You Just Want To Provide Love ?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Short on time, so borrowing this from a thoughtful person in my all things adoption group.

Hopeful foster parents, hopeful adoptive parents, and even current foster parents and adoptive parents often say, they “just want to provide love for a child who needs it.”

Let’s talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maybe you’ve heard of it. When was the last time you gave it any thought?

Each level of the hierarchy builds on itself. This means that until a person has their most basic needs met, they can’t achieve the next level of actualization.

Look at the pyramid in my image. See where “Love/Belonging” is on that pyramid ? And consider that when you’re saying you “Just want to provide love for children in need,” what else is missing ? I would add that the word Love is ambiguous – I love steak – for example. “Love” really has no clean definition.

People FIRST need their physiological needs met. This means they need healthy food, clean water, and somewhere to dispose of their waste in a sanitary way. How often do the former foster care youth try to report that these physiological needs weren’t met by their foster caregivers ? More often than you might want to believe. I have even read about foster parents who keep their refrigerator door locked or even some who prevent the foster children in their homes from accessing hygiene products.

Love doesn’t matter if the physiological needs aren’t met.

“Safety” is next, before love. The traumatized brain has a difficult time processing safety because the traumatized brain enlarges the size of the amygdala, which processes stress and sends signals to the hypothalamus, which produces stress hormones, which then results in the shrinking of the hippocampus, which is where every human being processes happiness.

Until you can provide for the physiological needs of a child, and for their need for safety and security, LOVE isn’t even a factor.

So why don’t you focus more on what the child’s traumatized brain needs the most ? The security and safety of family ties — i.e. family preservation, whenever possible.

Provided the biological parents are capable of providing for the physiological needs of their child (or ask yourself: Could they provide for the physiological needs of their child WITH YOUR HELP?) and can they provide for the safety and security of their children, which means they are not physically abusive. Do they have stable housing (ask yourself also, can you help them find stable housing) ? Until these are provided for the child, your LOVE is meaningless.

Focus on providing for the basic physiological needs of the child, then on their safety, and that will lead you back to ensuring that their PARENTS have the tools they need to provide for their child, if at all possible. If they CANNOT, then YOU must provide for those needs before LOVE ever becomes a factor.

Stop talking about what you think is right, and learn what’s ACTUALLY needed, if you truly “care”.

Love isn’t enough. It’s the middle of this pyramid.

Many adoptees cannot reach the level of “esteem” because their trauma has not been addressed and even with therapy, will likely be with them, whether they are conscious of it or not, for their entire lifetime.

Misplaced Priorities

I could sound like a broken record stuck on repeat but here goes anyway.

Society’s first priority should be the support of and encouragement for natural families.  I was reading today about how many churches have programs to assist those persons who provide foster care or are adopting a child with all kinds of useful items.  Why don’t we do this for struggling families ?  Particularly now with the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic, when people are being evicted, worried about feeding their families due to a loss of income or expecting the electricity, gas and/or water to be cut off anytime.  It is bad enough that looking for one’s weekly grocery items feels like living in a third world country instead of what we had thought of the United States as – a first world country – but it seems we have lost that standing to greed and corruption at the top of the government and among the wealthiest citizens.

Okay, enough of my political rant but really ?  Check out this wish list recently posted by a church for new foster parents to help them “get by” –

Lots of food of all kinds.  For example, gift cards to restaurants, fast dinners like Bertoli pasta bags, frozen pizzas, PF Chang’s frozen dinners or even ready to eat, hot meals delivered throughout the first two weeks. Lots of requests for babysitting options such as volunteers that can come and watch the kids while you run errands, provide the freedom for a date night out, or a day of rest or time to enjoy adult activities, maybe even just take a nap or be quiet for an hour.  A full house deep clean from a local cleaning company or maid service.  Car detailing, “movie night” (dvd or Redbox code, popcorn, candies/snacks), board games, amazon gift cards and gas cards (for all the appointments).  A deal with a furniture store for a percentage off of bunk beds, dressers, lamps, etc.  Gift cards for lessons to whatever… swim, music, baseball, haircuts, lawncare, homecare/maintenance, bug man, carcare/maintenance, pretty much anything a regular family would need/use.

Notice something ?  A pattern is emerging.  It all about the adults, the parents, and not about the traumatized children placed with them.  And wouldn’t a struggling family be content with less frivolous luxuries ?  The priorities of charitable people need to be reconsidered and revised to help families stay intact, instead of tearing them apart.

Feeding With Love And Good Sense

My topic today started out being about foster parents who resent feeding their foster children.  Of course, not all foster parents are that way but it seems that some are.  It appears that some people foster solely as a source of extra income.

It is well known that foster children often have some very serious traumatic effects that cause them to display a variety of behaviors.  Picky eating has been linked with psychiatric problems, including anxiety and symptoms of depression.  The mental problems sometimes worsen as the picky eating becomes more severe.  That untouched plate and look of disgust on your child’s face at mealtime might be a sign.

My older son was eating Salmon at 18 mos of age.  This amazed my parents.  At the time, I had read a book by Ellyn Satter titled Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense.  Because of what I read in this book, when a family friend made a separate meal for her daughter, I thought it wrong but kept my judgement to myself.  Satter advises – It is a parent’s job to put good quality food on the table.  It is the child’s job to eat.  And mostly I agree.

Except that along came my younger son.  I believe he has texture issues.  He also developed car sickness at only a few months of age, which we eventually treated with a preventive tincture of ginger and peppermint with definite success.  There is no way you can force this kid to eat anything he doesn’t want to.  He’ll simply throw up and we have so much experience with those outcomes in the car, we have no desire to cause more of them.

Even so, he is healthy and according to his pediatrician of normal weight.  It’s hard to tell with kids while they are growing up.  They bulk up and then shoot up.  I do my best to provide him with nutritious meals – even though some could be questioned by dietary purists.  And I do cook for him separately.

Even so, my kids are not traumatized.  I simply cannot understand any person willing to take on the challenges of children who have ended up in foster care and then take a hard-hearted attitude towards feeding them.

Related statements from a foster parent –

“When you get a child that comes to you and their family was on food assistance etc. – which I have nothing against but when they say ‘I don’t eat leftovers’, it really erks me. We had to use assistance many years ago and the amount they give you, was more than needed.  You could buy name brand everything and eat like kings.  I just said, ‘we don’t have that luxury, we have to pay for our food. So you’re going to have to get used to it.’ And its only maybe twice a week and definitely, I am not making something just for her.”

Some additional comments from a couple of foster parents to the above –

“We’re not personal chefs. Prepare them for the real world.”

“Foster kids eat what they get. I serve the same thing until they eat it. If they don’t like it, they can go to bed hungry.”

Personally, I do NOT believe ANY child needs to go to bed hungry, if it can be avoided.  Period.  In my family, no one is forced to eat leftovers but thankfully, my husband thinks they make a great, quick lunch.  One final note – this country has an obesity epidemic and the causes are multiple.  However, I do believe that allowing children to only eat what they feel like eating, teaches them to read their body signals.  In fact, in our household, only the main meal is served as a family.  The other times we eat, is when our hunger drives us to seek satisfaction.