The word ‘family’ is commonly interpreted as a group of individuals bound through marriage, blood, or adoption consisting of two parents and one or more children. The question at hand is what makes a household a family? Is it the fact that they are related, live in the same home, or is it because of the connections they have to each other? My definition of family is someone who you can go to for support, ask for guidance, depend on, and have unconditional love for you.
A Sense of Belonging
As a former foster child, I found that when I was placed in a foster home, I searched for a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging is associated with security, support, acceptance, inclusion, and identity. This was important for me due to my past trauma, and it became something I needed to help me heal and grow as a person.
Unfortunately, many children are neglected of their basic emotional, physical, and mental needs, and become responsible for their own personal growth at an early age. About 90% of children who enter foster care are exposed to various traumas such as abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and much more. Because of this neglect of their basic needs, many children feel lost and need guidance from positive adult relationships and a supportive community that can help them heal and grow.
Creating a Sense of Security
During the process of foster home placements, children are often confused and unsure of what’s happening, making it a very anxious and stressful event. Children are conflicted with making sense of their current situations and substitute families while finding a sense of belonging. At this moment, foster parents are given the opportunity to provide support, love, and stability to children in their home. It is important to ensure these children have a sense of security and stability because they’ve experienced recurring disruptions within their homes. A study has shown that children who were successful with their placement have a lower chance to experience serious emotional and behavioral issues.
I am currently a college senior and looking back at the path I had to take, I’m grateful that I had foster parents that guided and supported me. I gained my self-worth, confidence, and personal growth from my former foster parents. When I was 16, amid my journey on finding myself, I was put in a home where I was outside of their age group criteria; they often only took toddlers and younger children. Due to the parents’ preferences on the age group, I was anxious because of my fear of exclusion, judgment, and the rejection of placement. As years passed, my foster parents helped me feel secure, vulnerable, supported, and like I belonged through their patience, understanding, and unconditional love. What made them different from my previous homes was that they provided me a sense of belonging through a family environment. I was not seen as different or a delinquent child and was loved like their own child.
If you have ever wondered what it might be like to be a foster parent, reach out to a local agency like Nexus-PATH or Nexus-Kindred to get more information – good foster families are always needed. Kids just like me are waiting for families just like yours to make them feel secure, supported, and like they belong.
This blog article was contributed by Angel Manabat, Nexus Family Healing Intern and former foster youth.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org