Foster care surprises me at every turn.
You know what surprises me most – what I would never have expected? The relationship we have with Zoe’s* family.
Last week Zoe’s mom had one of her regular weekly visits with Zoe and her sisters, but this time it was at our house. When I arrived to pick her up, she had ingredients for a meal packed in grocery bags ready to cook for her kids when she got here. The little girls were dropped off by their foster mom and quickly ran outside to play with my son while their mom cooked and chatted with Zoe at the kitchen island.
I came and went from the kitchen as I worked on my own Saturday tasks. Zoe’s family doesn’t need supervision, just a comfortable place to gather. After eating and playing, Zoe’s family watched a movie together with some of my kids joining in. There were a few tears when it was time for the little girls to leave.
Later in the week, we moms sat in the car watching our daughters at track practice, Zoe tentatively running hurdles and Claire practicing pole vault plants for the first time. We talked about being teens ourselves, and running, and addiction, and about our girls. We made plans to go to the first track meet together later this week.
This is not what I thought foster care would look like.
Mind you, I knew nearly nothing about foster care when we embarked on this journey. We were recruited one evening nine months ago and have done everything pretty much backward.
I thought we would be nearly anonymous to our foster daughter’s family; they wouldn’t know our last name or have our phone number. They definitely wouldn’t know where we live.
I’m fully aware that some families aren’t safe for children; that’s why the kids are in foster care. I’m also aware that children land in foster care for many reasons, some of those being addiction, a cascade of bad decisions, incarceration, abuse, and the list goes on.
Many parents, with support, treatment, education, and other resources can turn their situation around and become healthy parents for their children.
Not all – I can see some of you saying, not even many. I know I’m the new foster mom on the block and maybe I’ll be writing a very different post a few years from now, but I want to hope for the very best for moms, dads, and kids.
Once they’re reunified, these families need a lot of support. Regaining custody of their children is only the beginning. We need to wrap around them giving them the help they need to press on.
Parenting is a hard task – right? It was very hard for me when my children were little and there were so many needs.
And you know what? I had a husband who came home every single night. He earned an income and provided a home for us. He never hurt me. He never hurt our kids. He didn’t abandon us or bring dangerous people into our home. He didn’t abuse drugs or alcohol. I didn’t fear homelessness or wonder if I could feed my children.
I have not experienced what so many of these parents have lived through. The wounds they carry, the suffering of their own childhoods, is likely more than we can imagine.
Let’s be open-hearted foster parents. We can be part of their team as they work toward reunification, and if it isn’t possible, we can still have compassion, extend kindness, and support them if possible.
We live in a world filled with broken, hurting people. Let’s find the points of connection wherever we can and build on them.
[*Zoe is the nickname our foster daughter chose to use on my blog. ]