Friday, October 12, 2012

"Foster Friday" Guest Post - How Foster Care Has Touched Me: Part Two

When I asked for non-foster parent volunteers to share how foster care has touched them for last week's "Foster Friday" Guest Post, I received an amazing response.  I decided to post a "Part Two" for the topic and allow more people to share their stories this week.

Karen (Biological Daughter of Foster Parents and Social Work Major)

     I am the biological daughter of foster parents.  I’m 20 years old, and I am studying social work in university.  I have 3 biological siblings, I’m the second oldest.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved babies, and have wanted another younger sibling.  For years, my little sister and I would beg our parents for a brother or sister, and when they told us it couldn’t happen anymore, we told them “You could adopt!”  Then eventually we learned about fostering - we had friends who fostered, and many of their babies changed our lives forever- particularly one, who our family baby-sat quite frequently.  We eventually succeeded in our attempts, and about a year and a half ago we were opened as a foster family for infants.  It has changed my life. I have gained 2 “sometimes sisters” who are not always in our home, but will forever be in our hearts.  When most people think about fostering, they think about the loss and the grief.  And yes, while those are major parts of fostering, I can’t begin to imagine all the things I would have lost out on had my parents not made the decision to foster.  My parents’ fostering is preparing me for the day when I will hopefully be a mother- hopefully with a handful of foster or adopted kiddos in the bunch.  It’s preparing me for being a social worker one day.

     When I started my first year of university, my family was in the middle of the home study process.  I remember thinking on several occasions that the knives, cleaning supplies, etc. in my dorm at school were not safely stored.  I can’t count how many times I turned pot handles into the middle of the stove without really thinking about it.  When I started my second year, back home was a 5 week old baby girl we had had since she was 36 hours old (we had her until she was 10 months, but still have a great relationship with her and her bio parents, somewhat comparable to Tammy’s relationship with Monkey).  I remember waking up several times in the first few weeks that I was back at school, at about 3am - which is when Piglet would wake up for a feeding.  I remember having several dreams where I was baby-sitting her in my dorm. Then I took my second semester off, and spent time at home - instead of mixing chemicals in a science lab, I was mixing bottles in our kitchen.  Instead of learning about social work in a classroom, I was living it every day - especially as I went with Mom to visits, and as I learned some details of our girls’ cases that allowed me to see how the agencies and government work.  Foster care ruined my future plans - I had wanted to be a doctor, but when I returned to school, I switched to an Honours Social Work Major. 

    I remember this summer, when my sister and I went with my mom to drop our second foster sister, B, off for a visit at her mom and grandma’s.  B’s family lives in city housing, so it was an area of the city where we had never been before. We joked that “you may be a child of a foster parent if you don’t need a passport to travel to other parts of the world”.  Foster care ruined my unrealistic view of the cities around us.  And now, I’m in my last semester of my second year at school, and I can’t wait to get a phone call or text message from my mom telling me that I have a new baby brother or sister back at home. This morning I had a “foster care affects me” moment.  I was in a health psychology class and we were talking about the definition of one alcoholic beverage.  I don’t drink, so when the professor was talking about how many ounces of wine, beer, etc. is considered one drink, in my head I was picturing ounces of formula in a bottle J

     It hasn’t all been great.  I know I begged and prayed for years that my parents would foster, but I didn’t realize that at age 19, it was still possible to have feelings of jealousy when the new baby arrived.  It certainly happened when Piglet came.  I think it was made worse by the fact that she was our first placement, and I was just about to head back to school, so (even if it seems childish) there were times when it felt like I was being “replaced” - Mom was often busy with Piglet, which was nobody’s fault, it just “was”, but it meant that there were often times we’d be talking on the phone and she’d have to go because Piglet needed her.

