I became a foster parent because I love children. Ive worked with children my entire career and when my last career felt like it was coming to an end, I decided to foster. Have you ever became bored and unfulfilled with work? Me too! But there were a few things that I did not consider about fostering. For instance, I didn’t consider the long nights, the children that didn’t want to love, or the parents that would not assist in emotional support for their children.
I was twenty-three when we got our first placement. Two little girls who were siblings, ages four and four months old. I will never forget how scared we all were. I was afraid to make a mistake because I was fresh out of my foster parent classes and everything was still very fresh in my mind. It seemed like it was very easy to make a mistake because there are so many rules and specific ways to do things. I was also afraid because I wasn’t sure how to care for them or what their needs were. What I realized is that everyone will raise their children differently, so trying to comfort children who are not yours will not always bring comfort to them. This was a hard reality to come to terms with because it seemed like the kids hated me. I kept trying because I understood why they were afraid. I knew I was a great person, but the kids had no clue and it was up to me to prove it to them.
During my foster care classes I learned that the first night was typically hard because it is the first time that the children would get a chance to understand what happened during the day. In one day, they are taken away from their families, taken to a receiving home to be checked out and then placed with a stranger in a strange home. This is a lot for anybody, but for children it must seem like the entire world is coming to an end. The sad thing is, it is true! Life as they knew it is over and they have to fit into a world they had no clue existed.
Our First Night
The first night was not as bad as I thought it would be. The baby girl slept in a bedside crib in our room and her sister slept in my daughters room in her extra bed. We had a room setup for the girls, but because it was the first night for all of us, we thought we’d be better safe than sorry. Besides, my daughter and the little girl were around the same age and they were almost instant best friends. This was something we didn’t think would happen right away but it helped me build a bridge between myself and the little girl because she was more open with my daughter about her needs. Children typically trust other children before they trust strange adults. So, having my daughter be around her age really did comfort her. Apart of the reason why she felt comfort is because children tell each other the truth and they are not usually trying too hard to impress them. I think she picked up on that around bed time.
Once I got her ready for bed and read a bedtime story, the little girl finally spoke to me. She asked me if her mommy was on her way to pick her up. I did my best to explain to her that her mommy could not pick her up and that she had to stay with us for a little while, while the adults sort everything out. The look in her eyes said that she knew she wasn’t going home, but she still needed confirmation. She wasn’t sad or afraid, she was more understanding than I thought she would be. She nodded her head and laid down to sleep. I turned off the lights and went to bed. I didn’t sleep well because I was expecting a meltdown once the house became dark. But, silence! I waited an hour, and then two hours and by midnight I had fallen asleep sitting up in bed. The baby did not wake up for a night feeding, the little girl did not wake up or cry all night. Everything I learned was not true at this point. My mind wondered about all the things I learned about in my foster care classes. All of those bad first nights everyone had, and all of the work I expected to do. I was so ready to be up all night that when that didn’t happen I was almost sad.
I woke up feeling accomplished! Everybody made it to the next morning. For some strange reason, maybe because I read to many stories or watched to much TV, but i thought the children would run away while I was sleeping. Could you imagine? The first night responsible for providing a better life and the children run away? I over reacted a lot, right? There probably isn’t many children under age five running around with their four month old sister in the dark of night. But I made up this entire scenario in my head that i was sure would play out. Thank goodness it did not, but the what-ifs and the unknowns are still scary.
My point is, don’t allow the fears of what-ifs stop you from changing or saving a life. Yes, there are so many different things that come into play when you decide to become a foster parent. But the benefits do out weigh the potential issues. I had to keep in mind that children are taught not to trust strange adults and that they have a right to be afraid of all of the changes. I also learned that there isn’t a perfect child for this type of scenario. And that children are able to make adjustments once you build a trusting, genuine bond with them. I am happy with my decision to foster. I have so much love to give and I am happy that I found my passion. Do you want to become a foster parent? What’s stopping you from starting the process?