I can't believe it's 2011, and I am entering my 3rd year as a licensed foster parent. Looking back, it's exciting to see how much I've changed since I first began this journey. Don't get me wrong... It's been six weeks since the girls went home to live with their daddy, and I am missing Little Miss like crazy and praying that they are okay. And I am most definitely experiencing the full effects of "Foster Pregnancy" yet again as I wait for a new placement. I doubt that will ever go away. Waiting is a booger! But the longer I do this, the more I can feel my heart and mindset evolve into something I actually really like.
You see, like so many people, I went into foster care with the hope of adopting. With my first two placements, I had such high hopes of being able to make them a permanent part of my family. I was even told that might be possible with the Booger, so when that didn't happen, I was devastated. Completely. Totally. Devastated. I took a few months "off" and tried to regroup, collect my thoughts, get a handle on my emotions, and decide just what was most important to me. I prayed a lot. And the answers that I received sort of took me by surprise.
My "answered prayers" came in many forms. I think the first was when I finally made the firm decision to switch agencies. I had been postponing it because it meant having to start all over again with the training classes and trusting the "unknown," but I was having so many problems with my first agency that I decided it was going to be worth it. And it absolutely was! From the very first contact that I had with my new little (and I do mean "little" as there are only two employees in this particular office :-) agency, I could tell that they genuinely cared... Not just about the children, but also about the foster parents. As I went through all of the classes again, I began to realize that my mindset was different this time around. I wasn't thinking about adoption much at all, but only about fostering the little ones who needed me. Yes! I absolutely would love the opportunity to adopt one or more of my little ones, but that thought has taken a backseat to me simply wanting to be there for as many kids as possible.
Around the time that I was changing agencies and doing all of my training, I received another big answer to my "What am I meant to do, God?" prayers. It was the Booger Bear's 2nd birthday, and I emailed his daddy to let him know that I had put together a baby book for him. I told him that I was glad that the Booger was going to celebrate his birthday with his family this year because they weren't able to be together last year. I hadn't had any contact with them in months, so I wasn't really sure how he was going to react. To my pleasant surprise, over the next few weeks the Booger's dad, new mommy, and I began to develop an actual friendship.
In the months since, the Booger's parents have blessed me so much by allowing me and my family back into his life. Enough time has passed so he doesn't remember the time that he lived with me, but he knows that I love him and that I'm someone special. I love that he will just out of the blue say, "I love you, Tammy!" Being able to watch him grow up... To see how much his parents love him... To see how hard they are working to make a great life for him and his soon-to-be new baby sister... I feel like this is God's way of saying, "You see, Tammy... You helped to make this possible." It's being able to see first-hand that foster care does work, and I really needed to see that. I honestly think that even if I never know how any of my other babies are doing, it will be okay. Because I've seen with this little, young family that anything is possible. That love really does go a long, long way... and that when these parents genuinely do love their children, they will do whatever it takes to make it work.
I've felt so many changes in me over the past several months, and that became very obvious when Little Miss came to me. I fell completely in love with that little girl from the moment she came through my door. I felt the same love for her as I did with my other babies, but that immediate thought of, "This could be my baby!" wasn't there anymore. My heart went from "This could be my child!" to "I love this little girl, and I want to help her, comfort her, love her, and teach her for as long as they'll let me." Another one of God's answers to my prayers... God sent me a little girl who needed me more than any of my other kids up to that point.
In the six weeks she was with me, Little Miss went from being a silent, completely self-soothing, scared little 11-month-old to a happy, funny, flirty little thing who soaked up every bit of love and attention that she got from me and the people around us. She was excited about learning new things. She began to trust that I would actually comfort her when she was upset, and that she didn't need to do it herself. When she left my home to go live with her daddy, she had learned how to trust and how to love. And from what I know of her situation, her daddy loves her and wants her very much. I can only hope that what she learned from me in those six weeks helped her to transition into her daddy's home and life a little easier. Watching as that little girl opened up and completely blossomed was just another confirmation that what I am doing does make a difference.
Yes, I'll admit it. I got the old, "Hello!?!? McFly?!?" from God. I don't think I need to ask Him any more what I'm supposed to do. :-) As much as it hurts sometimes, and as frustrating as things get, I know I am doing what I was meant to do. If I'm ever given the opportunity, I know I would adopt one of my little ones in a heartbeat. But that's not my focus anymore. These babies and their parents need people like me who are willing and able to be there for them when they need someone the most. Foster care works. I've seen it firsthand. And if I can help another family come together, or teach another frightened little baby how to trust, it's all worth it.