Becoming A Foster Parent
“I always knew I was put on earth for two things. One, to teach, and two, to be a mom. I have been teaching for 17 years, and in year 16 I became a foster mom, and a mom for the first time.
I started my foster care journey in February of 2020. I gathered the appropriate paperwork, had my letters of recommendation, clearance from my doctors, and background checks in the works. Then the pandemic hit, and it was all put to a stop. I heard nothing for a month as everything was shut down. I was frustrated, and kept thinking I had waited too long to get licensed.
See, foster care has been on my mind and in my heart for as long as I can remember. My childhood friend and I would incorporate foster care and adoption into our play with our baby dolls. In the 5th grade I read The Great Gilly Hopkins, and became even more interested in learning about foster care.
I remember asking my teacher about it, and her simple explanation is one I now pass on to my students, ‘Sometimes parents aren’t able to take care of their children for various reasons, so special people, foster parents, step in and take those children into their family to love and care for while their parents get the help they need to be better parents.’
I feel like foster care was written in the stars for me as my father and his sister were in foster care as young children. They were in separate placements, and my dad spent the first few years of his life bouncing from home to home before eventually being taken as a kinship placement by his grandparents, as his sister had already been placed there. Once placed with his family, he was home. His grandparents would raise him and my dad was always thankful they stepped in to care for and love him.
I always thought I’d become a mom in my 20s following falling in love and getting married. But, I also knew if I hit 30 and wasn’t a mom, I would adopt or foster. I didn’t care how I became a mom, even if it was just temporary. 30 came and went and the next couple years involved moving to another state to take a teaching job, and enjoying teaching and making new friends.
I still longed to be a mom, but I was getting mixed messages from family and friends about waiting until I was married to become a mom. At some point I realized marriage might not be in my future, so I planned to get a job closer to my parents back home, and start my foster care journey.
I waited for what seemed like forever after taking the foster care classes online via zoom during the pandemic’s initial shut down. I had passed my home inspection, but somehow they had lost my background check from the other state I lived in, and none of my recommendation letters could be found.
They had to resend my background check to be processed in another state, but had to wait for approval from financing to get the check needed to process the background check. I had my friends resubmit their letters of recommendation, and then I waited, and waited, and waited some more.
During that summer of waiting, my best friend drove up to help me set up the room that would be for the children who would grace my home. We spent a weekend diving into decorating and organizing bins of clothing. She even threw me an online baby/foster shower.
People from all parts of my life showed their love and support by contributing to my journey, purchasing items from my wish list on Amazon. The support and encouragement I was receiving warmed my heart and I couldn’t wait to shower love and support on the children who walked through my door.
School started back up; this time I was teaching full-time online and loving it. Around the beginning of October I learned I was finally licensed! I joined an online single foster mom group, and relished in learning from them and their experiences. I waited to hear from DPHHS-Child and Family for a placement.
Suddenly, I was getting calls almost every day. The need was great, but one thing I learned was to think about what you know about the placement (which usually isn’t much) before saying yes. I said yes to several children, but those fell through for a good reason — family members stepped up to care for these children.
Fostering Little Miss
Finally, in mid October, I got a call about a 1-year-old little girl who needed a home. I knew my answer needed to be yes, and I felt it with every ounce of my heart. I picked her up behind the department, and fell in love with her right away. She was the sweetest thing. The first few nights were so hard as she cried for her mommy, but she let me comfort her, and soon was calling me mama.
We would get to celebrate her 2nd and 3rd birthday while she was with me. She stayed home with me while I taught my students online, and became part of our class. My students loved whenever she would pop on the screen and would ask to see her every day. They sang to her, and when we had screen breaks we all got up and danced. Little Miss was quite the character.
She didn’t have any visits the first few months she was with me, and then her dad made contact with the department and weekly visits began. She loves going, and transitioning back after a visit was upsetting. I did my best to assure her that her daddy loved her.
Pretty soon visits became fewer and fewer, and then eventually she had none at all, as dad wasn’t following his parenting plan anymore. That was harder than transitioning her from a visit. Little Miss was incredibly smart for a 2-year-old. She had come to me knowing about 20-30 words, and after months of living with me she was talking in paragraphs. She knew she didn’t have visits with her daddy anymore and began crying for him every night at bedtime.
Little Miss became my child the minute she was placed in my arms. I loved our little dates, shopping, and going to play dates. She was the most incredible little girl and was loved by all who met her. Pretty soon she was having visits with her mom, but things weren’t looking good there. I was asked if I would consider being a permanent placement for her. Without hesitation I said yes!
Her visits with her mom dropped off after only a couple months, and we went back to a sad little girl with no visits. I would explain to her that her mommy and daddy loved her so much, and they would work very hard to be healthy for her, trying to break the situation down in an appropriate way she would understand.
Time passed without word of visits starting back up again and suddenly I had a 3-year-old Little Miss who had not only cemented herself into my heart, but made my days so wonderful. As we hit 16 months in care, we started talking about guardianship. I was excited for a future with her, but was sad for her as her parents were missing out on raising this amazing little girl.
