May is National Foster Care Month. Welcome guest blogger Angela, a current foster mom.
My stomach is in knots as I open the door for the social worker. A bigger than necessary smile plastered on my face. All the kids’ faces and hands have been scrubbed. My house sparkles. I wonder if I should have made cookies. No. That would have been over the top.
This ritual takes place once a month. In addition to my foster child’s worker, we also get visits from our social worker, the child’s CASA worker, the child’s GAL, and several EI interventionists. Those acronyms? They’re something you figure out once you get into the foster care system. It is like learning a new language. Fair warning. When you start to use this language with your friends and family, their eyes will glaze over.
Every month, every court date, every visit from a worker brings uncertainty. Will the parents be working their plan? Will CYFD have found relatives who want our little guy? Every day that passes, we are more head-over-heals for him. There is so much joy in watching him grow, develop his own personality, and learn new skills. But in the back of our minds, there is the ever-constant knowledge that the plan is for him to be reunified with a birth parent.
When you start fostering, you open up yourself to comments and well intentioned questions. I don’t mind. They open up an avenue for discussion.
“I could never do what you are doing.”
I said that once too. Funny how things change. Let’s talk.
“How are you going to deal with a broken heart?”
We have not yet experienced this, but when that day comes, I suspect we will deal with it like any other broken heart. My family will grieve. We have friends who have experienced this. They have grieved the loss of their foster children the same as they would have a miscarriage or a death of a child.
“Aren’t you worried about your kids?”
My children have learned invaluable lessons from the children they have met through our fostering journey. They have learned compassion. This kind of compassion you cannot teach; it must be felt. They have learned to sacrifice. My kids have learned that children growing up in their city are abused, neglected, hungry, and cold. They have learned they are privileged and that they can share with those less fortunate.
“Why put yourself through all of this?”
The reason to foster is because children need us. These kids did not ask for this. They did not ask for someone to remove them from their homes, their parents, and the only lives they have ever known. They deserve to know that somebody loves them.
The system we have in America is certainly not perfect. I bet anyone working for a Children, Youth, and Families department would admit to as much, but it is what we have. The most important thing to remember is it is responsible for keeping thousands of children safe. Our workers, who have been wonderful by the way, are constantly saying, “We can’t do this without you.” They need good foster parents.
Fostering may be one of the hardest things you ever do. It will be emotionally and physically draining. Fostering will be more than that though. It will mean you are giving a child connection, shelter, and safety.
It will mean you are fostering love.
If you keep that in mind, fostering will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.
Originally published May 2017.
Angela is a native New Mexican who loves to travel, but believes that living without green chile and sunny days would be torture, so she calls the desert home. She has been married fourteen years to a supportive man and together they have experienced adventures including graduate school with young kids, adoption, fostering, and hobby farming. Angela is constantly searching for balance while working as an SLP, homeschooling, speaking truth to young hearts, and milking goats. She is crazy about coffee, indie music, and her six incredible kids.