I’ve been asked that question before and always felt caught off guard. Who am I to say? Our foster journey was brief, relatively speaking, and though we do hope to return someday, I’m still trying to figure it all out.
It seems to me that the best way to answer that question is to go right to the source. To ask the children. While we were getting licensed to be foster parents, I came across a powerful blog. It is written by a former foster child, now twenty-something, who is trying to figure out life without a family. Her foster care story is honest, infuriating, and all too common. Having lived in 12 different foster/group homes, I’d say she is the perfect person to answer this question.
Here’s her list of what makes a good foster parent: caring, interest, patience, steadiness, creativity, ability to put one’s self in the child’s shoes, humor, willingness to teach and learn, advocacy, smiling, close listening, honesty…
Frankly, it sounds like a rundown of qualities that would make a person a great parent of any kind. Perhaps, though, having an extra dose of patience and fortitude is helpful this arena.
I think she really hits the nail on the head when she says:
“I think of a good foster parent as acting similar to how the Taoist describe water. Water flows gently and peacefully, …but over time is so powerful that it is able to carve through rock.”
I have met a handful of really exceptional foster parents over the years. They inspire me and are precisely what I picture when I contemplate the idea of “what I want to be when I grow up”.
One of these women helped us out a great deal when we were surprised with the birth of our youngest child. My wife and I were both working and there is no such thing as “maternity leave” for foster parents. Thankfully, there was a wonderful woman who was willing to help. She watched our itty bitty a couple days a week until she was old enough to transition to daycare with her older siblings.
As hard as it was to hand over a 2 week old to a babysitter (I can’t even tell you how hard I sobbed on my drives into work), the silver lining was meeting someone I aspire to be.
She’s a foster mom who lives around the corner from us. She’s retired and single (widowed? divorced? I didn’t ask) and has committed the rest of her life to caring for drug exposed and medically complex foster babies. She jokes that she hasn’t slept through the night in 10 years.
She has had over 100 babies through her home most of which she’s gotten straight from the hospital – either after birth and detox, or recovery from an injury. She’s seen the worst of the worst and has witnessed the most horrific and disgusting things people do to infants. But it doesn’t stop her…she will say yes to any call within her age range no matter the difficulties or complexities of the baby’s needs. She has rocked every last one of those babies to sleep.
I’m sure she’s rarely thanked. An afterthought in the eyes of the system. She’s not in it for keeps. Even the babies will not remember her. But she does it anyway. She embodies the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” She’s such an inspiration to me.
Can you believe there are angels like this in the world? Thank God there are.