You Know What Surprises Me Most as a Foster Mom?

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Foster care surprises me at every turn.

You know what surprises me most – what I would never have expected? The relationship we have with Zoe’s* family.

Last week Zoe’s mom had one of her regular weekly visits with Zoe and her sisters, but this time it was at our house. When I arrived to pick her up, she had ingredients for a meal packed in grocery bags ready to cook for her kids when she got here. The little girls were dropped off by their foster mom and quickly ran outside to play with my son while their mom cooked and chatted with Zoe at the kitchen island.

I came and went from the kitchen as I worked on my own Saturday tasks. Zoe’s family doesn’t need supervision, just a comfortable place to gather. After eating and playing, Zoe’s family watched a movie together with some of my kids joining in. There were a few tears when it was time for the little girls to leave.

Later in the week, we moms sat in the car watching our daughters at track practice, Zoe tentatively running hurdles and Claire practicing pole vault plants for the first time. We talked about being teens ourselves, and running, and addiction, and about our girls. We made plans to go to the first track meet together later this week.

This is not what I thought foster care would look like.

Mind you, I knew nearly nothing about foster care when we embarked on this journey. We were recruited one evening nine months ago and have done everything pretty much backward.

I thought we would be nearly anonymous to our foster daughter’s family; they wouldn’t know our last name or have our phone number. They definitely wouldn’t know where we live.

I’m fully aware that some families aren’t safe for children; that’s why the kids are in foster care. I’m also aware that children land in foster care for many reasons, some of those being addiction, a cascade of bad decisions, incarceration, abuse, and the list goes on.

Many parents, with support, treatment, education, and other resources can turn their situation around and become healthy parents for their children.

Not all – I can see some of you saying, not even many. I know I’m the new foster mom on the block and maybe I’ll be writing a very different post a few years from now, but I want to hope for the very best for moms, dads, and kids.

Once they’re reunified, these families need a lot of support. Regaining custody of their children is only the beginning. We need to wrap around them giving them the help they need to press on.

Parenting is Hard

Parenting is a hard task – right? It was very hard for me when my children were little and there were so many needs.

And you know what? I had a husband who came home every single night. He earned an income and provided a home for us. He never hurt me. He never hurt our kids. He didn’t abandon us or bring dangerous people into our home. He didn’t abuse drugs or alcohol. I didn’t fear homelessness or wonder if I could feed my children.

I have not experienced what so many of these parents have lived through. The wounds they carry, the suffering of their own childhoods, is likely more than we can imagine.

Open-Hearted Foster Parents

Let’s be open-hearted foster parents. We can be part of their team as they work toward reunification, and if it isn’t possible, we can still have compassion, extend kindness, and support them if possible.

We live in a world filled with broken, hurting people.  Let’s find the points of connection wherever we can and build on them.

[*Zoe is the nickname our foster daughter chose to use on my blog. ]

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

10 Comments

  1. Sondra Anderson
    March 20, 2017

    Thank you for seeing this side of things! As I’ve gotten older, my role has become much more of a mentor to young parents whose kids I raise for a while. Fostering should be not only protecting children, but also – more – healing families. You’ve got it figured out!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2017

      Yes! Thank you, Sondra. I hope this is what I’m able to do also. This is my heart for foster care.

      Reply
  2. Jessica Cassil
    March 20, 2017

    Thank you for writing this! My husband and I fostered a set of brothers for 2 years. They became part of our family and my bio kids adopted them as brothers. I had 4 kids 5 years old and under! Foster care is hard and it is an emotional roller coaster, but it is beautiful and can bring restoration as well. We had an open relationship with the boys mother as well, and she loved her kids but faced many of the challanges you listed. She worked hard and sometime she succeeded and sometimes she failed. But now she has her kids back, and we are over a year out from their reunification and she is doing great! Does it look like our family? No, not at all! But it is beautiful. The other positive thing about keeping an open mind and heart to Bio family is that we get to keep a relationship with the boys who have become our family. This is sometimes and hard and messy as well, but I am so thankful for it!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2017

      Jessica, this is so encouraging. Thank you so much for sharing your story – I love it.

      Reply
  3. Angela
    March 20, 2017

    I love this post! As a foster parent for 8 years now I have learned to not be afraid of connecting with birth family. Of course we are careful and cannot connect with all but the families/ kids we have had long term are still in our lives after reunification. We have the kids over for sleepovers/ birthdays, have family BBQ’s and sometimes the parents call and ask advice! I am honored by the trust these families have placed in us! We all know that foster care is far from perfect but these little things help make it better. Our children are always excited to see their former foster siblings! It’s important for all of us!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 21, 2017

      That’s beautiful, Angela. I was just thinking this morning that this entire post could be summed up in the words, “Love is stronger than fear.”

      Reply
  4. Mary Rowe
    March 20, 2017

    Have you heard of Care Portal? My daughter was instrumental in getting that started in several counties in Missouri. It works through the local churches. When a case worker identifies a need (sometimes it is just poverty) the need is relayed to the local churches by email through a central contact for each church. The contact person emails all the member who signed up. When someone can meet the need or a group can provide funds families are keep together. Much of the time the needs seem to be housing and or beds. I wish every state had Care Portal operating smoothly. Then kids would not be removed from their homes due to poverty. I know kids have to be placed for lots of other reasons but poverty is not a reason people should lose their families. Together, we can all help.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 21, 2017

      I haven’t heard of Care Portal, but it sounds wonderful. Our church has a benevolence ministry called Real Needs which is a somewhat like this. So often we have what other people need sitting in our garages. Thanks for sharing that, Mary.

      Reply
  5. angie
    April 10, 2017

    After being foster parents for over 15 years one of my favorite things was getting to know my foster kids family. Ye. it’s hard & messy but God revealed so much to me through these families. Love your post Lisa and I encourage all to “Wrap Around” these families. Step inside their shoes and ask God to show you what He sees.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 10, 2017

      I’m learning from friends like you, Angie.

      Reply

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