Foster parents, we wish they didn’t have to exist but we are so glad they do.
If you look up the word foster, it has two major definitions. 1. To encourage the development of something (or someone in this case). 2. To raise a child you did not give birth to. I found that interesting because a good foster parent does both: they raise a child they didn’t give birth to, and they encourage and nurture the development of that child.
Why do I wish foster parents didn’t exist? Well in a perfect world parents would not only give birth but raise their own children with love and care, looking after their physical, emotional and mental needs. In such a world kids wouldn’t have to be protected from their own parents, and have the trauma of being removed from such ones.
Aren’t we glad that since we aren’t in that perfect world, that some good hearted people exist to help fill in that gap? To fill the void of those parents and offer the care and nurturing these children need to exist and thrive. With that said, I know not all foster parents are good or safe so this is dedicated to those good ones.
I met a woman who fostered children for some thirty years, who is now retired. She and her husband volunteered to help an infant whom they were told would only survive a few months, and as time went on this child continued to thrive and lived for some nine years! This child required a lot of extra care to live even those nine short years and so with this extra experience they didn’t plan on, they were able to care for many foster children with serious disabilities. They sold their comfortable log cabin home to build a custom home to suit children with these disabilities out of the kindness of their hearts. I was baffled to hear their story and yet I know they are not alone.
While raising her own young children (and even being forced to look after her younger siblings after her parents left them), my maternal grandmother became a foster mom. She, to this day is very much a natural nurturer. She told me one simple story of a little boy, about two years old who was so afraid of taking a bath because of the abuse he received (among his mistreatment included scolding hot baths, which naturally left him terrified). He would not even let her undress him. What she did was told her two boys to climb in the bath and play and let the little boy see how safe it was and instructed them that if the boy should want to climb in, to let him, even in his clothes. After a while observing the older boys having fun and happy in the bath, he gave it a try himself, and he never gave her any issues about bath time ever again.
It was such a simple story, but it highlighted to me the love and careful thought that has to go into raising children not your own. These are children who come with baggage, left with trauma and extra fears, perhaps FAS/FASD, attachment disorders, mental health struggles or possibly some serious health concerns. These foster parents take on more than your fair share, and have to be prepared to say goodbye at any given time. It can be heartbreaking.
I myself, along with my one younger sister was in foster care. My foster parents were my aunt and uncle. They had been approved as foster parents, so when my sister and I were taken from our home by children’s aid- they naturally placed us with them. I can’t imagine two teenagers would be easy to take on, especially as they were trying to grow a family and learn to take on new foster children whom they would later adopt and yet they did. They took us on without question, and provided that care and nurturing after the initial shock of leaving our old home behind.
I observed in their home, infants, toddlers and children who would come for a weekend as a respite or for several months with each their own unique struggles. I would help sing them to sleep and give them bottles… I found myself attaching to each of them, learning to love and accept these new figures in my life and then have to watch them leave.
I’ll never forget a little blonde curly haired boy named Tristan. Anxiously attached, he had such strong separation anxiety, making it so difficult to do simple chores like the dishes while watching him. There was something about his sweet little way that I loved, and then he was approved to live with his grandparents and left.
In time as my aunt and uncle were growing a family of their own, it was then that another couple volunteered to take us on. Our time with them helped prepare us for the final stage of childhood, to venture out on our own. Simple tasks like how to prepare dinner, keep a job, be responsible with money and looking after a home seem so small and yet without them where would we be? They took the time to teach us these valuable lessons all the while loving us, sacrificing for us and enduring the crazy outbursts from my mother when she found out where they lived.
I so appreciate the ones who make these sacrifices, who learn to love and nurture children who are not their own. It takes a special sort of person to take on this huge undertaking. I’m thankful for the fostering I’ve experienced, the fostering my little brothers are experiencing right now, and for all the rest.