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© Gail Underwood Parker

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Focus on Fostering: You ARE loved!

As the store shelves overflow with all things valentine it is easy for children in foster care to feel a bit unloved.  Separated from their biological parents, or with bio-parents who were unable to care for them, they may need some extra support and reassurance.  One thing I have done is to find concrete ways several times a year to remind my kiddos just how many people care about them. Valentine's season is one of those times.

It started with just a small box that I decorated with hearts. I started with a small box because I wanted it to seem full when I was through. [Since then I have bought some nice heart shaped boxes in the post-valentine 75% off aisle.] The first year I also included red tissue paper to fill the extra space.

Next I bought a bunch of foam shaped hearts in one of those bulk containers at a craft store [$3.99 for 200 shapes!] For the boys I bought ones with smiley faces.  For the girls some with different patterns on them.

What mattered was that each had a plain side that could be written on.  Cardboard or paper hearts would do just as well.  Wooden ones work too, but they are more expensive.

On the plain side of each heart I wrote one name. A teacher, a friend, a pastor, a relative, a classmate. I made a heart for each person who during the last year had shown kindness and love to the child.

Now the boxes have been replaced by bigger boxes.  I no longer have to explain the hearts as I did the first year. People who have attended my workshops have begun "Love Boxes" in their own homes.  Children cherish their boxes and sometimes participate in labeling the hearts inside. Some families make it part of their Valentine's Day traditions.  Some families keep the boxes out all year long. None of that really matters.  What matters is that those children see that regardless of how tough their  beginnings, there are many people who care about them, many who love them, and that over the years their lives have been blessed by each of those people.

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