Foster moms do not have it easy. I know what your thinking, being a mom isn’t easy. That’s true. But trust me when I say that being a foster mom is a lot harder than general motherhood.
Foster moms are lovingly mothering children they never bore, who have most likely faced extensive trauma in their lives, before being uprooted from the only lives they’ve known and dropped into a complete strangers home. Often, completely alone. Often, not knowing why, how, or when it happened.
I remember one of our foster sons, let’s call him Fred. We were called late in the evening to come and get Fred who was 2 and his teenage brother. Well, we were not licensed to accept teenagers into our foster home and we explained that to the intake worker and suggested she find a home that could take both boys. Several hours later she called back to say that they found a home for the teenager but they weren’t licensed for the toddler so could we take the toddler?
At the time we already had 2 other boys under the age of 2.
Knowing that our safe home was better than him sleeping in an office all night, my husband set out to go pick up this little boy. Did I mention he was 2? When Beloved arrived the little tyke was already asleep on his teen brother’s lap. Oh, how I wish we could have taken both boys. But we couldn’t, by law, accept the teenager into our home at that time. So that teen boy carried his little brother to our van, placed him in the car seat and stayed to wait for another ride to another home.
Beloved arrived back home at nearly 3 in the morning and that little one was still fully asleep. So we laid him into a bed. Made sure he was sleeping soundly and off we went to bed.
The next morning, I knew that I had to be in that room with him because he was going to awaken with fear!
When he woke up, well, I will never forget the scream or the look of terror in his sweet eyes. Little Fred was terrified because he didn’t know where he was or who he was with or where his family was.
That’s just one example.
Foster Moms Live in a Hyper Focused State
- She is persistently in crisis mode.
Imagine the worst time in your life. That time when you were in crisis and everything in your life seemed hyper focused on whatever the struggle was. Do you remember how stressful, how tiring, how incredibly overwhelming, that was? That is how a foster mom lives, daily.
- From the time of placement throughout the entire stay and long after, she is prayerfully concerned for the well-being of the child.
- She is consistently learning how to correct a child’s behavior.
- She is often verbally abused, physically hit, kicked, or bitten, all while trying to help the child.
- She can’t share the child’s story with anyone other than her husband, or caseworkers, supervisors, police, or courts.
Often the foster mother is the 1st to learn the history of the life in which the child formerly lived. She often becomes a witness called upon to present evidence, and or testimony which can go toward legal decisions regarding the child’s placement. Yet, she has no say in what will or will not happen with the child’s placement, the child’s future, or the child’s overall caseplan. By law she can’t share details of the purpose of the child’s placement. So don’t ask. If there is a reason for you to know a specific detail; such as, a child with special needs that needs your help, then she will volunteer the infromation. Otherwise, don’t put her in a position for having to explain why she can’t share their personal, private, details with you.
- She Doesn’t Have Much of a Voice
Oh she has opinions, but generally speaking she has no right to utilize her voice to express her opinion regarding the well being of the child. She is expected to inform key information. How that information is used, disseminated in the paperwork, or whether or not the information is seen as a needful piece of information. She has no control over that. She has no voice in court proceedings, and she can make no long-term decisions regarding the children.
- She Is Seen as an Extended Care Babysitter
Most caseworkers, guardian ad litems, judges and service workers consider a foster parent placement as nothing more than an extended care babysitter. It is rare for a caseworker to truly listen to a foster parent, it is rare for them to be treated with respect. For the foster mom this makes it difficult to build trust with the very workers who are assigned to protect the children.
- She Doesn’t Know if She’ll be Able to Adopt this Child
She gets this question a lot!
It’s a hard one. If she is a foster to adopt mom, then her hearts desire is to adopt the child, but it will be a long time before she will know. A foster placements first goal, is always, reunification. So asking her can just create worry for her, when she doesn’t know the answer. Not asking her the question relieves her from having to figure out what to say. She will tell YOU if the time comes that they will be heading toward adoption.
- She Worries More
Of course, all moms worry for their children. A foster mom, however, is only a temporary mom. Those kids are most likely going to end up going back to the family they were born into. And knowing what she knows about that family. She worries about whether or not they are really doing what they are supposed to do for their kids.
1. She worries that the reunification will not be successful.
2. She worries that the children will be injured, neglected, or worse.
3. She worries about their hearts, and how all the upheaval is affecting them.
4. She worries about the things the child doesn’t say, things that may have hurt them in the past that still hurts their hearts but they don’t know how to talk about them.
5. She worries about their future, what will it turn out to look like given all they are facing at such a young age.
6. She worries about what she is or is not able to instill in their hearts in the brief time she has with them.
- She can’t drop everything like she used to.
Once a mom takes a placement, her life becomes about meeting their needs, both immediate, short term, and long term. Often a child can show up with nothing, so she has to figure it out. It’s on her to do so. See above. So calling her to ask for a girls day out, or calling her to chatter on about whatever, isn’t doing her any favors. She may make herself available, but it will come at great costs, frustration, and possibly the dropping of some important juggled balls. Then she’ll worry all the more.
- She Longs for a Faithful Friend who Understands.
She may not even be able to put into words what she needs, especially if she hasn’t been fostering long. But, she needs her friends to love her, be supportive of her, pray for her and the children. She needs friends who see beyond the words she says to the reality of her need and figures out how to provide for her, in some small way.
- She Has Needs Not sure what to do for her?
- Yes, she needs meals, but not complicated meals. She needs you to call her unexpectedly at about 3-4:00 and say, “I just wanted to let you know that I left dinner for your family in a cooler on your porch. If you can’t use it today, just stick it in the freezer for another time.” She needs you to send her a gift card for Bob Evans, or other family friendly place so they can grab an easy meal when they are traveling around the city.
- She needs you to call her and say, I know you’ve had a busy week. Would you please let me come over and clean up your house while you take the kids to their visit today?
- She needs you to send her notes of encouragement reminding her that you love her and support her work.
- She needs you to realize that she can’t be the kind of friend to you that she was before, and she needs you to be o.k. with that.
- She needs you to treat her with every kind of kindness you can think of, and be understanding of her limited role returning favors.
Since when is friendship about favors anyway? It’s about loving our friends!
Being a foster parent, is hard. It’s a work born in love but often ends in sorrrow. It’s a work born in a desire to do unto others that is often met with disdain. It’s not easy, and foster parents often feel very alone. But the reality is they are doing work that is more than necessary. Many states have far more placements than they have places to put them. It can be a rewarding work once the parents learn how to maneuver the beuracracy that exists in the government entity.
She needs her friend, to remain her friend. She needs her friend to be unselfish and offer her a measure of love that she doesn’t know how to ask for. She needs you to be her friend.
I discovered this in my Facebook browsing today. It’s an excellent blog about the heart of a Foster Mom, you should readi it. Why “I’d Get too Attached” Just Doesn’t Cut It by Rachel at The Lewis Note.
You May Also Enjoy
This post is part of iHomeschool Network’s Top Ten Tuesday.
This post is linked up with Titus 2 Tuesdays.