Fun fact: My first career was in EMS. I worked as an EMT and Paramedic for 5 years in New York and Michigan before moving to South Carolina to begin working in foster care. I still love EMS, and the more I got involved in foster care, the more I realized how prehospital emergency medicine perfectly prepared me for a career working with kids in foster care. Here are just a few of the ways:
Bad things don’t always happen between 9 and 5 Monday-Friday. People don’t stop making bad decisions on major holidays. Kids don’t have issues when it’s convenient. Thornwell’s foster family specialists are available 24/7 to support you through any crisis, big or small.
When most people wake up in the morning, they have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen that day. You have a good idea of what’s going to happen at work, you have a set schedule for school, you have dinner plans and tv shows you’re going to watch. Working in Foster Care and EMS (and other jobs), you never know what your day is going to look like. You could go from sleeping to doing CPR in a span of 5 minutes. You could have to handle 3 separate tantrums with just the 2 of you. We never know how bedtimes are going to go, or how kids are going to react to correction, so we need to be ready to handle a multitude of situations. Thornwell offers evidence based trauma training to help you be prepared for some of those unpredictable moments. It gets a little easier once kids are with you for a few weeks because you start to learn their habits and reactions, but they can always surprise you.
All throughout EMT school, Paramedic school, and countless CE classes, I learned about trauma. I’ve been learning about trauma for a long time, and I still am. Every child that comes into foster care has experienced trauma. It’s a very different kind of trauma which requires a very different approach. There’s no golden hour for a child whose mom chooses meth over them. There’s no splint for a fractured family. There are a lot of differences between physical and emotional trauma, but the goals are ultimately the same: Pain management and as much of a return to normalcy as possible.
Since we deal with trauma on a daily basis, in EMS as well as in foster care, it’s easy for us to be affected by it. There is a huge push right now for improved mental health and open conversations among public safety folks due to alarmingly high rates of suicide and PTSD among fire, police, and EMS personnel. Thankfully, there are not similar trends in foster care, but burnout is just as real and just as possible. There were a number of times during our first few months where we felt overwhelmed and asked ourselves how much longer we could keep this up. Thankfully, we serve a God who is strongest when we are weakest, and we are surrounded by encouraging friends and fellow foster parents. We work hard to encourage and support community among our foster parents because we’re all in this together.
These can be very heavy and depressing jobs. For me, laughter is definitely the best medicine for this. In both EMS and Foster Care, if you can’t laugh, it will be very difficult to survive in that line of work. But more so, we do what we do because we know it works. We know that (most of the time) if we do what we are trained to do, people will get better. It makes all of the stress and craziness worth it when we see a kid who has grown more in the 7 months you’ve been working with him than the last 4 years that he lived with his parents. It’s really nice when someone who was trying to wrestle and fight with you 10 minutes ago can shake your hand and say thanks after a simple shot of sugar. Thornwell’s tag line is “building tomorrows families today.” We understand the important work that can be done even in a short time. They’re not all success stories though, but the hope of a positive outcome is what drives us to help as much as we can.
Nobody gets into EMS or foster care for the money. Both jobs could easily be considered ones that are overworked and underpaid. But to those who are called to these careers, we’d do it for free if we didn’t have bills to pay. It’s about the people, not the money. We can’t imagine doing anything else because we’re sure that we are doing what we are called to do.
The world is always in need of people who are willing to help other people. EMS and Foster Care are just what I chose, there are a lot other great ways to help people. It doesn’t have to be a full-time commitment, and you don’t have to move across the country. Look around you, and see what is needed. Foster care is something that’s important to me, so I would love it if you would research ways you can help kids in your area, or contact us to find out more.