Why I Love Being A Single Foster Mom

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Teaching In Honduras

“In 2014, after graduating college I taught in Juticalpa, Honduras. I spent a year teaching at a bilingual high school.

While there, I made friendships that I still have 8 years later and I continue to connect with students. I still talk to and visit friends around the U.S. who were my co-teachers and family for a year.

While there we would visit Hogar multiple times a week, if not daily; two children from Hogar are two of the people that have impacted my life the most.

They are Angelica and Jose Alberto. When I met them, Angelica was 3 months old, and Jose Alberto was 10.

Every day after work we’d go play with the kids and help them with their homework. We all built connections that impacted our lives and hopefully left an imprint on theirs. Angelica and Jose Alberto are now 8 and 18… which is wild to think about, but we still Zoom annually, more if possible.

This is how it is supposed to be, visit and build connections that we can continue in our lives. But when I left Honduras in the summer of 2015, I had a different, very naive, mindset.

When I got back, I felt Angelica was meant to come back with me and that I should adopt her. I reached out once back home and tried to learn if it was possible. I was also visiting with family and looking for a teaching job, so it wasn’t plausible, and I moved on.

The next year I went back to visit and still felt this might be part of my path in life, so I tried to reach out to the director of the organization I volunteered with to learn more. As I learned more, it seemed less likely this would ever be a possibility.

A few years later I visited again and realized this was not in her best interest – this was going to serve me, so I realized this was not the best scenario and I let it go. I’m thankful to still be in contact with both Jose Alberto and Angelica and hope to go back to visit the two of them soon.

teacher with two children she met while teaching in Honduras
Courtesy of Dana

After that, I told myself that after I get married, we have settled, and our family is ready, then we can look to adopt. Well, if that wasn’t the statement God needed to laugh in my face!

Continuing My Teaching Career

During the 6 years between my time in Honduras and the beginning of my foster care licensure – I spent my time teaching. I taught students with disabilities who were most successful with individual schedules, AAC (augmentative and alternative communication), sensory or gross motor diets, behavior plans, etc.

This field allowed me to learn more about parents who advocated well, how to meet the needs of children where they’re at, grow in patience, and accept everyone for who they are and where they are at. I met families that had been through so much, but they continued to advocate, learn, grow, adapt, and make changes while keeping a family dynamic that I connected with!

These experiences all helped shape me and allow me to be ready and open to fostering, because every child is different, and a warm loving home doesn’t take away the needs each individual child may have.

Once the pandemic hit, I was home with just my dog. I realized I was 28 and had the call to be a mom, but in what capacity would this happen while being single during a pandemic, so I began to post on Instagram.

I also investigated different ways to adopt, started to learn more about adoption, and realized the way I pictured going about adoption didn’t feel right. It wasn’t supporting the kids, but it was supporting my yearning to be a mom.

So, I focused on creating a teaching Instagram account. I ended up following lots of teachers, and people who adopted or were foster families. I learned more about foster care and felt this might be my next step.

Now my account is a little about teaching, but mainly about my journey as a foster mom. It’s what I connected with most! I reached out to DCFS in Illinois and began my process to become a licensed foster parent.

It took that summer, and I was licensed in September 2020.

teacher holding up an "October" card and a bucket filled with sensory items
Courtesy of Dana

Becoming A Single Foster Mom

Getting licensed while single, in my opinion, made it easier! We only had to discuss my parenting style, and what I needed to do. I was accountable for each step it took in the licensing process!

I’m a fairly independent person, so taking this step while single didn’t scare me! I felt confident in my ability to become licensed and felt I could handle whatever came my way.

The timing worked out well because earlier that summer a sweet little boy went into care, but I wasn’t licensed at the time. He eventually came to be my first placement that fall. It worked out so well because his previous foster mom is now one of my best friends and someone I talk to daily!

She and I have gone to foster parent support groups together, she’s dropped off groceries when we were all quarantined, and our 4 and 5-year-old get along so well! This is a person I now value so much, but never would’ve met if it wasn’t for foster care.

