This post has been in the pipeline for a while. I never really knew just how I wanted to write it. Foster care has been one of the most frustrating, depressing and sad experiences of my life. However, it has been the absolute most rewarding as well. The dichotomy of emotions that you experience through the process of receiving, loving and then losing a child is one that can't really be explained. Plus, it is different for each child.
At this point, while I won't consider myself a professional, we've had 7 kids come through our home. Each placement was different and each kid needed different things. We've had a child as old as 16 and as young as 6 weeks. We've experienced the gamut and have lived to tell the tale. We've navigated tantrums, sleep terrors, RSV, doctors' appointments, therapy appointments, family visits and everything else that accompanies the foster child in your care. It can be completely and totally overwhelming. I'm not going to sugar coat it for you but watching that child's progress and growth is so worth the hard work that you put in.
As most of you know, I'm an artist with Maskcara Beauty. I love the makeup, but what pushed me over the edge to sell it is the company itself. They have a strong foster care initiative and their campaign, "Love is Never Wasted" is awesome. This campaign is geared towards foster care in Utah but the message is the same for all states. Below is one of the videos from the campaign. I think most people, on the outside of foster care, see what the foster parents go through. They see how blessed the kids are to be with the new family. However, most forget what the kids are going through. They don't feel blessed. They just had their entire life ripped apart and they don't necessarily understand why. I think this video helps to show that a little. Despite the fault of their biological family, they still love them unconditionally.
We have lots of stories. After doing this for 4 years, you get your war stories and, in hind sight, some of them are hilarious. What I want to focus on in this post is losing one. About 3 weeks ago our little ray of sunshine went back to live with his family. We had our little munchkin, we'll call him Baby H for simplicity, since he was 6 weeks old. He is the happiest baby I have ever seen. Despite having early asthma and catching RSV within the first 3 months of placement, this kid was an absolute delight. Always happy, always smiling and probably the easiest kid we've ever had. We fell in love with him on day 1 and after 10 months, we were head over heels.
After we dropped him off with his family, there was an emptiness. I'll admit there was sadness and our lives changed. My husband was no longer getting up 30 minutes earlier than everyone else in the house to prepare his breathing treatments for the day. I no longer had to lug 2 car seats into daycare while my 3 year old held one of the handles. The only positive on my end was that my laundry did decrease. After a week, I found his little toothbrush and cried like a baby. I still have it in the drawer and can't make myself throw it away just yet.
Everyone that I talk to basically says the same thing..."I don't know how you do it. I would get too attached!" Let me start off by saying that we all get attached! Jesus, if you have have a kid in your house for almost a year and don't get attached, you're kind of a crappy person. (Sorry, Not Sorry) The kid deserves nothing less than you getting attached and being a mess when they leave. Those kids need attachment more than you need to protect your feelings! That means that you loved them fully and every child deserves to experience that.
So yeah, that is how it feels. It feels like you lost a piece of yourself and you have to take the time to heal. It's kind of like experiencing a loss. You go through the grief process and help the other kids in your house do the same. Loss is never easy but the memories and the knowledge that you gave that kid everything they needed is so worth it.
The Unexpected Blessings
Everyone dwells on the negative aspects of losing a foster child but let me talk about the positives. This doesn't happen with every case. Once in a while you get lucky and get a family that really makes a change. So not only do you get to see the child flourish but you get to see their family do the same. We have an excellent relationship with Baby H's family. We have watched them beat all the odds and turn their lives around. We didn't really know them before this experience but, in the short time that we have, we couldn't be more proud of the changes they have made and the new direction of their lives. We talk weekly and are able to see Baby H whenever schedules allow.
We have managed to gain more people in our lives. We have been able to be blessing to these people and them to us. I think God led them to us for a reason. We've love their kid without a second thought and we'll help them in anyway we can to be the family that he deserves. We still get to see him and we're working on being a part of their support system as they continue with this new positive lifestyle.
We also have a great relationship with the biological mother of my 3 year old. She is another one who has worked her butt off to make positive changes in her life. Even though he is ours, she comes to see him every week and we have an open door for her. With her, we have another God given opportunity to be a support to someone else who may need it.
These are the unexpected blessing that we had no idea were coming our way when we started this process. We may have to send a child back but sometimes, we gain something that has the potential to be just as beautiful. Were the relationships easy? No! We had to work on them from both sides. However, I think that all of us, in the case of Baby H, will say that the effort has been worth it and I honestly can't wait to see what the future has in store for Baby H and his family.
Foster care isn't for everybody. My husband and I went into this with our eyes wide open. Between him being a police officer and my past experience with juvenile mental health, we had a good idea of who might be coming through our house. We knew how hard it could be and we knew that with the right resources, we could make it better. Notice I didn't say fix it. Sometimes, fixing the things that the kids have been through can take years. Making small steps toward something better is always the ultimate goal.
I hope this was helpful. I know a lot of you have been waiting to read it and I only hope that I was able to convey what I meant to. Bottom line is foster care is a hard but rewarding experience. It can have up and downs but the highs usually outweigh the lows and sometimes you find God's blessings in the most unexpected places.