Becoming a foster parent for me was probably like becoming a birth parent, minus the labor pains. We also had to take some classes about the legalities and some of the vagaries of fostering.
When they put Michael into my arms, all I could do was marvel at that beautiful 2 week old baby. Then I got some major fears. How stupid are these people at the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)?! I didn’t know a thing about raising a baby! What was I going to do? Diapers, bottles, formula, feedings and sleep deficit were going to become my new realities. I suspect that these are some of the same fears that birth parents experience too.
During the classes, all I could think of was loving on a child. They talked about attachment disorders, dealing with birth parents, and managing to stay detached enough to be able to let them go back. Really? Of course I can do that! Well, after having Michael for only 2 weeks, there was no way that I was going to be able to just give him back without some major crying on my part! How can a mom NOT get attached to a child?
I see now that it isn’t just about raising and loving a child, there are so many more parts to a foster child’s life. There are court appearances, which can be very intimidating with all the lawyers, case workers, and judges. It probably took me a couple of years to learn the terms of court. Adjudication, emergency placements, permanency, guardian ad litem, shelter care hearings, and dispositional hearings and just some of the terms that as a foster parent you really need to learn. A foster parent needs to understand everything that they can about the birth family, to help the child adjust.
When a foster child is a baby, they do not really care about court appearances and what the judge is saying. When a foster child is a bit older, they might not want to know about how their life is being decided by someone who doesn’t even know them. By 10 years old, you better believe they want to know how the adults in their lives are screwing things up. The birth parent’s rights seem to be more important than the child’s rights. And it is up to the foster parent to be able to explain all of this to the child.
I didn’t know anything about parenting in general, much less fostering. Was I scared? You bet your life I was, but God was handling everything exactly the way it was supposed to go.
Every foster care experience is different. Some are young, stupid people with no parenting experience, like me. Others have children, so have parenting knowledge. Some are older and are more like foster grandparents, and some unfortunately do it for the money.
Bob and I had 9 foster children and were blessed to adopt 3. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! It’s scary, funny, a lot of hard work, rewarding, and I bet the same as any other parent.