Kris’ Corner – Foster care isn’t what you think it will be

by Joy Coordinator

So I have been ruminating this week about what we thought foster care would be like versus what it has ended up being for us.

This will obviously be very different for every single person, but here are just a few of my thoughts and ramblings.

Six years ago last week, a teeny, tiny, well-below-the-growth-chart, medically-fragile baby boy came to live with us. And he has never left.

This is still a wonder to me, because we didn’t get in to foster care with the intent to adopt. Not that I didn’t wish it would happen (because I did wish it), but didn’t go into the journey with it as the “goal”.

But, I knew within days (or maybe just hours, if I am totally honest) that I never wanted him to live anywhere else. I had no say in that decision for months, until TPR was eminent and DCS asked us if we would be willing to adopt him. The answer, of course, was “yes”!

Please don’t hear what I am not saying: in no way am I implying that growing a family through foster care is a terrible goal to have…because it’s absolutely not! Many families enter into foster care as a way to grow their families…and that is a wonderful and amazing thing, because there are many children in our world who are in need of (and deserve) a safe and loving home.

But I know that not everyone who intends to grow a family through foster care ends up being able to adopt. And while I don’t completely understand it, I know it to be true. I have walked alongside and witnessed it first hand with some of my foster mom friends. It is hard to watch, but obviously much harder to experience. I don’t have words to put to what that is like.

Another expectation we had (or at least I had…I don’t know that my husband ever felt like this would be the case) is that we would have a “rotating door” and that kids would come and go as we were needed and that we would continually have a placement.

My expectation was put into check after our son’s adoption; I expected that we would be able to jump back in to being “full-time foster parents” again. We planned to take a little break (as many homes do after an adoption) and just do respite for a while…but then eventually we would be ready to jump back in.

But contrary to what we expected to do, that has not happened. Don’t get me wrong…we tried about a year after his adoption. We had the most kicked-back, easy-peasy 8-month-old placed with us. It lasted a month. Why? Because our son could not handle it. Not in a spoiled-brat kind of way, but in a “Mommy, I need you…I need your full attention, because I still have a lot of issues I need to work out.” So we disrupted that placement (and yes, disruption happens…more about that in a later post).

So you will go into foster care with expectations. Everyone does. How can you not, because like all life experiences, you think you know how it will be. You’ve read the books, right? How hard can it be? But if we’re honest with ourselves, things rarely go as expected, so why would foster care be any different? It won’t. So I guess what I am saying is this: don’t have expectations about how things will turn out. Or at the very least, TRY to not have expectations. Expectations are not all bad, but William Shakespeare said it best, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

Sincerely,

Kris