Foster Mama – Part 2

Being a foster parent is broken up into 2 parts:
1)The Easy part
2)The Hard part

The Easy Part – Callie and I have worked in childcare for a ridiculously lengthy amount of time.  She’s been the Director for a childcare center for about 13 years, and I have worked as a preschool teacher on and off for over 10 years.  Loving the kids, caring for them, teaching them right from wrong, nurturing them, helping build a positive self image and self worth, those things  come effortlessly.  We figured fostering would be similar.   We were made to have children, to care for these tiny humans.  Choosing to foster (foster to adopt actually) was something we both knew was in the cards for our family and something we both felt strongly about.  In the past 6 months we have had 2 placements.  Our first was a set of 3.6 year old twin girls. We loved them.  From day one, we loved them.  Our hearts took them in so quickly.  We held them at night when they cried for us.  We potty trained them and made them feel secure enough to get rid of their pacifiers. We sang songs in the car on the way to daycare.  They called us mom.  They loved us too.  Now we have Mary.  She’s our spunky, rambunctious, sassy, quick learning, very expressive 6 and a half year old.  She came to us and didn’t know how to read, had horrible manners, and lots of trust and control issues.  And again, We loved her, From day one.  4 months later, she’s reading everything her eyes come in contact with (even the super long hard words on the ingredients on the cereal box), she’s drawing pictures of rainbows and butterflies instead of dying flowers and crying and rainy clouds.  We rub her back when she’s tired, we put band-aids on boo-boo’s and kiss them better, we give her foot massages while she eats ice cream and the 3 of us cuddle on the couch for Friday Movie Nights.  We read bedtime stories with different voices for every character.  We teach her to fish and to say please and thank you. To wash her hands after potty and to say her prayers for all things good.  Hugs and kisses, hand holding, Loving them, that’s always the easy part.

The Hard Part – When we decided to become foster parents we had to take a 10 week course that trains you for the challenging but rewarding experience that is fostering.  You go to a 3 hour class once a week and you touch upon topics like child abuse, gains and loses, managing behaviors, teamwork and partnership with the birth family, and a whole slew of other things. Being well aware of how to handle many of these situations (through many years of mandated training with our childcare jobs), we felt like this class would be sort of boring and redundant.  We were pleasantly surprised when we left there with a better understanding of how it all worked, and how many different circumstances lead up to children being removed from their homes and entering the “system”. You never really stop to think that maybe a dad lost his job and became very depressed. That he could have gone out with some friends for a few drinks and ended up with a DUI and mom had to post bail but spent all their bill money.  That their 9 year old was hounding them because they promised to take her and 2 friends to the amusement park and now cant afford it.  That they went to the ER for 2 separate incidents in a 3 week period because first mom lost it and ran out of the house as their 2 year daughter chases her, tumbling down the stairs and breaking her collar bone and a week and a half later dad pops the 9 year old in her mouth for being fresh about that damn birthday party and she pulls back and splits her head open on a wall corner (true story). Sometimes, they aren’t horrible parents, just a product of circumstance.  Taking all of this into consideration, you remember that fostering is only temporary, and our main goal is to support the families and the children and do our best to reunify them. We were ok with that.  We were prepared for that.  But after you’ve nursed all those boo-boo’s, dried hundreds of tears, cuddled and loved them when they lost everything they had and you became their new everything, you look at it differently.  You know that they aren’t  yours and that usually (sadly more often then not) they go back to the places that they came from, whether they are half way decent of hardly livable. They go back.  They leave you and take a piece of your heart with them.  You find a left over sock under the bed, or it falls out of your shirt sleeve where it’s been living since your last load of laundry.  You have to let go, and letting go is the hard part.

