Sometimes people think I’m crazy for being a foster parent. People ask me why I choose to bring a youth into my home who has so many needs and who presents so many challenges. They ask how I manage to hang in there through some very difficult times. These are tough questions, but I always come back to a one-word answer, love.
I love seeing my eleven-year-old foster daughter start to act like a kid. For a long time she was a caretaker for her younger brothers. She filled in the gaps when her parents weren’t able to do everything. I knew that she would need some time before she could let go of being a parent figure. Letting her move at her own pace and making sure she stays connected to her brothers has really helped her. Seeing her feel free to be silly and goofy absolutely warms my heart.
I love how it feels when the teenage boy who has pushed me away since joining my family begins to relax and feel more comfortable being here. I know that this is a sign that he’s feeling safer and has started to believe that I’m on his side. Pushing people away has been an automatic reflex for him. Seeing him begin to let down his guard a bit tells me that I’m on the right track with him and that there is hope that our relationship can help him become more trusting of others.
I love when I am able to make a connection with my foster child’s birth parent. This has not been easy for me. It took me a while to look past what they had “done” to their child. Now, once I get to know a birth mom or dad I begin to see them as a whole person. Then I’m able to work with them toward reunification if that is possible. Knowing I’m capable of working with a child’s birth parents makes me feel like I’m becoming a better foster parent. And I love that feeling.
I love the people I’ve met since I started doing this, especially my fellow foster parents. We just “get” each other. We can trade stories and understand that just because a child is driving us crazy doesn’t mean we should give up on them. I love being connected to a network of like-minded people who understand that the joys of foster parenting make the hard times more bearable.
I even love the mixed emotions I feel when a foster child leaves my home for a permanent family. It is truly a bittersweet moment. It’s hard to let go but I know the pain means that we have connected and that all that we have been through together has helped prepare him or her for a forever family. And, I love knowing that I’ve helped this happen.
Believe me, I’m no saint. There have been more than a few times when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel. But despite the challenges, it’s the love – for the kids, for the parents, for my peers – that keeps me going.
by Diane Kindler