Nearly three years ago, my husband and I decided to be foster parents. We knew we were in for a tough road, but we were optimistic. That optimism has served us well, but it’s no substitute for the village of people who’ve helped us and the children in our care along the way.
Since we don’t have any biological children, we were somewhat clueless about the reality of raising kids. Fortunately, we’d made friends who were experienced foster parents and could show us the ropes.
The first time we got a call, it was for 3 and 5-year-old siblings. When they arrived at our home, all four of us were shaken up. It was awkward, and somehow we hadn’t anticipated the awkwardness. What do we do with these little humans? Why are they looking at us scared; like we’re strangers? Oh yeah, we ARE strangers!
Fortunately, a lovely friend of ours (also a foster parent) brought us dinner that first night and even ran to the store to buy toothbrushes and shoes for the kids. At dinner, the kids picked at their food and didn’t say much. We turned on cartoons for the rest of the evening in an attempt to take the edge off. Then it was bedtime, which could best be described as pandemonium. The kids were furious and fearful; they ran around the house yelling, hitting, spitting, and throwing things. Our lack of parenting experience was obvious, and we were frozen with fear that we’d made a terrible mistake. After texting some other foster parent friends with an SOS, they were knocking on our door at 10 PM to help us out. They walked in and got the kids to bed within minutes. It was amazing! The next day, one of those friends spent the day coaching us through the general care of the kids. There were plenty of things we hadn’t thought of, such as how to determine what size clothing to buy…Or what to do when a child projectile vomits their breakfast.
Fast forward to now, and the texts, phone calls, late-night walks, babysitting, and dinner drop-offs have been invaluable. The best part is we’ve been able to reciprocate those favors. Our community of foster parents got us past those initial feelings that we weren’t cut out for this and gave us the confidence to keep going. When those first kids were moved to a kinship placement after six weeks in our home, we had the support of people who knew what it was like to love and lose them.
In addition to our fellow foster parents, we’ve found that a lot of our friends and family want to help, but they don’t always know how they’re needed. The best advice we received is to simply ask! Need help setting up a swing set in the backyard? Long-sleeved clothes for a kid who suddenly outgrew everything? Books for that ravenous reader? You’d be surprised at how many of your friends and family will jump at the opportunity to help. Asking for and accepting help has been a vital part of the foster care journey. We’ve been blessed with holiday gifts, clothing, books, beds, and a whole lot more for the kids in our care. When we adopted our daughter, around 40 people came to the courthouse to show their support. We are thankful for every person that has helped us in this beautiful and challenging venture. If we’d chosen to do it all by ourselves, not only would it have been harder, but we would have missed out on the extra joy, love, and support. The kids would have missed out on that too.
If you’re a new or potential foster parent, I urge you to build your community of support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will need it, and you will treasure it.