Adapated from my post shared at Care2Foster.org
I am a foster mom. And I'm really good at it. We've had 12 amazing children come through our home. Sometimes there are two and sometimes there are four and sometimes there are more. That's just how our life goes. I remember one day we started with three, came home from work with two (one went back home to dad; we didn't just forget her), and we went to bed with four. I love juggling the adventures of being a working foster parent and the challenges that come with it. But I constantly get questions about when I'm going to be a "real" mom. Family. Friends. Strangers. They all want to know.
Don’t you want a child of your own? It will be so different. Permanent. Don’t you want to be real mom? You’re so good at it. When are you going to have your own kids? The clock is ticking.
It’s the same question just asked a lot of different ways. Usually well meaning. Usually with good intentions. But at the same time, pretty insensitive and intrusive. I don’t mean that I don’t want people I love to care about my life and to ask me questions about my desires for the future. That’s not what I mean at all. Do I want strangers asking me these types of questions? No. Is the checkout line at Old Navy an appropriate place to ask? No.
These questions aren’t harmful really. It’s the deeper meaning that they seem to imply. Don’t you want a child that looks and acts like you? Don’t you want to grow a baby inside of you like I did? Don’t you want to do this family thing the traditional way? And I’ll answer all your questions now; honestly, I don’t know. But here is the truth: I am a mom. I am a real mom in that I am not imaginary. I am a living breathing human woman and I am day-in and day-out caring for children that I love. Do they have another mother, a “real” mother? Yes! And they love her and we encourage them to have a healthy ongoing relationship with her with the goal of reunification. ALWAYS. Yes, I did not grow them inside of me. But, that has never been a qualifier for any other kind of love so why should it be with a child who needs a family- for a short while or for forever.
Most people assume and even comment that we are fostering because we are physically unable to have children biologically. They seem to think of fostering as a placeholder for “real children” or “real parenthood.” My husband and I started fostering at a time in our lives when by the book it would have made sense for us to consider getting pregnant. I was in my late twenties, he in his early-thirties. We bought a house. We had stable jobs. Most of our friends already had kids. But, I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t interested in getting pregnant, much to my mother’s dismay. My husband probably was more ready than I was, still is. We have talked about it and revisited it and thought through the financial aspects of adding a forever addition to our family. Having a biological child (or children) has never been out of the question. We just decided that it’s not in our immediate plan.
But fostering made sense, and we love it! We get to use our time, talents, and resources to welcome children into our home. Foster parents are so needed! South Carolina is short by about 1,900 homes! It’s a need that we can fill right now especially as we don’t have as many commitments as we might with biological children in our home. I have been so encouraged by foster families that do have biological and adopted children in their home and continue to foster. It is so inspiring to see that these children thrive with foster siblings and continue to ask their parents to open the door, answer the call, say “yes” one more time.
As with any first time parents, we faced a steep learning curve. Our first placement was three siblings under three years old. Talk about jumping right in! We were very lucky to have a community of incredible foster parents that came alongside us and walked us through the first crazy days. My friend Lauren showed me how to make a bottle- I didn’t read the directions on the can of formula correctly. Michelle laughed at me one night when she had to show me how to use this nifty invention that separates the correct amount of formula and you can pour it into the bottle. Christina answered my many questions about how to find a pediatrician and what to feed a two year old. Andrea answered all my questions about daycare viruses and the best way to take a temperature and when to call the nurse’s line. Of course, with biological children you have some indicator, a growing belly, that tells you when you should expect a child. You have some known time to prepare and you know what you’re going to get- a newborn. Those are great things! You do not have those things with foster care. There is no timeline, there is no knowing what is on the other side of a placement call before you answer- a baby, toddler, teen? Maybe siblings, twins even. There are things that are different about fostering and even adopting, I’m sure, from having a biological child. But I think too there are things you’ll miss out on if you don’t foster or adopt.
Things You May Miss Not Being a Foster or Adoptive Parent
- The thrill of holding your breath as you answer a placement call waiting to hear what adventure is on the other end of the phone. You miss the wonder of meeting a tiny human that is your child for however long they are in your home. Someone who will reach up with little arms, who will cry for you, who will run to you when they scrape their knee- even though they were not formed in your own womb.
- The beautiful lesson of diversity and culture that comes from welcoming different children from different races, cultures, backgrounds and experiences. The insight you’ll gain in caring for a body that isn’t like yours whether from the same race or not- hair that curls in ringlets when yours is stick straight, skin that is sensitive to your favorite lotion, a body that is tall and lean and doesn’t fit in traditional sizes. You see some of the barriers that others face (small and large) that you’ve been oblivious to in the past.
- The intense love for someone who is not your blood, but you would jump hurdles for any day of the week. The miracle of love that sometimes comes instantly, sometimes comes in waves, and sometimes takes months to cultivate by practice. The surprise you feel at the magnitude of emotions that you are capable of even in a short time knowing them.
- The incredible bond of foster and adoptive mamas. It truly takes a village! The work is hard, but the reward is great. The wisdom I have gained from foster parents who have been in the game longer than I have is incredible. I can tell you all about trauma and reunification and the steps in a foster care case where a few years ago, I barely even knew what foster care was.
- The gratitude for case workers, guardians, and those fighting hard for child welfare. The advocates and volunteers who pour their hearts and their lives into writing policy, creating ministries, and serving children are the superheroes I never knew existed.
- The power of knowing a biological parent who is fighting hard to turn their life around and get their kids back. We see a lot of negativity on the news, but these are real-life feel good stories that make you believe in the second chance, the redemption that is possible when you just believe in someone, when they have just a little support.