We decided to foster children mainly because we felt called to do it. We don’t have any children of our own, and while we briefly discussed adopting, the subject of fostering kept coming up. Neither of us knew much about the foster system but an article in the local newspaper painted a grim picture of many of the children’s situations. That is what prompted us to act. There were a lot of children who needed help, and we felt that we had to do something. Still, we didn’t know anything at all about fostering and didn’t know anyone who had fostered children.
Then we saw an ad regarding an informational meeting on fostering. At the meeting, we learned the basics of how to get certified. As we went through certification, the staff answered our questions honestly, explaining why the process was so detailed and often laborious. They helped us determine what age group we would be comfortable with without leading us in any particular direction. Ultimately, we decided to start out with respite care with the thought of taking “baby steps” toward an actual placement. The fact that we were able to do this without diving in headfirst made us much more confident about moving forward.
The day after we were certified, we received a call about a drug-exposed newborn who needed a foster home. Within minutes we knew we would do it. This was our first lesson in learning to expect the unexpected!
One thing we were anxious about was the relationship with the biological parents. We had heard many stories about the biological family feeling bitter toward the foster parents and heard numerous examples of how awkward interactions with the biological family could be. I dreaded the thought of dropping off a foster child for visits with parents who had been deemed incapable of caring for their children. But sure enough, those thoughts turned out to be unfounded. We met Audrianna’s grandmother at the hospital, and we were comfortable enough to exchange phone numbers before we even brought the baby home.
When the time came to start bringing the baby to visit her mother, I started to get nervous again. We had only heard bits and pieces of her story, so we really didn’t know what to expect. But the biggest surprise was how smoothly the visit went. While Audrianna’s mother has certainly had her share of troubles, it was touching to see her with her baby. Subsequent visits showed that she clearly loved her daughter very, very much, and at several visits she actually thanked us for taking such good care of her daughter. And now that time has gone by and we are actually on track to adopt Audrianna (yet another surprise!) it is very comforting to know that she will be able to get to know some of her biological family.
While our story might not be typical, I don’t think there is any such thing as a typical foster situation. Each of these kids is unique and can’t be categorized into one situation. The one thing they do have in common is that they all need love in some shape or form. I think our experience both with Audrianna and with some of the kids who have stayed with us for respite care can be summed up in a statement one of our training instructors once made, “You never know how much of an impact you’ll have on a foster child, regardless of how long or how short of a time they spend with you.” And while we are happy that we have been able to help out even in a small way, we always come back to the fact that we’ve gotten more out of this experience than we ever expected.