The number one comment I get when someone finds out that we do foster care is “oh, I couldn’t do that, I’d get too attached.” As if loving someone and getting too attached is optional. Let me be perfectly honest, we don’t do traditional foster care. I have not had dozens of children pass through my home, those true foster parents are warriors on a whole other level. They see the need and they put themselves aside to step in where they are desperately needed. We stepped in when we decided to keep our license open knowing that our second son’s biological mom was pregnant.
Having an open adoption with his biological mom, we wanted her to know that we supported her and we wanted to help her parent her second child. Losing a child is devastating and witnessing that grief was hard and harrowing. I didn’t want her to have to go through that again. I threw her a baby shower to help her understand how excited we were, how much we supported her, and what a blessing this sweet baby girl was. We also wanted her to know how much we wanted her to be able to parent her baby for a lifetime.
We stepped in as foster parents for her when she was nine months old. She was tiny, behind, and so easy to love. She fell into our routine easily and quickly. She fit right in with our kids, our life, and we just added her to the craziness. We continued to support reunification with Mom and soon she moved home. In order to continue to support Mom, we became part of their safety plan. Anytime Mom felt overwhelmed with parenting, she could and would call us and we would come to get her. Initially, we agreed to every other weekend. When boundaries became blurry, we tried to tighten them from one certain day/time to another certain day/time.
Because we couldn’t bear the thought of her being alone, hurt, or denied the basic cares, we eventually threw all boundaries out the window. It felt as if Mom would constantly push boundaries and test them at every turn oftentimes just not answering her phone or being available to return the baby. The first or second time was really worrying, after that it became almost commonplace and we just got used to it.
As she grew and got older, she wondered why her picture wasn’t on the wall with our children. So we had family pictures taken and put her on the wall. It’s amazing how little ones want to fit in and be a part of a family. She yearned for it in every way. She was not quite two yet when we had that conversation. She bonded well with our children, one of them being her biological sibling; and they play, and fight, like siblings.
Throughout the summer, we tried to take Mom and baby with us to the beach, the park, and any place we went to build a relationship and try to let Mom know that she was supported. We started to notice more and more that she wasn’t interested in parenting the baby when she was with us. She left all her care to us whenever she was with us. She didn’t come prepared with diapers or snacks, and it was increasingly difficult and frustrating. I was parenting her and her mom, at all times. Trying to reassure someone with significant anxiety around and about parenting is exhausting in and of itself. I was constantly worrying when she was with me and wasn’t with me. I knew there was nothing I could do to truly protect her, but also that she wasn’t mine to protect. But protect is what I did. I communicated with Mom as much and as often as I could. I supported her with groceries and other necessities she needed often. And it still wasn’t enough.
Eventually, Mom picked up some bad habits. I knew that it would come to be an issue. And it did. Communication became more difficult. Her mental health began to worsen. She became moodier and more withdrawn. It was hard. I love her very much, and I knew that helping her wasn’t an option I had. I reached out to anyone and everyone I could think of to find a way to reach her. Unfortunately, since she was an adult there’s not much to be done in the way of helping someone. I was warned against taking certain measures and was ensured that helping with the baby may be the only way to truly help her.
One morning I got a phone call from the county asking if the baby was with us. I told them that she was and they hung up. They couldn’t give me any more information, and it was terrifying. I checked local jail rosters. She wasn’t there. I didn’t feel I could call hospitals, so it just became a waiting game. When I was about at the end of my worry rope, I texted Mom to see how she was. She responded that she was great. Turns out that wasn’t the case. An hour or so later, I got a call asking me not to send the baby home. I was told that she was in protective custody and could not return home. My heart broke once again.
For months now we have supported our child’s birth mother. Tried to give her advice, tried to give her words of encouragement, support, and wisdom. Most of the time it would be suggested that I was just trying to steal her child. We had agreed at one point to be a permanency option, but only because we believed that Mom couldn’t do it and Dad didn’t want to be involved at the time. Mom kept canceling visits proving that she, in fact, can’t parent in a full-time capacity; but knowing that, we also couldn’t continue to be pulled into the drama of it all.
We love this little one so much. We have always treated her as our own, it’s really the only way we know how to do this. So we attached to her fully. And her to us. And I can only say that being too attached is a very good thing. We have given her all of our love. All of our attention. We have given her a family.
Soon she will transition to her new home with her dad who loves her so very much. How blessed she is that she is so loved by so many. And lucky us, we get to stay involved in her life and watch her grow. Not in the role we imagined, or even wanted, but in the role that is best for her. And I wouldn’t change a single minute. I love her. Losing her will tear me apart. But today, I cry tears of joy for the love she will experience, the life she will be gifted, and the family she needs and deserves.