Then one day at work I got a phone call. A family member had stepped forward, got licensed, and wanted her. It was going to happen, and sooner than either of us were prepared for. I took Little Miss to her counseling appointments, and pretty soon we were helping explain she was going to move.
It broke my heart. I knew it was right, but I spent many nights crying myself to sleep. This little girl who was never really mine for so long, felt like mine. She had stolen my heart.
A couple weeks after I was notified they moved her, no transition… nothing. I had to fight for a visit before moving so she could at least meet the woman she would be living with. Meeting her reassured me some, but it was still hard. I felt like she was supposed to be with me.
I had let myself dream of taking her to her first day of kindergarten. I had imagined the sports she would play and thought about her going to college right here in town. I was already so proud of her, and I know she will do big things.
It was surreal when they came to get her and drove her and all her stuff away. It took two trips to collect all her things, and then she was gone. I haven’t heard anything about how she is doing, which is typical in foster care. I just pray she remembers how loved she was even though she was so little.
Fostering Little Man
During the time I had Little Miss, I received a call from the department asking if I would consider taking a 3-day-old baby boy. I immediately said yes, and we soon became a family of 3. Little Man had no visits, and there really wasn’t any plan for him.
It took 3 weeks from the time I brought him home from the hospital to be contacted by his caseworker, and I finally learned some about his parents. What I learned made me sad because they are so young, and he is so perfect.
Little Man was an easy baby, but from the get go had medical issues. Nothing major, but enough problems to cause us to be at the pediatric clinic almost weekly. He was given an official diagnosis around 10 months, and we still continue on his journey and have been in OT, PT, and now speech therapy.
He is an amazing boy and helped comfort me after Little Miss left us. He is a happy little guy and keeps me busy. He has been with me for 20 months, his whole life. Again I was asked if I would be a permanent placement for him should reunification not be possible. So here we sit waiting for a final decision, which is looking like adoption, but in foster care you can never be 100% sure until those adoption papers are signed.
At the beginning of this year, Little Man’s mom gave birth to another baby boy. I had a bed open, and reached out letting the case worker know I would take him, but he was placed with a family closer to where he was born (about 5 hours from where we live).
Taking On Little Mister
About 3 months later, I was approached by the case worker for Little Man. The baby’s case had been transferred to her part of the department and she wanted to know if I would take him in. This was a tough decision because I wanted to bring him here, but was worried about Little Man getting the attention he deserved. He was used to being my snuggle buddy, and was still so young himself.
I talked it over with several trusted people, and support was wavering. I had some who reassured me, telling me it was going to be hard, but I could do it. Then I had others telling me to wait, it would be too much, and wasn’t fair to Little Man, especially with all his needs. I was torn.
At our next home visit I discussed my concerns with the case worker, but ultimately told her I would take him, as the courts preferred siblings together. I grew up with a brother and I know how important a sibling relationship is growing up. I wanted them to be with each other and to grow up together. About a month later we welcomed a tiny little baby into our home and immediately fell in love.
Little Mister, as he is dubbed, has been a great addition to our little foster family. Watching the boys and their bond grow is amazing. I love being their ‘for now mama.’ It’s been pretty hard at times though, as I feel I’m not giving them all they need parent wise. There are days and nights I wish I had a husband to support me and love these boys. But, I try to be both.
I get down on the floor and play with cars and dinosaurs. We play peekaboo, and I try to give both boys all the attention they deserve. Little Mister has some medical issues and delays like his brother, but I feel more confident handling the therapies and doctor appointments.
It’s just hard having to miss so much work to take them to their respective appointments, and try to squeeze in some time for me to get to my own doctor’s appointments when I need them. Babysitters are hard to come by, and Little Man is very attached to me, so he needs to build a relationship with someone before he trusts them enough for me to leave.
These boys are amazing and their parents are missing out. They know they can’t care for them, but don’t want to relinquish rights, so we wait for the plan to be permanent. It looks like adoption for Little Man, with his brother possibly following in the next year, but like I said, with foster care nothing is for certain until the papers are signed.
Involvement With Foster Care
I’ve had 4 children in my home, and have loved them all. Some stayed for a short time, and others much longer, but they all found a piece of my heart.
Foster care is hard because you do get attached, you’re supposed to. Getting attached and loving a child who needs love helps them learn what a healthy attachment looks like. Even if it’s for just a little bit of time in the journey of their lives, it shows them the love they deserve.
If you are someone who says, ‘I couldn’t do that. I’d become too attached,’ then you are the perfect person to step up to this journey of fostering. You can make a huge difference. But, if you are unable to foster, support the foster parents in other ways.
You can volunteer to babysit, help with laundry (there’s always some), make a meal or offer to bring one, just come over and visit, and let your kids play with our kids (foster kids aren’t bad or naughty and deserve to play with their peers).
Foster mamas could use the support from other moms. Offer to help with cleaning, offer your support, but most importantly offer your love. Show up, be present, and be a friend for those foster parents. Yes, their journey is different from yours, but whose isn’t? Foster parents and their foster children have so much love to give, and you can be on the receiving end.
I don’t know what my path in foster care looks like a year from now, but I know my door will be open to a child in need. I will love them and support them. For however long they are with me, they will be a part of my little family. Foster care was written in my heart a long time ago.”
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