We’ve talked about how Mister Man is currently in the placement that best suits him because it allowed his sister to stay with him! She was a surprise to me, but I knew she’d be with us for as long as necessary! This might not have been possible in Jamie’s home, and we both know that’s okay and are happy for our connection.

Jamie is someone I can talk to that ‘gets it,’ when it comes to the world of foster care. I can unapologetically vent about this process because I’m human and can’t bottle up all my emotions. Overall, it’s just crazy how one baby and this life we’ve both jumped into brought a wonderful friendship!

two foster moms stand with arms around each other in a restaurant
Courtesy of Dana

I currently have 3 placements. I call them Cookie Monster, Mister Man, and Peanut via social media. I’ve made mistakes of sharing too much of their journey and not enough of my own, but I continue to try and learn and grow throughout this process.

For now, all I’ll share about them is that they’ve all been with me for 18 or more months and I have let the caseworkers and GALs know they’re welcome as long as these cases take! Cases in Illinois don’t move at the pace shared in classes, and that’s something I’ve learned to accept and try to not let get the best of me.

Foster Care Journey

My journey as a foster parent is unlike anything I could have imagined. I went from no kids to three children, 4 and under, in eight months. My life literally felt like it flipped upside down.

First off, becoming a parent is something unlike I had ever imagined, and then on top of it, I am trying to build connections with their biological family. I am also learning about trauma and the best way to support children from trauma, it’s still a pandemic, and I’m trying to be my best teacher self as well as my best mom self.

I’m getting my master’s degree, being a good friend, worrying about things I have no control over, answering questions people have while trying to be respectful, and still trying to practice self-care and feel in control!

I wasn’t getting sleep. I was trying to remain social and keep up with my friendships because I value them – but I just couldn’t. I was crying a lot and kept being told how amazing I was, how lucky the kids were, how I’m doing so much… all those phrases that people feel are helpful but really aren’t.

They don’t paint the correct picture and they make it hard to respond to. I had heard these before when I tell others what my career is, but then add becoming a foster parent and my goodness people think I’m this selfless human that I’m not.

It made me feel I wasn’t doing enough, and I had to become a better person because that’s how others were seeing me. I hit high anxiety and knew I couldn’t be my best self if I didn’t start therapy again. So, I made it a priority and am so grateful I did, if I didn’t, I doubt I’d still be a foster parent.

woman sitting on steps announcing she is going to be a single foster mom
Courtesy of Dana

Challenges As A Foster Parent

Last winter was TOUGH, we were quarantined for an honest 5 weeks in a row and 8 in total that winter! It tested me as a human, and I got into that funk a lot of people do. It wasn’t at this dire low point, but it was a difficult season for me to be in. Therapy really helped me during that struggle.

I’m open about my therapy journey because I think it’s important to know therapy can help even without being at one’s lowest point, and I believe it allows people to see me for who I am, my faults and all!

Last winter I learned strategies to keep me centered, how to prioritize, and ask for help. I was so tired of hearing how amazing I was, I felt I was crying every night because I was tired from caring for an infant and two toddlers, we were always sick, and I just couldn’t keep up. I felt overwhelmed in my bones and thought I had to share only a small glimpse, so I was human but not failing. It was a weird balance, and truly not a healthy one.

This is when I started to doubt my abilities as a single foster parent.

I kept wondering if I was married would this be easier? Could a husband allow me time for myself so I could be a better mom? My kids so desperately ask about dads, how can I help them in this area when I’m barely holding on as mom?

It wasn’t all the time, but mainly in those low points that I’d find myself wanting to get married or glorifying how marriage and parenting could go hand in hand. Obviously, I don’t know that perspective, and when I first started this journey, I felt solo parenting was the way to go, so I just chuckle at how my perspective shifted when I wasn’t my best self.

Asking For Help As A Solo Parent

Therapy allowed me to dive deeper into what healthy relationships would look like, knowing foster care isn’t something light and that my children are priority number one. This time helped me to know what I would be looking for in a relationship and I knew I couldn’t put myself out there to date until I felt more secure as a parent!

