My Story Monday: Fostering Love
We’ve been licensed a year and a half and have had 3 placements. Our first boy was a newborn, 2 days old. He was in our home for three weeks before being placed with a family friend. Our second placement proved that a lot can happen in a day! We were placed with an 18 month girl who stayed in our home for 23 hours when the judge overruled the placement. Our third and longest placement was a 9 month old baby girl. She was part of our family for 14 months.
We had a great relationship with her biological mother. We supervised all of the visits and from that, we came to know her well. From our first meeting, we encouraged her and supported her progress. We helped her through a long, 6 month inpatient rehab. We visited her weekly so she could see her growing and ever changing little girl. We celebrated all holidays with her. We were happy to graft our families together as Christmas is always better through a child’s eyes!
Bio mom eventually graduated from rehab, so of course we brought the little one to support her mom. This turned into quite an experience! Mom has a big family and all of them showed up to support her graduation. We had done all the visits for the past 10 months and hadn’t met the majority of these people. It was awesome to see her support system celebrate this monumental event.
Unfortunately for us, the family wasn’t too keen on our presence there. They attacked us, asking why we had her in our care and why her hair looked the way it did. We are Caucasian, and they are African American. We had learned a lot in caring for and growing her hair, but the possibility of doing it wrong was uncomfortable. Thankfully, one family member broke the tension by commenting on how we’ve done a great job with her hair and how much it’s grown. It was sad and disappointing to have such a negative interaction with her family. This sweet girl was a member of our family, and in our eyes these individuals were our extended family as well.
That wasn’t the only cultural difference we experienced in caring for a child of a different race. We had a very difficult time understanding some of the terms bio mom used. For example, we heard her using the term “tata” when speaking to the baby. We had no idea what that meant. We asked the mom, and she said it means, “bring that to me.” It’s interesting because I asked a friend at work, who is also African American, and she said it meant “thank you.” So I guess it means different things with different families.
There are daily bumps in the road with foster care, but dealing with your beautiful child leaving is one of the biggest challenges. When our foster daughter was reunited with her mother, we tried to maintain contact, but she has not been very receptive. We’ve texted and Skyped a few times. The baby’s birthday was last Saturday and we asked to see her, but we were never invited. As much as we long to visit her, it’s hard even seeing her on Skype. When she left, I thought I’d want to fight to maintain contact, but part of me feels it’s just too hard. We miss her so much, and seeing her hurts. My biological daughter, who is 12, is still having a hard time.
We just got a newborn foster baby boy, and we thought that would help distract her and heal her heart. When he arrived at our house, she cried. I asked what was wrong and she said she just misses her foster sister. It broke my heart. I try to validate her feelings and let her cry… I don’t know what else I can do.
Fostering is hard, but what keeps me going is remembering it’s harder on the kids in foster care. All kids should have a family and be loved. Remember why you’re doing it! Getting your license is only the beginning of the struggle. The system is awful, the caseworkers are terrible, but the kids are so worth it. There is nothing like seeing these kids smile and be happy when they came to us horribly broken.
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[This interview has been edited slightly for readability]