I am a single mother of a 6 year old girl and have been licensed to foster and adopt for almost a year. I had two respite placements (5yr girl, 2 yr girl) a few months after getting my license. Last month I had a 7 yr old girl for only two weeks before she was moved to a relative's home. Now I have an 8 yr old girl (less than a week so far), and I am not sure how long the placement will last.
My problem is that I wonder if I just don't have the right temperment to foster. I originally decided to foster for two main reasons. 1) to help a hurting child and 2) to possibly grow my family through adoption. I have always thought of myself as a compassionate and caring person. I thought I would be a nurturing and empathetic foster mom.
BUT I have found that I am less patient and tolerant of my foster children's behaviors/habits than I am with my own daughter's. My first respite placement was 5 days and the girl kept saying "right?" after every thing she said the entire time she was here. It was so aggravating, and I hate to admit it, but I was so glad when it was bedtime each night. The 2 week placement also had irritating habits that got under my skin. I feel HORRIBLE for feeling this way. I know it is petty. Both of these girls were well behaved and got along well with my daughter, but I just didn't "click" with them. Is this normal or am I just not able to parent children other than my own? I have not felt affectionate towards the children (except for the 2 year old), but I am very affectionate with my daughter. I had to force myself to be affectionate with the foster children (one had scabies so that was a concern also).
I know I sound so heartless, and I am disapointed with myself for not feeling anything for the girls. I did feel empathy for them, took good care of them physically, and even cried when I found out the 2 week placement was leaving to go to a relative. I don't want to continue to foster if I am unable to meet the children's emotional needs. Do you "feel something" for each child placed with you? I do care about the girls and want what is best for them, but I don't get beyond feeling that I am just babysitting or having my daughter's friends over.
Please share your experiences with me so that I will know if I am normal or if I should quit fostering.
Thank you!
It sounds to me like the placements just weren't there long enough for you to really bond. In reality, you WERE babysitting.
I would give it some time. I feel like I'm babysitting even after bonding at certain times. Such as when MY baby is fast asleep but my FB is up in the middle of the night. It's normal IMO.
As long as you can show affection and empathize, "fake it till you make it." With a long enough placement, bonding should be easier.
Good luck!
I agree with happymomminy. It's not enough time. Any new person in your household will have something irritating about them. (I'm sure they see things about you that irritate them.) But, it takes time to fall in love with a kid. I think that you can see this in yourself means you make a good FM. Don't stop. If you got a Foster-to-Adopt, I bet you would feel different right off the bat! Keep going!
I know exactly how you feel. We have a 4 yr old and a 2 yr old. A few months ago we had a 2 yr old placement. He was a very cute, affectionate little boy. I really liked him but some of the things he did drove me crazy.....even though my 2 yr old did the same things. I just didn't have the patience for him like I do my own children (thankfully he went back home). And I have felt this way about other placements too even though they were with us for a while. We have decided to take a break from fostering because I don't feel like I am cut out to be a good foster mom.
I am not suggesting you stop fostering, I just want you to know you are not the only one who feels this way.
However, everyone will have "good" placements and "bad" placements.....some kids you will click with and others you won't. And I'm not sure if anyone really feels a connection with a child after only a few weeks....so maybe you should see how it goes with a child you have longer. Your feelings might change.
I have had many placements where I didn't feel a true bond. Other placements I have felt a bond with from the get-go. It is totally normal.
I remember that when I got my now adopted son as a foster child I didn't feel that special bond. That is until we were in a store and a lady came up and said that she 'could just take him home' with her. Immediately my internal hackles were up and (in my mind) I said to her 'don't you dare touch MY child'. It was at that moment that I knew that I have fallen deeply in love with this little boy (and this was a year after I got him as a foster placement).
I don't think the situation you're describing means you should stop fostering--unless you want to.
Your placements have all been so short, you really haven't had time to adjust, and neither have the kids. Children in transition are under such incredible stress that I don't think it's always possible to see the "real" them--much less get close to them and give/get back affection or attachment--for a longer time than it might take to attach to a baby or toddler.
If you're able to be kind and responsible toward your fosters, you're a valuable resource for them. You don't have to feel for them as you do for your own children in order to be a good foster parent.
I have had many placements where I didn't feel a true bond. Other placements I have felt a bond with from the get-go. It is totally normal.
I second this.
Some of my fosters I had to "fake it" the entire time. Things just never clicked for whatever reason.
But that's ok!
And it certainly doesn't mean you should stop fostering, unless of course it's something you don't want to do anymore. It is a good thing either way you decide to go, when a foster parent can be honest about those feelings. You don't love and fawn over every adult you meet do you? So why should it be the same for children? I think that expectation is there, and it's surprising as all get out when that turns out not to be the case with ever kiddo.