Mary has been with us since March 28th, 2014.  In the short time that she has been with us she has learned so much from us, but we have learned so much more from her.  We have learned to communicate effectively not only with Mary but with each other.  We try to model appropriate behavior and try our hardest to show her the proper and effective way to communicate your emotions.  We use “feeling” words, like “I’m feeling very sad today” and provide explanations for those emotions, “because someone at work hurt my feelings”.  We try not to raise our voices.  We have sit down dinners every night AT THE TABLE and not in front of the TV.  We try and limit the use of electronics when we are doing family things.   She’s taught us to see the extraordinary in the every day.  Catching fire flies and looking for starfish has never been so fun.  We have more open and honest conversations, and we ask more intimate questions.  We used to ask, “How was your day?” but now the questions are more along the lines of, “So did you laugh till your belly hurt today?” or “Did someone say something that made you sad today?” or “Did you do something today that made you feel good about yourself?”  These are the real questions worth asking.

Mary and her mom have a great relationship.  We know most of the details of the placement, but aren’t really sure what mom’s consequences are for her behavior.  They don’t really give us much info on moms progress.  They did let us know though, that mom put in for an interstate transfer to have Mary moved to an aunt’s house (who she has only seen a handful of times in her life) in CT.  When we spoke to Mary about it and asked her how she felt, she said, “My heart is confused.  I love you guys and I love the babies, but I love my mom and my family too”. My heart is confused…that’s the kind of stuff we like to hear.  We know that so far, in the short amount of time that she has been with us, we have instilled enough confidence, courage, and self worth that she will always do her best to voice what she is feeling and how she is doing.  They say  it can take anywhere from 2-6 months for the transfer to go through, and it usually does.  We asked the case-worker if there is anything we can do to advocate for her.  We believe that Mary going back with her mom is the best option for her.  Her mother isn’t a horrible person.  She isn’t even a bad mother! She’s just someone who made some mistakes and deserves a second chance, provided she comply with everything she was told to do. We aren’t those people that believe sabotaging a reunion could mean an adoption for us.  It’s never been about us. It’s always been about the child, but transitioning her to another home is crazy! She’s adjusted so well and made so much progress socially, academically, and emotionally that taking her away would just create more attachment and abandonment issues and probably send her into a place similar to the one she was in when she came home to us. Mom really likes us, a lot actually, but we aren’t family and that’s where her child belongs (even if it will tear her apart).  Callie and I have been having dreams that they are gonna remove her from our home, and it’s terrifying.  We’re feeling like this day is coming soon, and we’ll have to say our “See you later Coo-Coo”‘s and our “Remember to wash your hands cuz you have all those yucky germs”.  For now, we’ll just keep loving her and teaching her and helping her create some of the best memories she’ll ever have.  The easy part is over, but the inevitable hard part still awaits.






24 thoughts on “Foster Mama – Part 2

  1. Are you able to talk to the mom directly about your concerns? I’m not sure what the rules are, and I know it’s a delicate subject. Perhaps if you frame it as, she’ll be in a better position when she goes home to you, ready for school, etc?

    In any case, good luck. We put our certification on hold for pregnancy because we just can’t do both at the same time. So you have my respect! lol We’re also going for teenagers rather than kids, which is a different challenge. Thank you for sharing your stories.

    • We did speak to the caseworker and expressed our concerns. The worker felt similarly to us, BUT in NY state, the prefer that the child remain with the family in a “kinship” foster home, so that’s usually what they push for. She spoke to the mother and told her that it was probably best if she stayed with us since she’s doing so well, but mom insisted that she go with the aunt, so we’re just sorta waiting for them to give us notice…we’re still doing everything the same, just prepared for that phone call

  2. My wife and I are also licensed foster parents in Arizona. We did a kinship license to care for my (at the time 12yr old) nephew and had him for 2 years before his continuous running away landed him in a group home. I am happy to say he is getting out this Friday and will be moving in with his step dad.

    You could not have written the words more honestly or beautifully. Its clear you and your wife are going to make incredible parents to your twins!

    • That’s great news that he’s out of the group home. Most of the time, those places are great for kids and cause a big turn around in behavior, so hopefully that’s the case. Thanks for ur kind words. We hope we are good parents. But I think everyone worries a little about that…

      • Nonsense, you’ve had plenty of practice! A baby is nothing compared to dealing with an older kid with issues.

