As usual, when there is something brewing in my heart, it comes out eventually. And I’m not really sure how to share all of this because it can be pretty personal, however, I want to try to express it with lots of grace. & as a means of educating people and being a voice for so many foster Mamas that feel misunderstood or alone, or just like people don’t ‘get it’.
disclaimer 1. this post may get long.
disclaimer 2. This was a compilation of my personal experiences & feedback from other foster mamas.
Yes, we signed up for this. In a sense we knew what we were signing up for, the unknown, the heartbreak & emotions of reunification, the trauma, the dirty, the sweetness of innocent children[& some not innocent enough] but in another sense we really couldn’t prepare or truly know what it was all going to be like. In reality tho, that didn’t matter, we signed up because of a calling, a nudging we heard from God. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t so much a choice of something we really wanted to do, but a choice of being obedient to God the Father. And sometimes we really really wish you would get that big picture. It is not something we are doing for ‘ourselves’….it truly is about and for the kids, something bigger than us. And we want you to see this as a ministry, not just our family of sweet lil kids. [If it would be just about us, I doubt we’d last very long.] We would love your help in being able to give the best possible picture of Jesus to these souls in the short lil span we have them. Its a bit of a crazy whirl and can get overwhelming to just get the basics done at times, much less all the spiritual tools & love we want to give them. We really do need you.
Less you be thinking, oh they are just raising a family like I am with mine. It probably appears like that & we try to lead a mostly “normal” life. But here’s a few things you may not have thought about it. We probably did not even have 24 hour notice before a new child or children were in our home. We had no idea what gender or age. In less than a day we were an instant family, BAM! We don’t know their sleeping or eating likes/dislikes. I remember with different ones, we didn’t know if they could sit, crawl, or walk. Juice or water? Rock or go to bed? Paci or no? Sing or silence? Obviously we can start our own traditions & routines, but we feel so helpless knowing how to ease their level of comfort or what they were used to. Within the first 24 hours they need to be examined at the Health Department, where we generally meet the Foster Support Worker. In the first 7 days there is a Child & Family Team Meeting. Within 30 days there is generally court to be attended, Dentist physical, drug physicals, their worker visits our home, our parent support worker visits, GAL visits, shots up to date, birth parent visits begin (usually weekly), developmental evaluation & many are qualified for a weekly in-home therapist, therapist supervisor monthly visits, or if older possibly a weekly counselor, if babies they are qualified for WIC vouchers for formula, milk etc, so that’s another appointment. These are just my experiences and I know that it varies by child & state, so it could be more or less. I have discovered to not expect anything remotely normal for at least 3 months.
We would absolutely love if you would sign up and become foster parents as well, welcoming even 1 child into your home, but we also understand that not everyone will. But there is something you can do! In fact many different things. There is a big need for respite families, meaning you would do some paperwork & training and be licensed to care for emergency placements while they find a foster family, perhaps a wknd, a few days or months. & you would be able to provide a legal bed & place to babysit for foster families if they have trips or just need a wknd breather. Also open up your home to babysitting possibilities. We have lots & lots of mandatory meetings & appointments and sometimes we need to take some or all or none of the children with. Suddenly we need to fully fill a wardrobe or two, and we also need alot more groceries, plus we have no idea what they like or dislike. So perhaps you could offer to do some shopping or babysit while we shop & have a moment of quiet to grasp all the changes that are taking place. Another wonderful way is to check in and offer babysitting while we go get our training hours in. We are not allowed to take the children with and oftentimes the classes are for 2 or 3 hours in the evening or a full Saturday. Contact DCS & get fingerprinted and legal to transport children or sit with them at the office in emergencies. Find a local foster parent association, provide meals or childcare once a month for them. Donate time or things to foster closets that are aiding foster children with free much-needed clothing. Maybe you have space or funds to build or re-do a playroom for your county…delightful spaces for visits are SO RARE. Caring for the orphans in our own communities is really a ministry where everyone can do something.
Ok, so on to some practical ways that might help you understand how to better rally around the foster parents in your midst. And I might throw in a few tips about some things you may not have realized..
Your support. This can be a hard one. Oftentimes we feel like you are more curious in knowing the case history and the dramatic of sad & terrible. We really aren’t allowed to share details with you, so in being vague and not expressing a whole lot to you, we are not trying to keep you out of the loop. You are just asking the wrong questions. Perhaps ask how the child is adjusting and things about their current life with us versus what all has transpired in the past or what will happen in the future. We can have our speculations and info about what will happen, but I’d say 95% of the time the turnout isn’t exactly what we anticipated & can change drastically with one phone call. So it is easier for us to not have to guess the future in order to try and explain it to you. The unknown part is the absolute hardest part of this whole journey!! Having to answer “I don’t know” to those type of questions doesn’t make it any easier for us. Like I said, its hard, because we love when you show interest and care about them, but we don’t always know how to answer! Also, please keep in mind that our job is to show Jesus to the birth parents, so hearing you bash them doesn’t give us ideas of how to better show love.
