‘The phone rings. You recognize the number. Each time it calls you feel a mixture of excitement and fear. Being a foster parent is strange.’

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The phone rings and you recognize the number. You see it and you know that the message about to be left is one of great need and weight. Each time it calls you feel a mixture of excitement and fear. Those calls leave me with a sense of great heaviness that reminds you this world is hurting. It is the matching agency. They take the details of new children who have come into foster care, matching it up with available homes.

The message left gives you a few details to help you make a quick yes or no. You are given a quick overview of the number of children, gender and age. You call back prepared to answer, you learn not to explain yourself, knowing your family is key, knowing what behaviors will fit well in your home.

If at first pass, the information you have collected seems like a good fit, you ask for more. Receiving the next level of information, you decide if you can handle the terms. You get insight into where they have been, how their trauma manifests and an idea of what they will need from your home. That ‘yes’ will forever change the course of your home. At some point you have a flicker of a thought where you ask yourself, ‘Can I do this?’ You remind yourself that in all reality, nobody is ever ready. So you embrace it and commit, making space. A yes means room rearrangements, clothing hunts, changes, new behaviors and needs. There is not 9 months to plan, dream and get ready.

Within hours of that call your doorbell rings or you head to the local shelter to meet your child, a child that will be with you a moment or forever. Upon seeing them your heart flutters a bit, and a connection is made. Though we are yet strangers you are overwhelmed with emotion for this kiddo, imagining what these little eyes have seen and ears have heard.

Then there are days when the information is a clear no, maybe it is a child outside of your preferred age range or a behavior on your no list. Maybe you are struggling with your own personal struggles or you have a child in your home whose trauma would be triggered with certain other’s behaviors. A no ripples through your mind for a bit, echoing as you wonder if that was the right choice. A no leaves you heartbroken and questioning the what ifs, recognizing no child deserves that.

Foster mother holds on to baby's hands as he attempts to walk in grass
Melissa Pennington Photography

The thing that surprises me is how much weight the no’s have. You never quite shake the desire and want to help them all. Stepping into this world shows you things you only had heard about in the news. The victims of those new stories suddenly begin sleeping in your home. Caring about one suddenly starts to the slippery slope of caring for them all. A large burden at times to carry, you never quite get over them.

Then there are days where everything aligns and you say yes, but the child never makes it to your home. They are picked up by a relative or someone else who called the matching agency back 1 minute sooner than you. I once had a yes that I prepared for, that never came, then months later the worker reached out wishing this child would have been with me for they were looking for a new home for them.

Days go by and you don’t get a call. Sometimes you get three calls in one day. Sometimes it’s the age of the children, the needs of a child or sometimes in your gut it just doesn’t feel settled. Sometimes your heart longs for the call and breaks when the age isn’t the right fit. Sometimes you get two calls for the same group of kiddos week after week, knowing they are being bounced around.

Being a foster parent is strange. The amount of times I have started my day with my family, only to have added one or more members by bedtime keeps me flexible. You figure out how to continue doing life, just now with another little human. Business as usual, you host dinners and attend Christmas parties. You keep going, one day at a time. Suddenly you realize the little stranger in your home is a part of you and you wonder what was life like before them.

There is joy in the yeses, ache in the silence and weight in the no. Each one makes you long for the next, ache for the need and question your choices. I have learned after 11 times of saying yes and 16 times of saying no, every yes has changed me and every no has led to a yes later on.

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julianna Klepfer, a 30 something, single, foster/adoptive mama. She lives with her crew of seven, ages 11, 9, 7, 4, 3, 18 months and 6 months, their two dogs and 6 chickens in the hills of Iowa. You can follow along with her ever changing family at My Joyful Broken Heart.

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