foster care

Weekend Warriors

Before becoming insta-family of 5 or insta-mommy to 3, we had Fiona on weekends only. We started with every other weekend. We’d make it an event. We did the water park, the playground, the library, the mall play area when it rained all weekend long. We went to festivals and farmer’s markets. We had a lot of fun but I worried that Fiona would think it was all fun in our household.

The first few overnights, there were tears each and every night. She’d cry herself to sleep.

She needed to be dressed. She couldn’t dress herself, put her socks on or her shoes. Every little detail required help. She didn’t flush the toilet. She didn’t turn lights off. She didn’t close doors.

Nag, nag, nag, nag. . .

She and Mason fought for our attention. They’d be by my side constantly. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Yes- Fiona called us Mommy and Daddy immediately because we were Mason’s “Mommy and Daddy.” Some think that’s wrong, but as far as Mason understood, women were Mommys and men were Daddys.

Joe and I had a push – pull argument. Should we take Fiona? Is it too hard? Can we handle 3? The answers in order: yes, yes, no.

We went to a local festival with a friend and her two year old. We were getting food for five, pushing a stroller through gravel, and trying to find a picnic bench in the shade when I turn around and realize Fiona was missing. It was the longest ten minutes of my life. At that point, Fiona couldn’t say our first names- never mind our last, or a phone number. We had no proof she was our child or in our custody. I ran around screaming her name at the top of my lungs. A mother wound up bringing her back to us (Joe was standing in one place with the stroller.)

That was the exact point when I realized I was attached. I got down on her level, held her shoulders, and told her teary eyed never to do that again. She scared me.

After that, I think she attached too. I really became Mommy.

Another thing, after that I put laminated index cards in their pockets with my name and phone number. . . just in case!


Foster Parenting Classes/Trainings

Foster parenting classes may be called PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education) or MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting). It’s usually about thirty hours, requires homework and while that is going on, you fill out loads of forms, have background checks run, fill out more paperwork, get references, pay stubs, more paperwork, evaluate relationships and judge the other potential foster parents when you are supposed to be networking. Everyone has their own reasons for signing up.

People generally either want to adopt out of foster care or they are there to foster only. If one wants to adopt, they can adopt a child or sibling group that already has there parental rights terminated and are waiting for an adoptive home. These children are generally older and have issues. There is the foster to adopt option. This is risky for the foster parent because they are expected to support reunification with the child’s biological parents or may face the child going to an unexpected relative’s house. Foster parents may fall in love and lose the child or children. This risk is drilled into you at the PRIDE/MAPP classes. By the end, the classes are not as full. We went from ten families in the beginning of those meetings to seven at graduation. I know of one other family who stopped fostering after their first placement (Foster Child) had to be removed due to behavioral issues.

Foster to adopt is more complicated than people expect. The number one reason people say they won’t foster is “I could never do that. I get too attached!” Yet, attachment is what these kids need. They are pulled away from the only family they’ve known, a life that is normal and they need to learn to trust again. As a foster parent, you are there to help them heal. Isn’t that more important than the heartbreak you may go through. I’ve survived a lot of heartbreak, and I can do it again for this little person.

There are others who are there to simply foster. They may be older adults, families with space in their houses and their hearts, people who want to give back and even a few who want a few dollars. (On a side note, there are tons of easier ways to make money! The tiny stipend they provide does not cover the adequate care of a child never mind leave enough for a profit!) They aren’t in it for adoption or growing their family, but want to help families heal. At least two members of different families in our classes were former foster children themselves.

We wanted a family, but were absolutely willing to support reunification. As a foster parent, you have a can have a strong role in teaching the biological parents better ways.  Some may say you foster the whole family.

We bought bunk beds, fire extinguishers, special locks, and prepared our house, and ourselves. Joe was working 70-80 hours a week and I was doing 50-60. I figured I’d do all the errands and we’d figure it out.