“’I don’t know how you do it; I could never give them back.’
Being a foster parent, this statement is said to me all the time. My favorite response to this statement? ‘That is the whole point of foster care; they aren’t mine to keep.’
Many people do not realize foster care was created with family preservation as the goal. Reunification is usually always the goal starting out. Foster care is meant to be a temporary fix while a family does the hard work to heal back together.
When I made the decision to become a foster parent almost two years ago, I did so wanting to help the entire family. I obviously wanted to be there to love and support the kids, but it’s always been more than that to me. I wanted to be there for the families as well. I wanted to be on the sidelines, cheering the parents on. I wanted to be walking besides them, letting them know that I am in this with them, and that I am here to help their family heal.
Many people who become foster parents have support systems behind them. I, myself, have been blessed with a huge support system of people who rally behind me when I have a new child move in. It makes me wonder; what if we gave that same support to those who are struggling and are facing their children being removed from them? What if we helped those living in our communities that need help, before the situation becomes so bad that the department of child services has to intervene? I believe if we started at the source of the problem and correct it before it becomes an issue, then we could greatly reduce the need for foster care in the first place.
So, how do we do that? We start by simply loving on others whose lives may look differently than ours. We start by teaching our kids that addiction can happen to anyone and even those struggling with an addiction deserve to be loved and supported through it. We lend a hand to the mom who is dealing with domestic violence and feels she can’t leave because of the fear she cannot make it on her own. We start by doing the work of seeking those who need help in our communities and helping them with our time or with our finances.
With every child I have had placed with me, I have worked hard to build and maintain relationships with their parents and their biological family. Sure, sometimes it can be hard or awkward, co-parenting in this situation. But it’s always been worth it. I remember the first time I reached out to a bio mama. My first placement was a 10 month old baby boy who I absolutely fell in love with. I was so nervous to reach out to his mama for the first time. It was completely nerve wracking. But, once I did it, I realized that there really was nothing to fear at all. She was simply a mama missing her baby. For the 6 months I had him, I built up a good relationship with his mama, and then built a good relationship with the extended family that he eventually moved to. I still keep in touch with them and now I get to see them frequently.
I had a sibling set that I was caring for, ‘Miss J & Brother Bear,’ who I loved so much. They were moved to me from separate foster homes and I was thankfully able to reunite them together. They were the best babies ever and I attached to them right away. As soon as they moved in, I requested that my contact info be shared with their mama and I immediately started building a relationship with her. She was just as sweet as her babies and I loved getting to know her. Her love for her babies was immense and you could tell she would do anything she needed to in order to get them back. It was such a privilege getting to know her while I cared for her babies. We would text or talk on the phone frequently and I would send her pictures and videos as often as I could. Miss J & Brother Bear were young and I knew that it was so difficult for her to miss out on big milestones, so I tried capturing as much as I could for her through pictures.
After a lot of hard work was completed by their mama, I was lucky enough to be a part of their family reunification. I was overjoyed to see my babies return home to their parents. My heart was broken of course, because I loved them like they were my own. But my heart was also filled with happiness that they got to go home to forever with their mom and dad, just how it was always meant to be. Every time I have a child leave, it feels like a piece of my heart leaves with them. But with each child that comes and goes, my heart grows, too. It grows not only by the children that are placed with me, but it grows with the addition of loving their families. I have had 8 kids total across 5 cases. That is 5 different families that are now in my heart, too. When I am having hard times, I can look back over my foster care journey thus far and lean on the love and the beautiful relationships that I have gained with my kiddos and their families.
Have you wanted to become a foster parent but you are afraid to take the next step? Are you afraid of getting ‘too attached?’ You SHOULD get too attached. These children deserve to be loved deeply. Are you afraid of your heart breaking when you have to ‘give them back?’ Your heart will be broken but you will have been a huge part of a family being put back together. Are you too afraid to build relationships with the biological family because of all of the ‘horror stories’ you have heard? Do not be afraid; these parents are just as scared as you are – if not more. They just want to know that their children are safe and are loved.
Foster care is hard work, but it is beautiful and fulfilling, too. And when ‘the system’ works as it is intended to and a family is made whole again, it truly is the most beautiful thing.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cheyenne Vesely. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read another story by Cheyanne here:
‘I was single with a big, empty house. I had so much love to offer! ‘Can you take in a 10-month-old baby?’ A lightbulb went off.’: Single woman embarks on emotional foster mom journey, ‘I’d repeat it all over again’
Read more touching foster care stories here:
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