I’ve been a foster parent for just about five years now. I always tell people that foster care is the hardest and best thing that I have ever done. I know that foster parents’ experiences differ, and I don’t presume to speak for anyone else, but here’s what I wish you knew about foster parenting . . .
I’m not in it for the money.
I mean, you’re kidding, right? Yes, most foster parents receive some form of government benefits to help care for the children in their home. While these resources may cover the necessities (except for childcare—which as a single parent feels like a necessity to me!), my goal is not to merely keep a child alive. If you talk to me for five minutes about foster care, you’ll hear my passion, my fire. I’ve often been known to tell foster care professionals, “This is your job. This is my life.” I have a job. My babies (even if they are only “mine” for a short time) are my life.
I don’t have the superpower of being able to attach without risking hurt.
In fact, I don’t believe that this superpower even exists. Very often when people learn that I am a foster parent, they say something along the lines of, “Oh, I could never do that. I would get too attached.” Do you want to know a secret? That is the point! Every child deserves a home where someone gets “too attached” to them. Attachment is crucial (crucial, crucial—if there is one thing I have learned in researching the effects of early trauma on the brain, it is this). There is no way to love, to attach, without risk. This is how life works. Love is worth it. Attachment is worth it. My babies are worth it. I choose to do hard things because they were never given the chance not to do them.
I am decidedly not a saint.
I am a single mom. I do the best I can and often it feels like it is not good enough. I struggle with balancing my work and my life outside of work. I get frustrated with rules that feel too reactionary, too restrictive. Sometimes I yell at social workers. Sometimes I yell at lawyers. Sometimes (gasp) I yell at my kids. I am not perfect—not even close. But my life is full of much that I love.
“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
I love this quote by Maya Angelou. It is true in so many ways. Because, really, my life is not that much different from yours. Yes, I have to squeeze in social worker visits, CASA visits, lawyer visits, and family visits. No, my kids can’t sleep in bunk beds. But we laugh and joke and play and fight and cry . . . just like you. I stress out about fevers and schedules and teachers and money . . . just like you. We run to daycare and school and chorus and basketball and wonder whether we are doing too much . . . just like you. And at the end of the day, I fall into bed exhausted but knowing that I have done my best. Knowing that I have loved well . . . just like you.