Fostering. What does fostering mean to me?
Can I start out by being 100% brutally honest and say that I can throw everything I thought about fostering/adopting out the window! Why do I say that? I don’t say it to scare anyone, but if we don’t have a healthy fear of the things in life then are we really living? How did I know I wanted to foster/adopt? When did I finally begin fostering, and when did fostering become an adoption? I hope to answer some questions that anyone thinking of fostering a child might have.
I had always known since I was a young girl that I wanted a large family. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted a huge challenge, but did I realize then what that challenge was. I can truly say that I had zero clue. Let’s be real, who truly understands much at that age? We all know we believe in something, but don’t really have purpose for it yet. So, you start doing little things to try figure life out.
Around the age of 11 I remember babysitting neighborhood kids for extra money. During high school I began working in daycares, working at amusement parks, and tutoring special education children. I spent the majority of my summers as a camp counselor for 4H camps and bible camps. I wanted to ensure that all children (especially those with special needs) could enjoy as much normalcy as possible.
Straight out of high school I got pregnant with my daughter. My pregnancy was hectic and problem ridden, and nothing less than stressful. I got married shortly after and surprisingly found out I was pregnant again. Sadly, at the same appointment I found out I was pregnant, I found out that we had lost our baby we never even knew I was carrying. Given the already troubling times this devastated us. After much discussion, time and healing, we together carefully planned to try again and I got pregnant with my son.
Following the birth of our son and some unforeseen troublesome times, military lifestyle, unrecognizable differences and overall stress of life, my husband and I decided to divorce.
A few years later I met my second husband, we had talked from the beginning of wanting to have a family together, he was a wonderful role model to my two biologic
al children. We discussed adopting, fostering, and even the potential of having our own; he was always supportive. About 2-3 years into our marriage, we decided that with the help of doctors we were ready to try for our own. We were heartbroken to hear that instead of trying to conceive, that I should get a hysterectomy due to unforeseen medical issues. So here I am… here we are… newly married, extremely excited to have a large family and have our own child together and in in a single moment you get news that you have to have a hysterectomy…at the age of 26. I would never be able to experience the ups and downs of pregnancy, the feeling of a child kick, or the rewarding feelings of birthing a child ever again. This changed me completely. My husband who had no children of his own, although great to my biological children, wanted the joy and experience of parenthood with his own children. Something I couldn’t give him any longer. Needless to say, my marriage suffered greatly and we divorced.
I met a guy who had 7 children. 3 of his own, 2 placed with him through the state, 1 through marriage and 1 he called his son although it was his friends son, he spent more than 50% of his time in his care. I fell in love with not only him but the children I had, at this point, only heard about. To see a man single handily take care of and call 7 children his.What woman wouldn’t fall knowing he could so unselfishly commit to that kind of lifestyle? Then we added in my two and we had 9 kids total. WOW! 9 kids and my heart was as full as ever! I was ecstatic to even have the opportunity to be a part of something so special. It tested me in every way possible but I felt love for 7 beautiful children that weren’t mine and loved them as equally as my own. This chapter of my life ended just as the others did. Surprise. However, I got to spend 2-3 year assisting with and raising such amazing children and have been blessed to get to continue being their lives as much as possible.
In 2013 I ventured back into single mom life and decided to spend time focused on MY life. I poured myself into my children, my sanity and began to find myself. I became stronger and focused on building a solid future. I spent roughly two years soul searching, finding my callings, my drive, narrowing my goals and figuring out who and what I was supposed to be.
What I was destined to do really sunk when one night we were unloading the car from a trip and I noticed someone pull up to the house. A child got out, crying, ran up to the house and asked for my daughter. I immediately recognized this sweet girl as a close friend to my daughter. She frantically began explaining that she was in state custody and was needing a placement. I immediately lost control of my emotions, looked up at the sky and remembering mouthing “Nice joke Sir!”. I spent so much time bouncing back and forth with my thoughts of whether or not I could foster, should I foster, what would this mean for me and my family?
I spent 3 long months in classes, gaining certifications, getting background checks, my life was dissected but it was worth it when I became a TN State Licenses Resource Parent/Foster Parent.
I began receiving the first of many, many, babies and children who would rest their heads in our home. They would find peace, safety, warmth, and nothing but love. My home was a home where they would and could make mistakes and not be judged or punished. They were met with patience and understanding. The now lived in a home where someone truly wanted to be a part of their lives, where their journey and experience meant something, where they would be set up for success an pushed to follow their dreams.
Never in a million years could I even begin to scratch the surface of the emotions that followed through. I never even knew these emotions existed. The abundance of love and the type of love I developed was unlike anything else I have experience before. I have been called every name under the sun, some bring pain with their calling, but the thanks and appreciation received would melt hearts in 150 different ways. The heart melting is sometimes met with heartache, sadness, and fear. These are the emotions that you would never know existed unless you’ve been there. I’ve had many babies come and an equal number go. I’ve spent many nights questioning myself as to if I am a failure, I’ve felt like these kids who I have grown to love were just ripped out of my loving safe home. I’ve stayed up for countless hours wondering if they are safe, loved and warm as they were here. I’ve cried countless tears for the same reasons.
Fostering is NOTHING like I imagined. I knew I would have to give up my free-time, the partying days were over, my time was no longer my time and it sure as heck wasn’t close to being manageable. I’ve spent more nights in hospitals, talking to the police, dealing with a DCS case workers, therapy, education classes and family visits that I ever thought was possible.
Why do I do it? I’ve heard words come out of 9 & 10 year old mouths that they should never even have to hear, I’ve seen the anger expressed from them that they can’t even begin to understand what that feeling is they are expressing, I’ve seen kids so upset because they just want to be understood and feel wanted by someone. My calling was to be that “someone”.
Is it worth it? Absolutely! I get asked constantly why I do what I do and the effects it has on not only my life but the lives of my children.
What have I learned? I’ve learned to be a better parent. I’ve learned to be a different parent. I’ve learned to see things through the eyes of the children. I’ve learned that relationships will come and go but the love of the children remains.
So, do you think you have what it takes?
Bring your “A” game because there are plenty of people ready to challenge you and you will quickly find out that you need them more then they need you. You’ll feel a different type of completion that compares to nothing else in life we can accomplish and fills our hearts in a sense we can’t even explain…
Learning to love children of many lives we learn to be better parents, better partners, mothers, friends, sisters, daughters…we learn to be overall better people. The reward and benefits of learning to love someone else’s child as your own cannot compare to anything else experience in life. Period.