BY JILL RIPPY
I hear it time and time again. “I really admire you.” “I could never be a foster parent.” “I don’t know how you do it.”
“I wouldn’t be able to give them back.”
Well, yes, you could. You wouldn’t have a choice. What this statement really means is, “It would break my heart to give them back.”
Let’s get real. I really enjoy being a foster mom…most of the time. I love the kids….always. Sometimes it rips my heart out to send them home. Other times I am counting down the minutes. Don’t judge.
To those people who have told me that they “wouldn’t be able to give them back,” you are EXACTLY who we need as foster parents. Don’t fool yourself. You could give them back. It would just be hard. That statement, “I wouldn’t be able to give them back,” tells me that you have a heart and you will fight for what’s right.
Will you experience gut wrenching pain at some point as a foster parent? Without a doubt. Will you worry for YEARS about that one that you lost contact with? Yep. Will you have sleepless nights praying that a child’s parent falls off the wagon so they can go to a pre-adoptive home? Brutal honesty…yes. Will you put on a fake smile and pretend to be friendly to that pedophile or parent who horrifically hurt this child that you have grown to adore? Yes, but only because you have to. Do you want to claw his eyes out, spit in his face and make him hurt as much as he hurt that baby? Yes, but you don’t because A) Your faith tells you that is wrong. B) You will lose your foster license and then where will these kids go? C) Prison sucks. But, that doesn’t mean that you won’t fantasize about it now and then.
“I wouldn’t be able to give them back.” No doubt, you will receive a call for a sweet little child who is still the essence of innocence.
Little Sugar Lump was neglected and Mom and Dad didn’t have enough money to keep the utilities turned on. There was no family to take Little Sugar Lump temporarily. Dad was laid off and Mom has no high school diploma.
They lose Little Sugar Lump until they complete the following:
- Mom obtains her GED and gains employment
- Dad gains employment
- All utilities are on and a clear plan is in place to keep them on.
Mom and Dad clearly love Little Sugar Lump. You have him for 8 months. You clearly love this child. However, he is THEIR child. You MUST give him back. It WILL hurt. But it will hurt them more if they lose him forever. He has a great shot at a good life, in large part, because you planted seeds in him. Hopefully, you have established a good relationship with his parents so you can remain a part of his life.
“I wouldn’t be able to give them back.” Then comes Sour Patch Kid. The one that was hurt over and over again who trusts no one. The tantrums, the tears, the lies, thefts and overall craptastic attitude. She is IMPOSSIBLE to deal with let alone love. You have the same conversation 122 times about the value of showering on a daily basis and 10 reasons why 7 year olds shouldn’t use the F word.
Sour Patch comes with a daily note home from school…on a good day. The worst days have you answering the phone at 9AM apologizing yet again to this gem of a teacher who didn’t realize she needed a social work degree and near correctional officer skills to make it through her day with this ONE child.
Sour Patch’s providers spew phrases like possible Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or maybe it’s Reactive Attachment Disorder, no…Borderline Personality Disorder…let’s settle on treating with “Trauma Informed Care and all of the above.” Feeling defeated, you start thinking…I can’t wait until this one goes home.
You are exhausted. You’ve never worked harder in your life. The emotional roller coaster begins to take its toll. You have that dreaded devil sitting on your shoulder telling you to call DCS and send her back where she came from. You are after all her 5th foster home in three years. Surely, if the others couldn’t handle her, you can’t either.
You wake to her frantically screaming “get off me” at 2 AM and rush to her room certain that you will find an intruder. You yell her name to wake her because you learned the hard way that touching her to wake her ends with a fist swinging at your face. Your voice is desperate to sooth her horrific nightmare as you see her struggle to push that invisible offender off. Then she wakes and as tear soaked eyes meet yours, she reaches out for the only person she feels safe with. Her trembling little body falls to pieces in your arms. Then magic happens. You start to love her. And she starts to see that she needs you. You have not abandoned her like everyone else, no matter how rotten she acts. You finally start to understand. You understand why she is so difficult. You understand why she doesn’t trust. You see her story unfold before you and you realize this child is a gift to you. And you understand that God brought this kid into your life for a purpose.
All the effort and stress is suddenly worth it. Yes, she is a royal crack pain, but she needs you. Right now, at this time of her life, she needs you. She needs to learn what it means to trust someone and what appropriate affection feels and looks like. She needs to learn what anxiety is and that it makes her want to throw tantrums, lie, steal and say the F word. She needs to understand why she is terrified to shower and why she feels the need to control every possible situation. Her reasoning is valid.
Sour Patch Kids are only sour at first. You have to get past the sour to reach the sweet. You count yourself LUCKY to have her. You get to speak truth and light into this child who has been so badly broken and it will give you immense pride in yourself that you did this thing that seemed impossible. You gave of yourself selflessly because her life needed to be enhanced. You will love her deeply, protectively, fearfully and desperately. You never knew you could love someone else’s child so much.
And then you will give her back. And you will feel like someone plunged a knife into your heart. Truth is…as Sour as she is, this one will be the hardest to give back. You will grieve for her, worry about her and pray like never before that she makes it. Your heart will ache and you will wonder why you made this choice to foster. It hurts too much. But, you’ve got this. As bad as it hurts, you can handle it. You have to handle it because these kids need you. You don’t get to be weak. Another foster child will be coming soon and he will need you to be present and strong.
You will have rough patches with EVERY child you foster. It’s not always easy. Patience wears thin. Sometimes your emotions take over and you just need to go scream just to get through the next hour. Then you will get out of the car (because it’s the only place you can scream expletives without your kids or neighbors hearing.) You will compose yourself, go back in the house, put on your calm, happy face and continue saving the world.
96.8% of the time, you will lead a normal, happy life with your foster children. They are, after all, human. But life will get rocky and they will test the boundaries and push you to limits you never knew you had.
“I wouldn’t be able to give them back.” Yes you would. You wouldn’t have a choice. You can handle heartbreak. Now, stop making excuses. Call your local DCS and let’s get started. You have lives to change.
Thank a Foster Parent HERE
Thank a DCS Professional HERE