You seem to have a pretty dismal impression of foster families. This month, I discovered just what it meant to be a foster family. For two blissful weeks, we were under the impression our chances of adopting our foster child of almost one year were becoming possible. At the permanent plan hearing, I learned the social worker had changed the recommendation. Of all the people in the court room, only I and the child’s lawyer asked how the child could be returned immediately when the obligations determined by the court have not been met. By contesting, just one week was gained for transition.
The lack of support of foster parents comes from those involved with the foster care system; the courts, the social workers, CASA volunteers, and a given, the bio relatives of these kids. Our community could help. When meeting a foster parent, try “Thank you” instead of grimacing. Yes, it shows on your face. And ask “why?” No, it’s not the money. More money can be made babysitting in far less time and the hours are negotiable. If someone asked me, I’d tell them because it turns out I have some of the right skills from years on construction sites. I have a high tolerance for whining and crying, am creative with incentives for good choices (aka “behavior” for those not familiar with the current PC parental lingo), and find huge gratification in the smallest achievements. But helping a little one work through trauma and discover their strength and joy isn’t small after all. Unexpected bonus is earning our foster child’s breakthrough moments shoulder to shoulder with my husband forges an awfully strong marriage.
Saying goodbye this week is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Except for the last time she went home. So now we have to ask ourselves if we have the emotional strength to continue being a foster family. Because experienced foster and adoptive parents tell us this isn’t over. The demands of the bio relatives, the courts, and the social workers wear a person out. The negative stigma put on foster parents doesn’t help. Nor does it apply to any one of the many foster parents I have met over the last few years.
Catherine Low lives in Redding.