Don’t Assume That…
- I’m a saint. Just because I’m a foster parent doesn’t mean that I’m perfect, and it certainly doesn’t make me better than anyone else. I see my imperfections when I need to escape to the coffee shop to make it through an evening with the kids, when I crank up the radio to drown out whining, or when I get home and realize I spent the entire day with a sticker tangled in my hair… and that nobody noticed because it was a rat’s nest to begin with.
- I don’t get frustrated or need a break. Every parent has hidden in the bathroom for those few glorious moments of relative silence… and maybe to also quickly devour the last piece of chocolate you don’t want to share. Just because they’re not biologically mine, doesn’t mean I don’t get the full spectrum of emotion, including frustration. I’m full-time parenting. I experience everything that comes along with being a parent. If you’re offended by me saying the kids were driving me crazy today just because they’re foster, get over it. Kids do that from time to time. If I said that about my bio, you wouldn’t question that I still love him.
- I’m in it for the money. There are bad people out there, and some of the horror stories you’ve heard about foster parents are true. But let me tell you, I’m not going on vacation anytime soon off of that dollar an hour I get paid to foster. That dollar an hour is suppose to cover daycare costs, food, clothing, diapers and wipes, transportation to visitation and appointments, and all those other costs of raising a child. There are better, quicker, less emotionally exhausting ways of making money.
- I know what’s going on with the case. I’m basically just as clueless as you are. 90% of the time, I don’t know what’s going on or where things are headed. I have one day a month during our monthly staffing where I get a few tidbits of information, and those little morsels are suppose to carry me over to the next staffing. I’m not just dodging questions to protect privacy; I also literally don’t know the answers.
- I have a contentious relationship with the parents. Not all biological parents are hardened criminals. A lot of the time you have people who truly love their children but are struggling in some way. The kids are my first priority, but you can’t be in it for the kids and refuse to work with the parents.
- My family is just like yours. From all appearances, we might look like the average American family when you see us in our Sunday best at church. And you might think that since we’ve had a child for a long time that there aren’t issues anymore. But my daily successes are measured on a different scale than yours. When you ask foster parents about their success stories, you’re going to hear about the small things. Things that come naturally for your child are cause for celebration in many foster homes. Trying a veggie, drinking a bottle in less than an hour, forming an attachment, babbling, making eye contact, asking to use the bathroom. There’s a good chance you won’t find those things noteworthy in any way, but that’s just because you don’t know where these kids started from. We’re judging progress on a different scale, one where basic achievements can be monumental.
- I’m not struggling. I’m not immune to the pain of this journey. Even if you’ve been doing it for 20 years, it still hurts when you say goodbye to a child that’s loved with every ounce of your being and fully integrated into your family. It can be difficult for foster parents to open up about the struggles and the heartache because there’s this belief that we shouldn’t complain if we knew what we were getting into by becoming foster parents. But if you ask how I’m doing, and really want to know, I’d be more than happy to share the joys and sorrows and fears that are swirling through my mind at any given moment.