We are getting closer and closer to our one year mark of becoming foster parents at the Martin household. While I feel like I could write an entire book on our first year experience, I thought what better way to celebrate Foster Care Awareness Month this May than to share about it in my post with you.
For those of you who are seasoned foster parents, I salute you. Seriously, it is one of the hardest, but most rewarding things our family has ever done. If you are an experienced foster parent, this article will probably make you giggle as you read about my thoughts and remember how much it means to have a great support system. For those new to foster care, I hope you find ways this month and throughout the year to support and show a little love to families loving on some of the most precious babies.
Top truth bombs as a new foster mom:
If you are loving them and getting “too attached,” you are probably doing it right.
One of the most frequent questions I have been asked this year is, “Are you not scared you will get too attached?” This question always makes me laugh a little. Of course we are going to get “too attached.” These children need that type of love after going through the trauma of being removed from their home. They need someone to love them, respect them, and be their support person. So if you are getting “too attached,” you are doing it right in the foster parent neighborhood.
Patience, patience, patience.
This year my patience has grown to new heights by being tested monthly. I guess you can call it growth through practice. Being a foster parent requires more patience than being a parent to your biological children, but it has nothing to do with the kids in your care. Yes, you may have to have increased patience while working through trauma and behavioral issues, but your patience will be tested the most with the processes, the judicial system, and parents. This entire year has taught me so much about the changes that we need to advocate for to help these sweet babies and families. It has also given me an entire new outlook and compassion for those who battle addiction and those who suffer from the actions of the addicted. All of this to say, your patience will grow stronger as you help and work in the foster care world. It has changed me as a person for the better.
These kids are just like mine and yours.
I will never understand the stigma that surrounds the precious kids in the foster care system, but unfortunately have witnessed it first-hand. These babies are just like mine and yours. They are not some strange creatures that should be feared and not included. They need the same love, respect, support, and time spent with them that all kids around the world need. Yes, they may have come from a home and situation very different from yours, but all humans need those same basic things to help them thrive. I see a lot of this stigma in the older children in the system. They often tend to be the ones who do not get the guidance and support due to the belief that they would bring trouble into the household. The truth is, these kids are no different than yours at that same age. They just need the guidance and examples from foster parents who love them to help guide them to the right path.
Seriously, I have learned to take each day as a blessing and to be more flexible. There was a time in my life (like 12 months ago) where if something wasn’t in my planner or thoroughly planned out, it wasn’t happening. I now laugh at that mom. This has been the best thing for my type A personality! Each day comes with something new that cannot be prepared for and that is okay. You just have to roll with the punches, not let it affect your parenting, and go with the flow for the day. I say all the time, if you’re not ready to be flexible, you’re not ready for foster parenting. This has also helped me grow as a parent and make my household less stressful. These kids really will teach you a thing or two as you think you are teaching them.
You are going to want to take in every single child, but will have to say “no.”
I am still shocked everyday that Tennessee has thousands of children in the foster system that are looking for foster parents and permanent homes. I feel like this is a very silent issue that is not brought up enough not just in our state, but across America. I wish I could have one huge house and take in all of these sweet babies that need the love and support, but that would be an injustice to some of them. There is only one (or two, if you have a partner) of you. You have to know what works for your family, set boundaries, and find ways to support these children in ways that work best for you and them. Sometimes that means saying “no” to a placement even when it pulls at your heartstrings to benefit the child. It is such a fine balance and so different for each family. Luckily there are so many ways to support that everyone can find a way to help.
There are so many highs and lows.
I laugh when I say I have been on a nine month emotional roller coaster, but it’s the truth. Every day, each case takes a new turn and leads to new emotions for both you and the children in your care. My biggest takeaway from that is to ride those highs and soak them in so you have them to look to when battling the lows with these babies. Be the creator of those “highs” for those children in your care, and always let them know that no matter what, you are there to support them.
Those are my top takeaways as a new foster mom from this year. I could go on and on about more, but those stand out to me the most and have made me a better parent over all. If you have made it this far in reading about our journey in foster care and truth bombs, you are probably wondering how you can support foster families. Below I have listed a few ideas.
Top ways to support foster families:
Donate gently used clothing, suitcases, and car seats to DCS facilities and foster care facilities.
Many children come into the foster care system with just the clothes on their back and a garbage or Walmart sack filled with a few belongings. This can be overwhelming for both the children and foster families. Clothing helps until shopping can be done with help from the state. The financial support from the state can sometimes take a few weeks to start, so having clean clothes ready for these kids is such a blessing. Suitcases can replace garbage bags and give kids more dignity. Imagine coming into a brand new home full of strangers with your few items in a garbage bag…we can help by donating luggage bags and suitcases to DCS facilities.
Gift cards for dinners.
I think all new parents (or any parents in general) can say this is a blessing. When a family takes a new placement, send a gift card for food their way to help with the stress of dinner.
Offer to babysit.
All parents need a break from time to time, and this is so nice for foster parents needing a getaway to recharge over a dinner or short time out.
Become a foster parents.
To find more information about becoming a foster parent in Tennessee, I have linked some resources below.