Leaving Home with Empty Hands

Submitted by PeterAKenny on September 11, 2018

Your new foster child appears at your door, frequently with nothing more than bare essentials.

To raise consciousness about how a child feels at that moment, here is a memorable exercise that has been used during foster parent training. To begin, the leader asks you to write down on five separate slips of paper the five things you value most.

Now, starting with number five, you are told to throw one in the waste basket. Give it up. For one woman, that was her heirloom dining room table. Then she was asked to reflect on her feelings. She said she felt a strong sense of loss. That table had belonged to her grandmother.

Then, one by one, she was told to get rid of her next most treasured possessions. With increasing hesitation, she placed slip after slip into the trash. Strong feelings mounted as she had to let go of her car, her computer, and her house. It became more difficult to share her feelings with the group.  

Finally came the possession that she valued the most. It was her wedding ring. She looked at her husband and started to cry.  After a few moments, the leader said: “Now you know how a foster child feels upon first coming to your home.”

The same exercise might be tried with people.  Imagine a child having to give up each member of his family. His mother. Father. Brother. Sister. His teacher. His best friends. His familiar neighborhood and school.   

Here he is, knowing no one.  Nothing to hold onto.  Scared.  How should you respond? Try putting yourself in his or her place. Imagine you have lost everything familiar and important. How would you want to be welcomed and treated? 

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