Before I met my first foster kids, I read all the books and asked all the questions. Still, there were plenty of things about life as a foster mom that nothing could have prepared me for.
I didn’t expect to need answers for “They look just like you!”
I have a confession. The chances of my foster child being a minority were fairly high, and I was excited about that. I had imagined the day that someone would say, “Oh how precious! Where are they from?”, so I could respond with a cheeky, “Umm, North Nashville.”
That wasn’t the case with my kids. Instead, I usually heard, “They really take after you, huh?” Initially, I tried to form a fantastic response, but it didn’t take long to settle into “thank you” if it was all I had time for. I have to say, I kind of loved it.
I didn’t expect to be cussed out regularly by a two year old.
When my little girl showed up with her bouncy blonde curls, she had me wrapped pretty quickly. I imagined spending lots of time reading and snuggling and putting matching bows on tiny pigtails.
I did not imagine that the first discernible words I would hear from her would be “No b****!” or that I would hear them twenty-seven times a day for a while. I thought I might have noticed them at first, but when her big brother mentioned one day, “That’s what Daddy always said,” I knew I heard her correctly. I also grew patience with a long shelf-life.
I didn’t expect to be a hoarder.
I guess you know you’re a foster mom when you hoard beds. I have eight. And three car seats, three boosters, pajamas in every size, and a mini-van. I bought a house three doors down from the day care in our community that accepts the foster care voucher. (Yes, child care is free when foster parents work full-time.) You don’t have to be this obsessed, but sometimes it happens when you’re not looking.
I didn’t expect to need so many sick days.
Kids are always getting sick. If there’s something new going around, you know it, and you’ve got all the pocket-sized sanitizer to prove it.
Imagine nearly everything about your child’s environment suddenly changes: eating habits, schools, clothing, detergent, their whole world. It’s a recipe for disaster. If you’ve been a part of a newly blended family, you can relate.
When my kids first joined me, I got a fever that didn’t break for over a month. My doctor said it’s common for newly combined families. Your immune systems crash and rebuild, and ultimately, you should come out stronger (or so they say).
The moral of the story is this: If you’re going to foster, stock up on lots of sick days or extremely flexible family members.
I didn’t expect to need permission to give them haircuts.
When our immune systems finally decided to act natural, we thought we were in the clear. Then lice happened. Every parent knows that getting on the other side of a lice situation is like parent hazing. But when the hundreds of dollars keep compounding because you can’t trim your son’s thick hair, patience runs thin.
In foster care, you aren’t allowed to make any changes to your children’s hair without permission from their birth parents. You’re probably thinking that sounds extreme. Learn the reason, and you might change your mind.
Imagine you have been longing to see your child again. You’ve been clinging to the image captured in your mind from the last time you saw them. Then you show up at the park for the two hours of visiting time the state has finally granted, and your child, who is already growing like a weed, now looks entirely different than you remember.
It can be frustrating, but it’s one of the few decisions the birth parents still have the right to make, and it’s a right they absolutely deserve.
(By the way, I got the okay from his mother and was quickly on the road to become bug-free!)
I didn’t expect to spend so much time on a landline.
There is a long list of unusual things required in a licensed foster home: fire extinguishers, evacuation routes, lock boxes for medications, and the list goes on. One of those things is a home phone, which I admit I didn’t realize could still be purchased. As it turns out, the phone stayed occupied quite often, though I never learned the number and hardly used it myself.
Did you know that preschoolers are capable of sustaining a phone call? They aren’t. But the state expected mine to make phone calls three times each week, so the home phone stayed covered in sticky fingerprints, and their parents loved hearing the sound of their voice, even if it trailed off as they ran after Daniel Tiger.
I didn’t expect to be so in need of a maternity leave.
I’m thankful that foster placements are covered by FMLA, so that I can spontaneously take leave from work the second new kids come into my life. But did I take it? I spent the weekend playing and arranging childcare, and went straight back to work on Monday, like the conflict-avoiding hero-poser I was.
It only took days, hours maybe, to realize how shoddy my focus had become. Then one day, as I sat and whined over my cup of crappy corporate coffee, my coworker reminded me, “Erin, you basically had triplets and didn’t take a maternity leave!” I scheduled my leave that day.
I didn’t expect to be one of so few.
I realize you don’t meet foster parents every day, but I didn’t expect us to be so rare. I live in a suburb of Nashville, which evidently is now one of the top ten cities to move to in the world. We’ve got music and hot chicken for days. But we are missing the boat for our foster kids. From time to time, kids end up sleeping at DCS offices because there aren’t any homes available. In my county, there are only about forty foster homes. I don’t understand it.
Nationally, there are hundreds of children in state custody who are legally available for adoption through foster care. The lists are sobering—until you consider the church. If just one family out of every two churches adopted a child in foster care, they would all have a family of their own.
If you have a spare bedroom and a little extra emotional bandwidth, consider these kids. Consider this adventure. Consider fostering.
Please leave your thoughts and comments below! Have you considered fostering? Or are you currently fostering? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!
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