     If you’re thinking about fostering, but you wonder if it will affect your other kids - it will.  Their “all about me” view of the world will be ruined, and they may need to have more responsibilities around the house (we often help with baby laundry, washing/making bottles, and a whole lot more).  The increased responsibility will probably be good for them.  They will learn new skills (maybe your two year old learns how to be gentle with babies, maybe your sixteen year old learns how to prepare a diaper bag before a visit or day trip).  Yes, they may learn about the big, bad world - including drugs, alcohol, abuse, and neglect. You know what? They’re going to learn about those things one day.  Instead of learning about how “fun” drugs are from some kid at school, maybe your child will learn what a baby born addicted to crack looks like. Yes, fostering may “ruin” your child’s life.  And it probably won’t be a bad thing.

     You can follow our journey as we “love them like we’ll have them forever, knowing we probably won’t”, over at

Anne (Foster Care Gave Me My Family)

     First of all, I have always wanted children.  There was never a time in my life when I didn’t want to be a Mom.  When I was 8 years old, I was diagnosed with a rare Chromosomal abnormality that resulted in my being infertile.  Since I was so young when I was diagnosed, I didn’t really understand or think about the implications of this for many years.  As a teenager, I babysat frequently, so I could get my “baby fix.”  In college, I was busy doing the college thing (partying, even sometimes studying J) and didn’t think too much about having children then, I knew I wasn’t ready.  When I did think about it, it was in kind of a vague way. I knew I probably could not get pregnant, but I wasn’t positive.  I knew I wanted children, but I didn’t think too much at that time how I would get them.  

     It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I really became serious about becoming a Mom.  I knew by this time that I would not be able to have a baby biologically.  I loved the idea of adopting, but felt that it was out of my reach financially, and that I’d never get approved as a single parent.  It was also at this time that I had a job working with children in the Foster Care system.  I would go to their Foster homes and do developmental screenings with them.  I fell in love with these children, and often with the families who cared for them.

     For me, I knew I wanted a child, but I was scared to adopt on my own.  I wasn’t sure I could be a good single parent. So, I decided to become a Foster parent.  Somehow, that seemed like less of a commitment, and less responsibility (not sure how I figured that…???)  I took the Pride classes that the county required, and in April of 2006, I became a licensed Foster parent. 

     I waited eagerly for a placement.  Finally, on June 2nd, while I was at work, I received a call about a new born baby girl who had been born two days earlier and needed to be picked up from the hospital.  They weren’t sure how long she would stay with me, maybe two weeks, maybe 6 months.  I immediately said yes, and frantically ran to Babies R Us to stock up on everything I thought I would need.  Then I went to the hospital and brought home this sweet little girl, who I called “Molly” and of course fell in love with her, and with being a Mom.  I knew she would not be reunited with her mother, so I started to hope that I would be able to keep her.  She ended up staying with me for 6 months, and then went out of state where she was adopted by an amazing, wonderful family that already had Molly’s older brother.  I was devastated when Molly left, but deep down, I knew she was exactly where she was supposed to be.  I knew that I was not Molly’s forever mother.  I grieved for several months, and then decided that I was ready for another child, but this one was going to stay.  I could not say goodbye to another baby.  So I went through the process to get approved to adopt from the Foster Care system.  

     I was officially approved on August 1st, 2007. This time around, I waited even more impatiently for “the call.”  And in early November, it came.  My social worker called to tell me about a 4 month old little girl who had been in a foster home since birth, and needed a pre-adoptive home, since it was likely her parents’ rights would be terminated.  CPS was still providing reunification services with the parents, but the prognosis was poor it would work out.  So I was what the county called a “concurrent placement” - if reunification didn’t happen, then I would get to adopt the baby.  Kind of risky, but I said yes immediately and never looked back.  Two weeks later when I met with the social worker, and she showed me pictures of the baby, I was even more of a goner.  Nothing could have made me say no to taking home this sweet little baby girl.  

     On November 30th, 2007, I finally met my daughter Elizabeth.  Her social worker brought her to my apartment, and my little girl was sound asleep in the car seat in the back of the social worker’s car when I ran out to meet her.  I gathered her up in my arms, and haven’t let go since.  The adoption was finalized on March 4th, 2009.  Elizabeth and I are a little family.  Life is just so much better with her in it.

