Normalcy is so differentfor everybody, it really is. It depends on your situation, it depends on your pastand it mostly is like — well, depending on thethings that have happened in yoursituation or in your past, you get a certain set of ruleswhen you get in foster care. And sometimes normalcyis supposed to be like normal activities thatyou do on a daily basis.Normalcy is such a hard word, because I don’t knowwhat teenager looks back on their teen years and says, “Gosh, what anormal experience!” Or, “My parents were sogreat when I was a teenager!” And so I think when weare working with a new teen we go into it knowing the teen may or may not feel likethis is a normal experience, so we have to makeit what we perceive as the most normalgiven that situation. Like, say, dyeing my hair,or getting my ears pierced. If I was in foster care, Iwould have to get permission from my biological parents, I would have to gothrough the court system, and it sounds silly –it really does! [laughing] There’s a lot of road blocking. But normalcy to meis extremely important, and especially infoster care with kids who have constantlybeen from home to home and they have nosense of normalcy. Everyone says normalcy, but nothing’s normalabout foster care, you know? So, I don’t likethat word. [laughing] I think it’s important,both for your authentic self and to find outwhat that youth wants.Cause you have to — you haveto meet them in the middle. You can’t just say, “We’re going to do everythingthat you think is normal, and I’m going to changeeverything about myself to fit your needs.” But you also can’t justforce a child into your box, into your life. Youhave to find that balance. So one of the things that we’vedone a lot of is figuring out, where is that balance for us? What are things that make usuncomfortable and we can’t do? It’s all about communication.The whole process,the whole normalcy — if you’re not anopen communicator, and if you don’t knowwhat you want, you can’t — you can’t evenaddress the issues. It’s definitelyabout communicating. And I thinkthat’s the hard part, because a lot of foster kidsdon’t know how to communicate. And foster parentsjust want to let them, you know, do their thing,they don’t want to push them. So it’s hard tryingto get communication between fosterparents, foster child. Especially if the fosterchild has gone through a lot and they have trust issues. I think our teensare being left behind. I think as a society, even whether they’re infoster care or not, we are leaving a lot of the raisingand the critical thinking and the philosophies ofour teens up to the Internet, up to their friends,and their peer groups, and we’re losing thatidea of family and stability. Part of what we’re doingis just teaching the teens how to think. We make our teensnegotiate the rules. It doesn’t mean that everyonecomes to my home and loves it.And that’s okay, too. And normalcy is about makingconnections that are safe and that we don’tforce connections that childrendon’t feel connected to. Support is the biggest thing. Making the child feel thatyou’re there to help them. That you’re there listening. You’re there, yeah, youunderstand this is hard, and we’re here to helpyou get through that, like, “What can we do?” That’s one ofour biggest things.”What can we do to helpyou? What do you need from us?” For some teens it’shaving direct contact with their biological siblings, and we try to find a wayto make those things happen. Whatever makes them feel themost secure, the most normal. It also means inviting them intoour home, our life, our family with wild abandon. It is consistencyin your household, and having thesame conversation, and letting theoutcome of that conversation be different with every child.When you birth children, and you have multiplechildren in your home, you don’t have thesame rules for each child. Children are different. I have such a huge,loving, support system, and I think it’s just so rewarding,and I’m definitely happy. I’m happy I was adopted. They connected to meon a personal level, through, like, interests. We do lots of funthings, and keeps it exciting, but at the same time wecreate memories and, you know, become stronger. It took her a whileto warm up to me, but… She woke me upto give me the hug because she was on her wayto school and she was like, “I’m gonna miss you.” And it was like, ohmy gosh. Big step there. They just make mefeel like myself. That I don’t feellike a stranger to them and it’s like I fit. And it’s because I fitthat it feels so special.I think one of themain normalcy issues that we don’t give our fosterteens the ability to experience is the ability to questionand figure who you are. If we had a systemthat could listen more and that couldprovide more support and let the teensat least feel heard, it could change thatjourney and that experience. And, “I support you on yourjourney, wherever it leads you.” .
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