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.

Foster Care Reality Check

Sadly, that Rose Garden we were NOT promised at birth is a nightmare for some children and their families. Today, in my all things adoption group that includes foster care former youth and related issues – this question was asked.

Foster Parents: What do you provide that biological families don’t? No specifics!

This was a balanced and complete perspective, I believe –

If the biological parents didn’t have to worry about finances, they would have been able to provide stable housing and access to food, which they were not able to provide. However beyond those two things, there is a lot the biological parents would not have been able to provide, even if given access to a stipend – emotional safety from emotional abuse – safety from physical and sexual abuse – access to mental health care, due to understanding and education, not due to lack of medical insurance or transportation – medical care for the same reason as above – appropriate attention to emotional needs, affection and secure attachment – a model for healthy adult behaviors (as in, an adult who does not actively impose sex onto children) – acceptance of LGBT status – home environment that caters to their emotional and mental health needs – access to extracurriculars that promote mental and physical health such as sports – space to develop individuality without fear of rejection. There are also things the biological parents can provide that a foster parent will never be able to provide: a genetic mirror – the comfort of being in a “normal” family – never having to explain one’s adoption status / history, awkward conversations one can be forced into – insecurities a foster child or adoptee may feel if the parent has or conceives biological kids at some later date – not feeling like one is a charity case or having to feel like they are required to be insanely grateful all the time – missing their biological parents is a really big issue, regardless of any history they caused the removal from those parents – grieving a loss that the foster parent will never be able to fill for that child.

And there was push-back on this and other similar responses – “I can tell you all are foster parents…so many child protective services buzz words…security, safety, stability etc…I know the original poster asked for no specifics ,so you don’t have to tell me, but you all should be questioning whether you provide anything actually concrete or are you blowing sunshine up the behind by inflating what you offer ?”

Foster care is troublesome as is the reason it exists. This is enough from me today.