Your hands & feet… literally 🙂 On the night of a first placement, help out with immediate needs or food that night/week/month. Come clean our house while we are at a visit. Bring us a warm meal when we have been in meetings & gone all day. Drop off a frozen casserole that we can use on a day when the unexpected comes up and we completely forgot that it was also important that we feed these kids. and ourselves, we tend to forget our own needs sometimes. Share a bucket of cookies. Offer babysitting but keep in mind that perhaps our kids are going through traumatic visitations and insecurities and babysitting isn’t the best option. Suggest a play-date, grab our weekly groceries. Offer your pair of hands at an outdoor adventure to the zoo. Or maybe sit with our kids after they are in bed so we can go out on a late date night.
Throw a shower. Especially if these are first time parents or when we get newborn babies. I still fondly look back at my Welcome to Parenthood/Fostering Shower that was thrown for us before our first placement. And the boxes, gifts and thoughtful items that were sent to us. Also Birthday parties, umm yeah, they may not be here next year or even remember us, but they deserve to be treated with love and showered with gifts. These babies and the families should not be cheated out of these experiences & they should be treated the same way as if they were born into our family. Celebrate these children with us!!
Encouragement… So we know we are amazing, (insert curtsy here) we hear it alll the time! However, we really want you to know that we are not some super-human, extra-ordinary saints or angels. We are human, doing something [that should be] ordinary & normal, saying yes to helping a child in need. It is hard, we don’t always keep the big picture in mind. So your heartfelt encouraging words, texts, & notes really mean alot. They help keep us focused.
Prayers… I cannot stress this one enough. We neeed your prayers. We love to hear you are praying for us. We don’t want to bother you with our many ever-changing prayer requests, all-the-time. But. It literally can change lives and we are so grateful for every prayer warrior on our team, praying for the BEST interest of the child and not our selfish desires.
Acceptance… We want you to know that these children are not all lil’ heathens and terribly bratty kids prone to trouble. They are normal children, with normal training needs, but from not-normal situations. They may act out because of trauma and they may not. We don’t always know what they have seen or experienced or are feeling, so it can be a challenge knowing how to parent at times. But it really doesn’t help if you are constantly trying to analyze their behaviour, especially in front of them. And yes, our parenting techniques are different, some because legally we are bound to, some because of their unstable background, but all because we chose to parent them here & now like this. So please be respectful & understanding. Maybe you can even learn something. Our plea to you is to accept the decisions we make in nurturing our children & to educate your children in how to relate to them, & to include them without awkward hesitation & stares. The last place ‘foster children’ need to feel & hear that they indeed are ‘foster children’ is from their friends. It cuts my heart every-time. Be understanding & gentle around the young ones, they are not super trusting, or maybe too trusting sometimes, but we are trying our best to be a stable trustworthy person in their life. So, keep that in mind before you come whisk them out of our sight. Or perhaps it looks like we have super strict boundaries on our toddlers, remember, you don’t know their story and we aren’t allowed to explain it to you. But we know how much they can handle & we truly have their best in mind. Here’s a fun tidbit, [I wanna say fact, but haven’t done an actual research..] ??% of foster children are brighter, smarter & more aware of comprehending situations & comments than your bio child. Sadly, oftentimes because it can be a mode of protecting themselves. So keep that in mind when you make remarks in front of them.
It may shock you, but we also actually love these kiddoes as much/the same as our bio children. Obviously, this one didn’t come from me, but I will add that I can understand your surprise n disbelief about this one, because I was you. I did not expect to love them as much as I did/do. There are many times I stop n think, there is no way I could love a bio child more than I love this child right here, right now. God grows them in your heart & it is amazing.
Hugs & coffee… and all the other impromptu lovings. Somedays we just feel sad. We may be trying not to stress about the unknown future or perhaps we’re remembering a child that left [quick insert, we love when you remember all of our children and not just the ones we have at present, they never replace each other in our hearts].
Those comments…we know you mean well, and we truly want to give you grace for them, but just in case you didn’t realize, they feel really insensitive. — “I could never do that.” “I would get way too attached.” “How in the world do you do give them back?” “Aww, I would just love them too much to let them go again.” …Umm, we don’t have stone hearts, it hurts us too, but Jesus. 🙂 And all the comments about them looking just like us. It’s sweet & we smile & agree, however, that really isn’t as important to us as you may think. What about the other toddler who hears you and is also ‘our’ son but knows his color is different, even though he may be too young to understand, or so you think. I can’t speak for all, but in general I’m pretty sure we’d be super ok with you blessing the kids for who they are instead of trying to make us feel like we birthed them.
I guess in conclusion we just want you to know that it is a ministry, a mission. We need your support just like a pastor, a missionary and those in ministry who are often thought of as being in direct line of the enemies fire.
I am extremely grateful for the wonderful community surrounding us and the love of Jesus they have shown to me and to our family. They have taught me so much and I hope this helps you understand how to step in and lift up the foster families in your midst. GOD BLESS.
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