I knew marriage wouldn’t fix my parenting lows, but it truly helped to talk out the benefits of a healthy marriage and how it’s something I want and is possible. I did attempt dating in the summer, and even felt one of the guys I went out with could potentially be the start of a relationship, but it wasn’t and that’s okay!

I was in the middle of moving and still have lots of other priorities to sort out. It doesn’t mean the door is closed to dating but it just means whatever guy might enter my life, has some pretty high expectations (but not impossible) and that’s okay given our life.

My therapist spent the spring really working with me on what my priorities were and what changes I needed to make to allow me to live the life I wanted! I learned to be more decisive, reach out for help and be more vulnerable. I set goals and slowly worked towards them.

I accepted a new role within our organization to support me in finding a better work-life balance. I had knee surgery (which sadly wasn’t as successful as I had hoped) but it forced me to reach out for help in so many areas of life.

Settling Into Single Foster Mom Life

We moved to a home that allowed for more space and support closer to home! I found a daycare that was more supportive of our life and accepted my kids for who they are! These decisions weren’t easy, but they’ve allowed us to be the family we need.

We relied on others for help. My family, both immediate and extended, know the dynamic of my family and respect that while helping us. I read online how some families don’t accept foster placements as part of their families and I’m baffled because I am so grateful to have never experienced that!

My family loves and includes my children along with all the other kids. They ask questions when they don’t understand, and they’re knowledgeable that I need to advocate for different things. They’re willing to check in, offer help babysitting, or just come to our house for dinner to catch up so I don’t have to bring 3 kids out and about.

large group of family gathered outside while it is dark out
Courtesy of Dana

Now I accept my messy house and the laundry that will never be caught up on. I know dinner will be homemade some nights, and frozen pizza other nights. I know my kids’ cases need to be kept up on and checked in about so that’s what I do.

Now, I’ll still text my sister-in-law how I feel like a mess and how I can’t keep up with everything, but I can go to bed when I need rest and feel like a better mom in the morning because of it. My uncle recently told me ‘When people come to your house, they come to see you. They don’t care about your mess.’

It was such a good reminder as we’ve taken triple the amount of time to settle and organize in our new home (it’s still ongoing).

Our new home feels like home! Our caseworkers and GALs have all been here and have commented on how well we’re doing in our new home. The biggest question I always get: ‘Are you adopting them?’

Well, the kids’ cases are in limbo, they have been for a while. The system is frustrating (but that’s a topic for another day) but with the support of therapy, our new home, and our phenomenal support system my three current placements are welcome here as long as they need!

I’ve also made sure our home can be open for respite this spring/summer! I know my boundaries and we’re not ready for another long-term placement, but our home can be a safe place for a few nights as needed.

A year ago, at this time I was beyond overwhelmed with foster care and now I openly talk about when I’ll open our home to more. I’m willing to have conversations with family and friends about what we can sustain in our home, how we’re coping, and what might need to change.

If I had to go back and do it again, I wouldn’t change the lessons I’ve learned, the stress I’ve had, or the current uncertainty to make life easier. I would, however, be more vulnerable from the start, ask for help explicitly instead of pretending I’m fine, and be more assertive in how I advocated at the start.

As most people in foster care share, it’s a roller coaster. I was ready to jump off last year but I’m so glad I found my lap bar, we found some smooth turns, and now I can be ready for whatever twists we take on next!

Maybe one day I’ll find someone willing to jump on the ride with me, but for now, I’ll wait to be sure he’s the right guy and continue this journey with the rest of my village!”

woman takes a selfie in a hat with her dog
Courtesy of Dana

This article was submitted to Love What Matters by Dana of the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. You can follow her on Instagram. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.

Read more stories like this:

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‘I received a call. ‘We have a 14-year-old boy. He really needs to leave the home he is in.’: Single mom becomes foster parent to help other families battling addiction, adopts teenager

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