My Story Monday is a weekly series where people anonymously share their experience of becoming a foster parent. These real life accounts show prospective foster parents what it’s really like and provide encouragement to others who are also in the trenches. If you’re new to the site, you can browse through the collection here.
My Story Monday: Medically Fragile
I had never planned to become a foster parent. Growing up, all I had ever heard of CPS was negative, but unbeknownst to me, I was being prepped for my foster children years before I became licensed. While I was in college, I worked as an aid for adults with behavioral and medical needs. Through that I learned how to administer medications and food via G-Tube. Once I started working as a Physical Therapist Assistant, I had the amazing opportunity to work with people on oxygen, with tracheostomies, ventilators, G-Tubes, and learned how to be comfortable around the machines and how to lip read.
During this time, my mother-in-law decided to start foster care for medically fragile children. Her second placement was a child on oxygen and with a G-Tube. Those were two things I had been gaining experience in, and while my husband didn’t have my experience working with the medically fragile, he fell in love with this child and was more than willing to learn.
He fell in love with her immediately, but I was still reluctant to fall in love because this child was 1) not ours and 2) at risk to be taken away at any time. Eventually, my mother-in-law stated she would not adopt any more children due to her age, but we could not see our family without this child, so my husband and I agreed that if she became eligible for adoption, we would pursue it. Because of her medical needs, we had to pursue fostering to adopt and take classes in a neighboring city two nights a week. While in classes, I started grappling with the idea of fostering in general because there are so many children with medical needs and so few homes capable of caring for them. My husband was not sold on the idea, but when the heroine epidemic hit hard, and close to us, he said it would be selfish not to help when we have the skills to do so. When we finally committed 100%, we went all in and bought a bigger house because we were previously in a two bedroom apartment.
It took us three months to become licensed, and within three weeks, she was with us. It helped that we knew her beforehand because you have to be trained on the child’s medical routine when doing medical foster care. And right now we’re just waiting on a court date to finalize her adoption!
The biggest success we’ve seen is watching this child, who has been on oxygen her whole life, be able to do without cords or lines during the day and be free to be a kid. It was also a big moment when my child’s face lit up when she saw me getting off the bus one day, understanding that she recognized me as more than just a caretaker.
This is going to sound weird, but when you have a child with severe oral aversion, it’s all about the little victories. Recently, she brought an Oreo up to her mouth and licked the cream off of it. I understand it doesn’t sound earth shattering, but when your child takes their first steps or accomplishes something that both of you have put a lot of work and effort toward, the reward is just as sweet, and her victories are so life changing that each and every one is so special.
The thing about medically complex children is they take time and a willingness to learn. I think the misconception that you have to be skilled to take care of a child with a medically complex diagnosis is what hinders a lot of people from doing it, but every child is different and requires different care. If you can learn a child’s care and what is “normal” for that child, it takes a lot of the “scariness” or unknown out of the equation. Yes, there are a lot of appointments and a lot of phone calls to make, but even the children who have a difficult time with physical expressions of love (hugs, kisses, even smiles) want to feel a connection and want to know they have your attention. I once met a girl who was hooked up to an O2 monitor and could not talk or move any part of her body. When she wanted to get your attention, she would set off her alarm. On paper they said she couldn’t communicate. These children need to feel connected, and we can connect with them if only we take the time to learn how to do it on their level.
Honestly, when we first started, I was ready to continue fostering after we adopted but was unsure if I could ever convince husband to get on board. Despite how much she’s developed, we’ve grown too and became certified this week to take another child. I never realized how much I needed this in my life, and my husband confessed that he honestly never thought he would foster any children after we adopted. A lot of personal growth happens on this journey, and I’ve learned so much about myself.
If you are reading this thinking of fostering or doing kinship, please say “yes!” It will change you, but most of all, it will change the lives of countless others because for every child you foster, there is a family waiting to be reunified or adopted by them. You can change so many lives by fostering just one child. Please don’t let this opportunity get away. If God has put it on your heart, step out in faith. There are so many who say, “I could never do that” or “you are a blessing; I wish there were more people like you.” It’s not up to someone else. You could be that person!
[This interview has been edited slightly for readability.]
If you would like to have your story featured on Still Orphans, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.