Foster Mom: Opening Our Home To Kids In Need Changed My Family Forever


”I think we should become foster parents.

When I first made that statement to my husband, he looked at me like I had suddenly sprouted a third eye in the middle of my forehead. We had been considering expanding our family through adoption for some time, but foster care had never occurred to him. Adoption had always interested me but this was a new avenue that I wanted us to consider. When he realized that I was serious, he grinned and said, ”What do we need to do?”

I made a phone call to our local Department of Children’s Services and we were on our way.

In our state, you are required to take a series of classes over the course of six weeks to become a certified foster parent. These classes seemed to never be in the same town twice or anywhere near us for that matter. With two school-aged kids, two full time jobs, my chronically ill in-laws that needed our help and very little down time, this was going to be quite the undertaking. We got our work schedules set, babysitters booked weeks in advance, and dove into the deep end of the pool.

We had done our own research about how kids get into foster care but were not prepared for some of the subjects we had to cover during our classes. Horrific stories of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, extreme neglect and severe trauma that could make a statue weep. Stories that will make you go home and hug your children and be sorry for ever yelling at them for not putting away their shoes. Stories that will make you angry, make you sad, make you sick and wring you out. But it was these stories that made us more determined than ever to trudge on.

When we began our training, we thought, ”We can do this. No problem. It’s just raising kids, right? We can love them through it.”

We were wrong. Oh, so incredibly wrong. It is taking care of kids with love and understanding, but it’s so much more than that. It’s first night jitters with lots of tears. It’s excitement and dread when a placement specialist calls. It’s staying up all night with a crying child and trying to work the next day. It’s trying this food and that food because they won’t or can’t tell you what they want. It’s crying yourself to sleep because you think you’ve made it worse for them. It’s trying to explain to your biological kids why this child is afraid of whatever they’re afraid of without telling too much. It’s taking them to school where they don’t know anyone and worrying about them lashing out, shutting down, or having a meltdown from a trauma trigger. It’s a lot of the same worries you have with your biological kids, but amplified in ways you’d never even considered before.

What we have discovered is that these kids have never had the things that our kids take for granted: a bed, food, clothes, school and family. A trip to McDonalds is awesome. Going to the beach is mind-boggling. Shoe shopping at Target is incredible. May kids have never had parents that could take care of and provide for them. Others have parents that beat them. Starve them. Sell them to the highest bidder. They don’t know what a ”˜normal life’ is like and to us, that’s the very definition of tragedy. A tragedy that we can help to stop and repair.

We have been called saints, angels, wonderful people, and gods among men. Really, we are just people who wanted to help kids and see our family grow, just like most of the other foster families that we know. We wanted to expand our family and we have. Though some aren’t in our house anymore, they will always be our kids. They came to us terrified, broken, unsure of what’s coming next. They are left with strangers, very often with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Their whole world has been ripped apart and all they want is to go home. It’s our job to make them feel safe and loved. That’s all any kid wants; a firm foundation, solid ground on which to stand, and someone who won’t quit.

This experience has made us better parents, better spouses and better friends. It’s made us more conscious of the evils of the world and the sicknesses that are in it and how they can rip families apart. We know things that we had never considered and have heard a lot of things that we hope we never hear again. The one lesson that has stuck out the most for me is the strength of the small people that have been in our home, the power of their spirit, and the determination of their character. These kids are some of the toughest people we have ever met. They’ve survived rape, having their teeth knocked out, being burned with cigarettes, starvation, and neglect. Yet they come out on the other side with a resiliency that cannot described with words. These kids are champions.

People often ask us why we do it. Our answer is always, ”Someone has to. Why not us?”

(If you are interested in fostering in your state, please contact your local Department of Children’s Services for more information.)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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