Last year this time we had no idea…
We had started the process of becoming Foster Parents late in 2018 but didn’t know how long it would take and what it would look like.
We tackled paperwork, courses and the home study. We put locks on drawers and cabinets and changed some things in our home. We had conversations with our adult children and extended family. We tried to spend intentional time together and do things we might not get to do when kids were in the picture again. All in an attempt to “prepare”.
All of it was good stuff! But we still weren’t prepared for the day our fostering journey began. Being Foster Parents has changed everything!
We got a Christmas letter from our agency, Crossroads Family Services, that thanked us for the many things that are a part of being a foster parent. It’s great way to reflect on what those changes actually meant in our house as we welcomed two beautiful siblings in May of 2019.
“Thank you for being driven by the hope and faith that you can make a positive difference in the life of a child.”Crossroads Family Services Christmas Letter 2019
This is why we began the process to be Foster Parents. We truly believed that we could make a difference… and then we started the classes and training and realized how much we didn’t know about children affected by trauma. Our perspectives on the other mothers that had to give up their children changed. Our certainty that we could make a difference wavered… and then the hope and faith grew and we continued!
“Thank you for the courage to welcome a stranger into your home.”
All the classes didn’t prepare me for that moment when a case worker walked through the door with two wide eyed kids and began the process of introducing us and trying to help us all feel comfortable with what was about to happen. She was great, cheerful and matter of fact… and then she left and it was all us. It felt so awkward showing them around, asking them what they needed and familiarizing them with our home and pets. The trip out to get them some clothes and other essentials (they came with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, most of which didn’t fit well) seemed surreal but filled the evening. I laid awake most of the night trying to calm my heart and mind and hang on to the belief that we could make a difference. I wonder if the other mother laid awake too, aware of the void that had opened in her world. That first week felt like walking a tightrope with lots of empty space waiting to welcome us if we fell, but eight months later those strangers are family.
“Thank you for understanding the damaging impact of childhood trauma and making every effort to help your foster children heal.”
I don’t know that we will ever fully understand the impact that adult choices have on children. Healing is a journey that looks different for everyone. The classes have humbled us by showing us things in our own lives and revealing some of our parenting mistakes. There is no judgement here for the other mother. So we continue to learn and try to understand the children we care for. We provide a safe place for them to process and heal from the trauma that has happened to them. We hope the other mother finds the strength to pursue healing not only for herself but for the sake of her children.
“Thank you for participating in court activities, attending all the meetings, the case conferences, and the extra activities that come bundled along with your foster child.”
I am not a fan of meetings. There are quite a few of them. They matter. We have the privilege of walking with two children through the process and we get to set the example. So we follow the rules and do the reports and the paperwork, show up on time and trust that even this makes a difference in the life of a child. I never anticipated a lawyer visiting with the kids and being excluded from the conversations. That one really bothered me at first. In the end I have to trust that the lawyer is also invested in doing her job for these kids. There is an entire team working on behalf of these children and we are just one part of it. This isn’t a solo job… for which I am thankful but also resentful sometimes! There are parts I am not in charge of, and things I have no say in. That is hard to get used to, but I have seen a dedicated team at work for these children and I’m glad for the team I am a part of.
“Thank you for magically stretching the limited reimbursement you receive far enough to make sure your children’s needs are met.”
I had forgotten how much things cost! When we raised our own kids there were hand me downs and your kids grew into the next size/stage/interest gradually. Having two children arrive with nothing was an eye-opener. I was so thankful for the funds we had to help get them the basics, and shocked at how much the basics cost! Getting them a reasonable amount of clothing so that laundry didn’t have to happen twice a week took more than I expected. Helping them to have things to do (toys, games, books, bikes, helmets) was challenging. Just when you think you’ve gotten on top of it the season changes and now you need winter clothing and all the stuff that goes with it!
I am so thankful for friends and family who pitched in and gave us clothes, books, bikes and skates. For a library that kept us supplied through the summer. For the Christmas hamper that allowed us to buy treats for Christmas and for the money dropped in our mailbox that allowed us to spend a little more on the kids Christmas stockings. All of these things were how we “stretched” what we received. Truly we have many partners on this journey who may not be seen but are crucial. How overwhelming providing for these two must have seemed for the other mother.
Our Christmas thank you continues with more points but I’ll cover them in the next post. The letter was a great way for me to reflect on what the journey has looked like so far. I am thankful for the years of wisdom that are shared with us through the entire Crossroads team. I hope that we can continue to learn and be a blessing to them as well.
If you’ve been wondering about being a Foster Parent I hope this has given you some honest insight. If you know a Foster Parent maybe this has given you an idea of what their journey looks like. Be an encourager, offer tangible support. Although it is an incredibly scary journey to step into the lives of the broken it is also rich with the blessings of seeing lives change. The two children I sent off to school today are barely recognizable as the two children that arrived that day in May. We have not done it all perfectly, but we have dared to do it and it has made a difference.
In the midst of the mess,