It’s been awhile since I’ve written about our foster care journey, so I’ll give you a quick update. Here are seven lessons from my first seven months as a foster mom.
1. Foster kids can become family, even when they aren’t legally yours. Zoe has been with us over seven months and feels very much like family. She rummages in the frig, does chores, argues with her foster siblings, leaves her clothes on the floor, and calls me “mom” on occasion.
2. Just when the plan seems to be on course, everything can change. It looked like she would be going home for a 30 day stay (I don’t even know the right words yet) after court in January, but that didn’t happen. The next permanency hearing is in March. She and her siblings have now been in care nearly 16 months.
3. Interacting with family is important. Yesterday we took Zoe to Spokane to see her grandmother in the hospital. They haven’t seen each other since she entered care, which is a long time considering they’re used to living in the same tiny town and seeing each other nearly every day. Her grandfather, aunt, and two cousins were visiting too so it was a mini reunion. Of course, sometimes a child’s family of origin is unsafe and this isn’t an option.
4. I’m my foster child’s advocate, and sometimes it’s frustrating. One of my frustrations is the amount of school Zoe misses due to the demands of foster care. Foster kids have many appointments based on adults’ schedules, and very little control over their own lives. We foster parents talk about how frustrating these appointments are for us, but imagine how hard it is for a teen who falls behind in school and then misses sports practices to stay after school trying to make up missed assignments and quizzes.
5. I’m learning technical aspects of foster care. For instance, if a child is in your home six months and one day of the year, you can claim them on your taxes. Nobody officially tells you these things – I think my resource peer mentor told me when I was asking about something else.
6. There are so many joys. Zoe got her first college letter and was completely stunned. She’s never thought about going to college, but her name was on a list from a Christian youth conference she attended and that first letter came. We took a picture. As a foster child, there are financial benefits and supports available if she chooses to go to college.
7. Foster care involves a lot of waiting. Zoe waits, we wait, her family waits. There is a lot of powerlessness felt on all sides, most importantly, on Zoe’s. She has very little voice in her life and it’s easy to see the frustration that brings. There are questions I can’t answer, permissions I can’t grant, information I can’t give because I simply don’t have it. We wait for phone calls to be returned, court dates, paperwork, family visits, and more. While we wait, her family is also waiting for many of the same things.
Question: Are you a foster parent? Can you share a tip with me? I’m wide open for advice.