-esteem is critical to being able to see your worth.  We want you to see that, because you’re worth it.  We promise.


#fostercare #lookdeeper #behaviortellsastory #breathe #youvegotthis #FosterHopeFosterCare



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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.