I'd suggest you shoot for a different age range and see how that goes. Would you be up for caring for an infant or pre-teen? Perhaps even older? You've mentioned caring for ages 2 to 8 I believe, maybe dabble above or below that and see if that changes anything for you
You need to give it more time. It takes time to add a new child in your home. Don't stop fostering because of a child you are having trouble bonding with. There will be kiddos you bond with and some you don't.
I don't think you should quit. I have looked at fostering as a way to help others, as well as stretch myself to do some personal growing. I haven't always liked or enjoyed every situation, but I always learned a lot from every situation about the kids and myself. Enjoy the journey, and don't stop, we need good foster homes, where the parents are as "thoughtful" about things as you are.
Your post hit a nail on the head for me. I am very much like you. I/we (DH and I) take good care of the children and they have almost always flourished in our care, but I generally don't get attached to them. There have been a few that I was attached to, but the majority of them I don't. Actually, we currently have a sibling group of 3 that we have had for six months and until last week, I was not attached to any. Then, the 2 yo was hospitalized and I spent a lot of one on one time with her and formed a nice attachment.
We always look out for and advocate for the best needs of the child and I do fake it in regards to loving them and have been successful at fostering for six years. So, give yourself time, don't beat yourself up, and know that sometimes you will attach and sometimes you won't. As previous posters have stated, there are some kids you will like and love and some you just won't!
One of my biggest worries while I was considering fost/adopt was that I wouldn't be able to bond to the child and that I would feel like I was only babysitting. I was afraid of admitting it to anyone, though, for fear that I would sound cold-hearted and they would think me unfit to adopt.
Then I entered fost/adopt training classes and an entire class session was devoted to bonding. They taught us that it is normal to worry about it and to feel like a babysitter at first, but that bonding would occur slowly, over time. They told us to "fake it til you make it" and they promised us that we would all eventually make it. I was surprised that this was looked upon as a legitimate concern that could be talked about and not a dirty little secret! I was even more surprised to see the look of relief on my classmates' faces. Apparently, I wasn't the only one worried about it!
Your placements have all been short-term, so I think it is natural that you haven't bonded. If you are generally happy fostering, then I wouldn't worry about bonding. It will happen naturally once you get a placement that stays for awhile.
For the first month or so we had our Baby V, her crying seemed incessant, and drove me up the wall. If it weren't for my darling DH taking on night duty, I would have gone insane. Then she started sleeping through the night, and even though her daytime wails (bc they are wails, not wimpers) still frustrate me at times, it's a completely different story now. Once I was able to get a good night's sleep every night without feeling guilty for my hubby getting up, and once she started to communicate by pointing to what she wanted, everything got easier.
Now, 10 months later, she is transitioning home to mom and I am heartbroken at the thought of losing her. This after saying in those first few weeks that I hope the judge says the removal was unfounded, so she can go home! I feel horrible about that.
Now I love my Baby V and am grateful that I will be able to stay in her life bc her mom and I (and DH) have developed a friendship. I am also grateful for this time with her bc it helped me realize that I am not cut out for parenting a newborn (she was 6 months old when she came to us, and even then it was too intense for me).
If I hadn't had this experience, I would've jumped into newborn adoption and probably resented my child and hated the first year with him or her. Now that I see how much fun a 16 month old is, I am eager to adopt a toddler. However, I am also aware that I do not see myself fostering again.
So to answer your question, OP, I think your placements have been too short for you to have had a chance to truly bond and get used to their quirks. It's nothing to feel bad about, and if you can get over the guilt and want to press on, I would say keep fostering. :)
I appreciate all the responses and advice I've received. I didn't really want to stop fostering, but I was worried that I would do more harm than good if I didn't particularly "like" a child I was placed with. I know I have just gotten started on fostering, and I think I have an "ideal foster mom" image in my head that I was failing to achieve. I have also been so focused on keeping the house clean and neat with an extra child that I probably haven't spent enough time just playing and talking with the children. Caretaking responsibilities sometimes get in the way of relationship building!
During my first respite a co-worker talked about how she could never foster because she would get too attatched, and in my mind I was counting the days until the child was gone. I felt terrible. I am glad that I can admit that here without getting attacked. I was too scared to talk to my licensing worker about it.
Also on the two week placement, the child starting calling me "mom" within hours of being with me and later that day said "I love you Mom". I was so shocked that I just stood there without saying anything. I wish I had handled it better, but I just changed the subject. By the time she left two weeks later, I was able to say "I love you too honey" without feeling too much like a cold hearted liar! And I was sad when she was suddenly removed to go to an aunt who wanted her.
I will take your advice and take some of the pressure off of myself to "love" each child like my own and just "act like it" instead if the connection isn't there.
Thanks again for your help!