     Learn more about my family at

Kylee (Foster/Adopt Sibling and Social Work Major) 

     I will always remember the first foster placement that we brought into our home, just two weeks before my 8th birthday. She was only three-months-old and had twelve fractured ribs due to severe abuse. The first time I held her, her ribs popped with each breath she took. She had a huge fear of men, and her big brown eyes grew wide with terror every time someone approached her. I was young and knew very little about physical abuse, but I clearly remember questioning why any parent would hurt his child.

     In my young mind, I tried to imagine the scene that took place on the day she was hurt, based on snippets of information I had overheard our caseworker tell my mom. I tried to imagine an 18-year-old father who was so mad at his infant daughter that he abused her in such a horrible way. Even in my young mind, I knew this was not fair; I knew she deserved better. I now, years later, know that I was feeling empathy for the injustice this young child was experiencing.

     Throughout the next ten years, we had several young children come through our home from various backgrounds. They all had heart-breaking stories and mothers who loved them, yet often times did not make appropriate life decisions. The world I saw of drug-addicted babies and neglected children is one that motivates me to pursue justice. The statistics are mortifying, but when those bleak numbers are children whom I loved, cared for, and grew up with, that passion is even greater.

     One area of foster care that impacted me greatly was the parent visits and opportunity to meet the families of my foster siblings. It is really easy to love an abused baby, but meeting her family on Christmas day, so that they can celebrate the holiday with her, is much harder. As a child and teenager, it was so easy for me to judge these families because of the way they had hurt the children I had grown to love. I have struggled over and over again with forgiveness. As I work through these feelings, I am reminded of the deep love these parents have for their children, despite the way their lifestyle portrays that love. These encounters I often had with the biological families softened my heart and gave me greater empathy toward many areas of the social system.

     So here I am, sitting in my dorm room with a Social Welfare Policies midterm hanging over my head, and the steps of a client assessment cycling through my brain. My motivation is based off of the love I have for my many foster siblings, and the four young siblings who were adopted into our family…the children I now know as my forever siblings. Through this career path, I desire to pursue justice by advocating for the rights of children and vulnerable people and populations. I believe that if those who are oppressed can have a voice speak up for them, then vast changes can happen for the bettering of our society.

     Follow my journey at Learning to Abandon 

Nana (My Mommy and Best Nana Ever in My Completely Impartial and Unbiased Opinion ;-) -

     Ever since my daughter Tammy was a teenager she has wanted to be a mom.  She has always been great with kids and loved being around them so it didn't come as a surprise to me when she reached adulthood and she said that wanted to adopt her children one day.  Though the idea of being a mom has always been #1 in her mind the idea of pregnancy and giving birth was definitelty NOT something that appealed to her.
     As Tammy got into her 30s she started investigating what her adoption options would be.  Trying to adopt as a single person ( unless you are a rich celebrity) is almost impossible!  She has a good, steady job but, unfortunately, doesn't have an extra $25000+ to put towards the possiblity of an adoption!  So she started investigating the foster to adopt option.  After much thought and prayer she decided this was her chance to be a mother.

