Foster Parent (Part Two)

My last post was about reflecting on what our foster parent journey has looked like through the lens of the Christmas letter from our agency. I wanted to finish all the points but it was too long for one post, so here is the rest of the story!

Thank you for altering your home and lifestyle in order to comply with licensing and other safety regulations.

Crossroads Family Services Christmas letter 2019

I have to admit that complying with licensing and safety regulations was one of the things I dreaded about starting the fostering process. That seems so silly to me now as I realize that everything was focused on making our home a safe place for all of us. Having a medicine chest that locks means I don’t have to worry about someone accessing it who shouldn’t. Moving all my cleaning supplies up out of reach seemed silly at first, when none of my children ever had a problem with them being under the kitchen sink, and yet now I like where they are. And although we don’t have to lock our knives up with the two children we currently have with us… I love my new knife drawer and wish I had gotten rid of my knife block way sooner! Somehow we had the idea that complying with licensing standards would be inconvenient and irritating… and it really wasn’t. I appreciate the intentional thought that we applied to each aspect of our home as we prepared, and I felt safe as we welcomed the unknown children in.

Thank you for being the “first responder” to the multiple emergencies and crises with your foster children.

This was made so real to me in November with a trip to emergency. As I began the 40 hour journey, with all the uncertainty that accompanies it, it never occurred to me that any of what I did was optional. Of course I am the point person! (Even though I do not have legal guardianship.) Of course I am staying with her until she leaves the hospital! (I wouldn’t have left one of my own children and I could not leave her either.) As the visit to Emergency turned into a hospital transfer and emergency surgery I simply prepared to stay by her side. I was pleasantly surprised by the bed that waited for me beside her at the Stollery Children’s Hospital and survived on 3 hours of sleep and a bit of cafeteria food for the most part. The reality of being THE ONE through the crisis was hard on a different level than I expected. Although I could be there, I didn’t have any say in what was happening and couldn’t give permission for things to proceed. At one point I watched as she writhed in pain on the bed as attempts were made to contact the other mother for permission to proceed. HARD! I am so grateful for the team that surrounded me and offered support as they worked towards getting the things done that needed to happen for this child. It all turned out fine!

Thanks for being a counselor, a tutor, a coach, a friend and a role-model to your children and teens.

HOMEWORK! So much homework. The reality of missing almost 2 years of school shows up day to day in the form of home work. Literally, work that needs to be done at home to help the kids catch up on all that they have missed. Children cannot learn what they have not been taught! The reality in the home of the other mother was that English was not her first language. From what I understand she barely spoke it and never wrote it. How overwhelming it must have been for her when her kids needed help. The casual comment from an eleven year old “I don’t know how to tell time, we were about to learn that when I left school” is eye opening. The reality of a thirteen year old who can read a sentence like a pro, sounds great but doesn’t understand a lot of what he just read. How do you make up for two years of lost instruction? A little bit everyday! So we take on the role of tutor, brush up on our own math skills and start giving a lot of definitions to words.

Thank you for going the “extra mile” and more (over and over and over)…

That “extra mile” looks different for every foster parent. For some it is patience beyond reason with behaviours, attitudes and challenges. For some it is medical appointments that never end and time spent in waiting rooms. For others it is explaining to yet another teacher, coach or family friend that the disability is real even if you don’t “see” it. For us it has meant extending patience and reframing expectations, realizing our limits and then stretching them to meet the demands, and continuing to hope in a system that we don’t fully understand and struggle to trust. That “extra mile” can be hard.

Thank you for being one of the most significant, lifelong influences in the life of a foster child.

As we chatted with other parents at a training course recently we heard stories of those who had been fostering for 8, 15 and 21 years! They spoke of kids who still keep in touch and of successes they see in the lives of so many. These are the stories we aspire to!

Thank you for loving the unlovely, healing the hurt, guiding the lost and correcting inappropriate behaviour.

We all have moments when we are unlovely. There will always be hurts that need healing in each person you meet. People lose their way every day and we can have the privilege of guiding them back onto the right path. And as for inappropriate behaviour… well I have realized that there are a lot of opinions about that but if we can all learn to live out the first three it takes care of most of the inappropriate behaviours. Fostering just reflects life as a whole in a more intense way!

Thank you for being a Mom or Dad when you didn’t need to.

To that I reply, “Thank you for trusting us to be Mom and Dad to these two children when you didn’t need to.” We didn’t realize that we needed them so we could continue our journey of growing to be the people God calls us to be. We could have continued being “empty-nesters” and I’m sure the future would have held different challenges for us. We chose this path and I believe that we are better off than we were. Parenting is a sacred trust. We will choose to parent these two children to the best of our abilities and any others that come our way.

So here is a new year and new challenges ahead. May we all choose to do what we can, where we are. Choose to love, in your actions not just your words. Choose healing for yourself and others. Be a signpost that points to hope and a life that is worth living.

In the midst of the mess


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