I don’t think anyone steps into fostering or adoption lightly. I also don’t think most people step into foster care or adoption truly understanding what is involved. Such was the case for me and my family. I was a single mom of two boys, ages 10 and 12. I had been divorced for about 7 years and was a Deaf Education teacher at a public elementary school. I had arrived at the conclusion that my Happily Ever After man had taken a wrong turn and perhaps had an unfortunate accident involving quicksand that had postponed his arrival in my life (though I STILL hold out hope that he is very slowly making his way free and will show up one day!). Things were calm. My children were at the age that they could be alone, if needed. They didn’t need me to look over their shoulder all of the time, though I was still an involved parent. They were great students and life was pretty easy. Other than my second son having constant bouts of asthma and sinus issues, things were predictable and stable. And what do you do when things become predictable and stable? Well you mix it all up a little, of course!
My best friend had fostered a little boy a year or so before and my sons were really taken with the whole idea of taking care of a little one. My parents had fostered when I was 5 and I had memories of two preteen girls living with us for awhile. My memories were of them screaming at my parents and running away often, so I had never really considered fostering until then. But after about a year of my boys talking about wanting a baby brother or sister, and talking to me about fostering, I started to consider it. I wasn’t sure where to begin because when my friend fostered it was a kinship placement of a child she already knew. I did not know of any children needing a safe place to stay. I started by calling a local Christian foster care organization which told me that they only place children with traditional, two parent families. So next I called DHS. They told me they welcome single parents and gave me information on the process. I thought about it and prayed about it and talked to my children about how how hard it would be because we would get a child and then have to say goodbye when he or she went back to their family. In the end, the three of us agreed this was something we wanted to try. I knew I wanted to limit the age range to birth to 2 years of age because I didn’t want them to have a lot of traumatic issues or memories that might be more difficult to handle, or a lot of hard to handle behaviors. (Oh, how much I didn’t know!). Over the next few months I completed the required classes, we went through the background check and home study, turned in our clean bills of health from the doctors, and then we were approved. The boys and I were excited and immediately got a crib and set up a room.
When you go through the application process you are able to specify an age range and list what disabilities or other needs you are able to handle. While I chose 0-2 years with no large medical needs, I quickly learned they would still call to ask about children outside of those areas as well. The first call I got from DHS was asking if I would take a 7 year old who had cancer. I knew that was not something we could handle emotionally and that the care needed and medical needs would be too great, so I declined. The next call was for a 4 year old with severe special needs and medical needs. Again, I knew this was not something I could do. The third time I got a call that a newborn was going into care. It was summer, and I was out of school for the next 6 weeks, so I said yes. The next day I met the caseworker at the hospital. I walked into the newborn nursery, and after signing placement papers, was handed a sweet little baby boy. It was an indescribably strange feeling to walk into the hospital and then walk out, taking home another woman’s baby.
I knew that my role as a Bridge Resource foster parent was to help biological mom learn the skills she needed to be reunited with this baby and, in order to support this goal, I supervised visits between mom and the baby several times per week. I showed her how to make bottles and change diapers and how to calmly hold him when he cried. Most of the time I just watched her hold him and talk to him and show him off to various friends and family who would always show up during the visit times.
The older boys and I talked often about the reality that we were just taking care of the baby for a time, and then he would return to be with his mom in a couple of months. I wanted to prepare them and myself for that emotionally, because we were already so in love with this little one. We talked about how fostering is just for a short time and then you send them back and another comes and you do it all over. I was right about some of that, but we had no idea our story with our little “Buggy Boy” was just beginning.