        Yes, I’m super excited for him – just hoping he doesn’t go back to the drugs and gang life – he’s been “locked away from it” for so long so he didn’t have the opportunity to do so…

      • One of my long term goals, once we acquire land, is to build a group home in the country. I know it will be challenging, but I also know we can do a good job with it and help even more kids than placements directly to our home.

  3. Sounds like you and Callie are doing a whole lot of awesome for those kids. It breaks my heart to think of how much it must hurt to have them go after all of the memories that you’ve shared. It’s amazing the impact you are able to have on them.

    • Except the research shows that, long term, the kids are better off in their families, even when the families can’t provide the same things as foster families. It’s hard to be a foster parent, but the kids are better with their parents or kin. It may be counter intuitive, but that’s what the research shows.

      • I didn’t say that it wasn’t best for kids to be with their families– I was just saying it is very hard on foster parents who are looking to adopt and get very attached (especially since sometimes they aren’t able to keep in contact with the family and never hear anything about the child they grew to love ever again). It’s just what I’ve noticed from people who blog about it, when a placement leaves, they compare it to the death of a child. I can’t see how that’s not hard.

        My wife was reading over my shoulder and is interested in where to find that research?

      • Good question, not really sure. It was just discussed in our foster care class.

        I think, for those who only want to adopt, they may need to consider not doing foster care, and focusing on legally free kids. That means they’ll be older, which a lot of people are turned off by. It’s a challenge, but that’s what we all have to deal with in the end. I don’t look forward to that part, if we do fostering as well as adoptions.

      • I mean, it makes sense. They probably feel more secure there and safer. And they feel connected to their own life. The losses that these kids endure are the hardest part for them, so I could see how being with their families help maintain some sort of normalcy. BUt truthfully speaking, that’s the nature of foster care. It’s temporary placement. So we take it as it comes.

      • It’s just a challenge. In your certification did they bring in a speaker who was a parent previously involved in having a kid in foster care? I found that super helpful.

      • They did. It was actually pretty helpful. It give you a little insight in what they go through, and reminds you that they are humans who makes mistakes. They also brought in a seasoned foster parent who was int he process of adopting a child, but she talked about the struggle of having to see something like 30 kids in and out of her home in the past 10 years. That really helped too.

    • It’s truly frustrating that even tho the parents had their children removed from the home, they still get to make all of the decisions. We cant even take the kid out of state without getting permission from the mom first, which to me is ludicrous, but it is what it is. We just love them and do the best we can.

    • Thanks…It’s not easy being a foster parent, but it’s soooooo easy being a foster parents. It’s like being a regular parent, with the understanding that one day, they wont be your kids anymore. You love it and hate it all at the same time.

  4. I can’t imagine fostering, I know it would be hard and it would just be too hard on my heart, but you guys are doing a great service loving that kiddo and thinking of her future in spite of what it will do to your own hearts. Good luck in that, it takes a special kind of person to foster and you guys are it.

  5. I love you my swipply! I just read basically all of your posts just now (I know I should just keep up regularly, sheesh!). You do such a great job on this blog! The benifits of journalizing are are so important to your well-being (and also to your readers) and I’m so happy that you are taking to the time to do it. Makes me wonder why the hell I’m not writing in my journal. I KNOW it’s probably JUST what I need, but my compulsion to avoid blinds me I guess, but anyway this is not about me, lol. I love you! I can’t wait for our hike tomorrow!! See you tonight!

    • Yay!!! Ur on, my best Marco!!!! Thanks for dat…I just try and write what I’m feing at the moment…it’s good for me now and it’ll be good for me later when I start the process of trying to carry. It’ll be a reference point for me AND Callie when we are standing on opposite sides of where we are now, and when pumpkin and Sweet Pea are old enough to read, they can see too. And YAAAASSS!! We will officially be joining the Catskills 3500club after our 3892 foot ascent to Peekamoose Mountain! It’s gonna be awesome!

  6. Pingback: Drama for a Foster Mama | thechroniclesofanonbellymama

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