There’s nothing quite like foster care. To raise a child that’s not yours by birth. Having to get out of your introvert bubble and dealing with people in your life and in your home. Powers that be examining every aspect of your life from your income to your driving record to what medicines you take. The invasion goes on and on. I get it, it’s important that no child slips through the cracks of the system. It sadly happens much more often that in should. So we don’t complain. At least out loud. We speed clean our homes, spiff up our children and smile and welcome yet another stranger in our homes. Sometimes with very little notice. I got a call once and set up the appointment and honestly could not remember who I set the appointment with. I had a name but no memory of who they were. Add special needs to the mix and you get even more people. Therapists, home health, Community options, public school teachers, and the list is ongoing.
We literally give our blood (blood tests). We give our homes, our hearts, our tears, and our laughter. And if we’re really lucky, that child gets to stay with us. Two of our four placements stayed. They were adopted. They became ours. Forever. After going through all the turmoil, the months, even years, of living in a state of unknown. Living with your life, not your own, and with very little control. Having to drop your life at a moments notice for a visit, a court hearing, a house visit, and any other number of necessary interruptions. Days of sitting in a tiny waiting room, waiting for a relative that never shows up. Hours of waiting in a court house for yet another no-show. Not being able to take a trip without permission. Many many many nights up in your thoughts, your worst nightmares, and just maybe daring to dream. We do this. For years.
Foster care changed me. It changed me to my core. I am not longer the passive mother I used to be. I used to think what everyone’s opinion of me, that is somehow mattered. I became stronger than I ever imagined I would have to be. I have my ducks in a row at all times. I have binders and binders of court records, visitation schedules, missed visits, no shows, medical records, and in the back I have two final orders of adoptions. In those paper it says that no matter what happens these two children are mine. NOTHING can change the adoption. NOBODY can dictate to me what to do with my children.
Foster care changed me. It changed my heart. To weep for children without a home. To mourn a child I raised for eight months, a baby who called me mommy. To mourn the loss of my first daughter and her blue eyes and curls. To rejoice when we were told by phone “he’s yours forever.” To be able to march into any doctors office and never have to hear “you’re not her real mother” when demanding a test.
Foster care changed me. Most I feel is for the better. My children have a level of compassion they would not have had without it. I’ve given speeches at churches overcoming my fear of public speaking. I have a voice for the voiceless even if that voice shakes when spoken.
Foster care changed me. I never knew what happened in court. I’d never even been a courtroom. I now know behind the scenes. I know what a GAL is, what a CASA worker is, I know the lawyers who love us and would defend us to the ends of the earth. I know the judges who have praised us for what I’m doing and will always be on our side. All I can say is that those two children are our gifts, we’re the ones who are blessed for having them. I know social workers who rave about us. I know a list of people who would vouch for our family.
Foster care changed me. I made friends with people I never would have any other way. I’ve been out of my comfort zone so many times, I can’t remember what my comfort zone looks like anymore. I’ve gotten the immense joy in picking my own family members. I’ve quietly rooted for birth families, relishing when they make good choices, if not for my child, then at least for the other children they have. I’m cried if it fails. I’ve had to share my child with those who share their blood. That is hard, but it’s what’s right for them. I’ve had to suppress comments, knowing they mean no harm. I’ve hugged them, laughed with them, commiserated with them, mourned with them, I’ve been angry with them, bewildered by choices. And I love them despite all of this.
Foster care has changed me. I have the fiercest mama bear protection over my kids. After all they’ve been through, I silently dare someone to mess with that. I would defend my children until my last breath. If anyone tried to hurt them, physically or emotionally, well let’s just hope they don’t. I know what it is like to say goodbye, I know the hurt, the empty place in my heart that no one can fill. There will never be another baby J, there will never be another Little Miss. I was blessed to have time with them, to share my love with them. I have seen my boys cry at having to say goodbye over and over during transitions. I know it made their hearts softer. These five children are mine. They are ours. They share our last name. We are a family and if anybody tried to mess with that, a mother bear would look like a kitten next to me. I sincerely hope nothing like that ever happens. It would be a mistake to all involve.
See what I mean, foster care changed me. There’s nothing like raising and loving a child you didn’t get the honor of bearing. “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The depth of that tragedy and the magnitude of that privilege are not lost on me.” Jody Landers It could be switched to daddy as well. It’s not just me in this journey. My husband has shared in all of these emotions and supported me through many of them. If I’m a mama bear, he’s a daddy lion. No one messes with our cubs!
So if you’re considering foster care, please know it’s not easy. It’s messy and sad and causes more heartbreak that you thought possible. Kids are not in foster care because they came from happy healthy families. Something happened. Things happened that horror stories can compare with. We are broken while trying our best to heal them. It’s not easy and it WILL change you. But it will be for the better, and in the mean time you will fall in love and even if they are only with your for a little while, they will know that love. And it will stay with them. If you get the miracle of adoption, it will change you even more. You will never see the world the same again. Rose colored glasses are shoved in a drawer. The world of foster care is hard. So hard. But in the end whether they stay or go, it’s worth it. And if they stay, you become a family forever and nothing can ever change that.