     I have to be honest and say that I had very mixed feelings about Tammy becoming a foster parent.  I didn't know that much about CPS and the whole foster care program.  The few things I did know scared me to death!  What condition would the children come to her in?  How can she ever give the baby back if the situation was temporary?  There is NO WAY!!!  How can MY child who has so much love and devotion to give a child put herself in that situation?  I can't stand the thought of my child having her heart broken.  So many things went through my head and I was filled with fear.
     When Tammy said she wanted to take the required classes to get her license to be a foster parent she was nervous about going alone so I volunteered to take the classes with her.  Anyone who knows me knows that I have always done whatever I can do to help and make my kids dreams come true.  I also knew that I would have to take some of the classes to be an approved respite care provider for her if and when she got her child.  The classes were hours and hours of information and, to be honest, filled with a lot of stories meant to scare the prospective foster parents out of doing foster care.  If I had been considering doing foster care myself it would have worked!  But Tammy wanted this so much and she wasn't deterred.
     It took months for her first placement to arrive.  When the caseworker arrived with an 11 month old little girl "with a broken leg in a cast"  my heart fell through the floor!  The poor baby was in a full body cast from under the armpits to her feet!  There was no way Tammy would be able to care for the little thing!  After days and nights of sitting up holding the baby Tammy told them she couldn't do it.  She has learned a lot since then about the fact that if they misrepresent the case to you you dont have to accept it. 
     Then Tammy got the call for a little 7 month old boy that totally changed our lives.  Booger made a giant leap into my heart the moment they carried him through the door!  OMG!  He was just the sweetest thing you can imagine.  Little toothless grin.  I took him into the bedroom while they were filling out the paperwork and I was hooked.  He was MY grandchild from that moment forward.  AND the caseworkers told Tammy that they were pretty sure that he would have parental rights terminated and she would be able to adopt him!  As most of you know that didn't happen.  The most devestating time in our lives was when Tammy went to court and they told her THAT DAY that Booger was going to live with his Daddy immediately!  We were to have no contact after that.  She didn't even get to say goodbye to him.  I have never felt such a feeling of loss in my life and having to see the pain that my daughter went through is something I never want to see again (even though I'm sure I will at some point). 
     We didn't have any contact with Booger for about 6 months but then we were reunited with him AND his new little family and now we love them as much as him.  So this story has a good ending.  I'd love to say that it wipes out all of the pain from that time but I can't honestly say that.  Because of the way that Booger was taken so suddenly it has really put a fear in me.
     Tammy had two baby sisters for a few weeks and I really didn't get the chance to know them well or get as attached to them.  They were placed with their father and grandmother pretty quickly.  But during the time that she had the older girl the transformation was amazing!  You could tell the little thing had been neglected and didn't trust people.  She didn't smile.  By the time she left she was laughing and was in love with Tammy. 
     Then just a few weeks after my other daughter had the Mini Munchkins Tammy called and said she was getting a 2 month old baby boy!  Crazy, crazy timing!  I was so busy helping with the baby twins and the big twins that for most of the first year I didn't get to spend much time with Monkey at all.  Of course I suffered from tremendous Mama Guilt because I knew that Tammy needed my help but there is only so much Nana to spread around!  So I lived with a huge feeling of Nana Failure.  Because I hadn't had the time to spend with Monkey I really didn't bond with him as much as I would have otherwise.  I loved him but I just hadn't been with him as much.  The strange thing is that I didn't bond UNTIL he went back to live with his daddy!  At that time we worked out a plan for me to watch Monkey 3 mornings a week so his daddy could get some sleep since he works nights.  That has given us time to really get to know each other.  Monkey is an awesome little guy and very funny.  We have now "bonded."   But I have to admit I'm still terrified of the day when Monkey's daddy will decide he doesn't need our help anymore and I pray that he won't take him and disappear from our lives.
     I haven't admitted it to many people but I still have a huge fear of the foster care system.  I'm so proud of Tammy for being the wonderful mom that she is and giving these little ones all of her love without holding back.  People don't understand how hard it is being a foster family.  Knowing that you are opening yourself up for heartbreak that can come at any time.  But when you hold these little ones and they give you those sweet slobbery baby kisses and hugs it is so worth it.  I will say that I'm still praying that the day will come when Tammy will get to adopt and we will never have to say goodbye.  But I also know that God has called Tammy to be a Mom to as many children as she can.  Even if it is only for a short time and I will be their Nana and love them, too.

(My mom's a blogging slacker over at Nana's Notes ;-)

*** Foster care touches everyone...  Whether you work with someone who foster, work with children in care, volunteer as a CASA, or are simply inspired by a fostering family or foster youth.  Ultimately, we are all connected in some way through these children who need us.  How has foster care touched your life? ***


Anne said...

Thanks so much for includig my story!

Carrie said...

Loved this series!

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