There are few things in life that give you joy like helping someone. Todays guest post will share one of these ways as she unveils the myths and the truths that go along with the joy of giving yourself to take care of a child. The truth about being a foster parent is one that I do not know personally, but our guest poster, Cat, knows it well. I hope that you let this soak in and share her message with others:
While working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit I fell upon fostering, when I met a tiny little boy named Dustin. Dustin, a beautiful baby boy, born at 24 weeks gestation, weighed on 1.5 pounds. He was small enough to fit in our hands and yet our his sweet spirit filled the room. Dustin had no one, except the nurses. No one to visit him, no one to soothe him when he cried, no one to cry harder when he became well enough to go home. Two weeks prior to his departure form the hospital, he had his first visitor… the social worker.
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I’ve said it before, in our story before, but becoming a foster parent is the easy part. It is staying a foster parent that is the hard part. I don’t write this post to deter anyone from becoming a foster parent, because it changed my life for the better and it is the most wonderful thing that we can do for these children. I also don’t just write this for people interested in being foster parents. Fostering is not for everyone, we need allies. We need people who understand what we are going through, even if they have never gone through it themselves. We need to educate others, so the social portrayal of fostering changes.
Foster parents are not in it for the money.
This had to be my first point. Media loves to portray us as money grubbing and self serving individuals. Even modern media. (The new Annie movie for instance). This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although different agencies have different compensation, I can honestly say there are many ways to ‘make’ money that are easier than fostering. I do not make an hourly wage.
Scenario: If I only worked out of the home only a few days a month, I would make far more doing that, than I am given in a month of giving my heart and soul to a beautiful human being. The pay can easily be broken down to show you the ways that it is designated: Clothing, food, school supplies, it’s all listed. None of this is ‘pay’. I’m sure there are exceptions to this point, but I don’t believe there are many.
Fostering is incredibly hard work.
Most of you will agree that being a parent isn’t easy. Imagine if you had a sweet baby that was addicted to drugs, or a four-year-old child who has been neglected for years. Imagine a teenager who has been raising themselves since they were six years old. These are dynamics that no child should have to face, but they do. Foster parents step in and scoop up these forgotten children. And love them.
We love our children… all of them. I have been asked, unfortunately more times than I can count, if I love all my children the same. As an adoptive and foster mother, it breaks my heart to hear this question. Yes, I do. I honestly do. I do not think any differently about my children- whether they be adopted, biological or our foster children. They deserve that. They need that. This is especially true of infants. When we are blessed with babies who need a safe home, they also need to learn attachment. The only way for us to teach attachment is to truly attach ourselves.
Yes, this makes returning them home a very hard process, but this is the only way we can raise healthy children and teach them to become healthy adults.
Sometimes you get more than just the child. Children come with parents, siblings and grandparents. As their foster parents, we are often asked to facilitate visits with family members at a social worker’s office or even in our home, if we feel safe. These visits can be hard on the child and thus hard on the foster parents, watching the child that you now love face a difficult situation. While they prove to be time consuming and inconvenient, they are essential because the ultimate goal is to reunite a child with their family. It may not always be the right choice and it may not always work, but it is the goal.
Ten years ago, when I first entered the world of fostering, I had no idea where it would take me and who it would bring into our lives. I can say that it has been the most challenging and rewarding ride. We have the power to change things.