An unanticipated blessing
I held in my hand the newspaper clipping. It was old and yellow around the edges and the ink was fading. Natty, it read, was the recipient of a going away party. She was given a handkerchief, some books, and other essentials for her journey to the orphanage in Illinois. It seemed so foreign to me; having a party to celebrate leaving your home to go live in an orphanage, and even more so to publish the announcement in a newspaper. It was a long time ago and when your father died and you were one of many children you might be sent to an orphanage where you could receive an education, a roof over your head, and a large new family.
Natty was my great great grandmother. She grew up in an orphanage. Her father died, and her mother was left to care for many children and Natty was old enough to be sent to an orphanage. She’s not my only tie to such unconventional ways to grow up. My grandfather was left on a doorstep. He was adopted eventually and raised in a family that didn’t appreciate him.
Now here I sit, filling out paperwork for be a foster mother. My life has been good. My parents were phenomenal. My husband is on board with the decision and the kids are excited to have little kids in the house again. I think to myself, we have a big house, income, kids gear, a yard, and a church. I’m a devoted mother. I don’t need to sleep. I learned how to make a lot of food in a short period of time. But mostly, I just want to have a chaotic house again and I knew that there were a lot of kids who need a good home.
I had seen these kids in my classroom over the years. They came to school tired, in old clothes, they borrowed food from the other kids in the class. I would contact their parents and no one would respond. Sometimes, when school got out there was no one there to pick them up. They need a good home and we are a good home.
My husband and I sat through the parenting classes. Social workers taught us what to expect when we received a child placed in our home. We learned that foster children sometimes arrive thin, with their clothes in a garbage bag, and that they may try and “blow placement”, meaning they would try everything they could to try and be returned to their biological parents. I got nervous. The social worker was coming to our house to inspect. The house was clean but still, I was nervous. We were almost done with the certification process. I missed having little ones who actually wanted to hug me, who wanted to learn how to fold clothes, and who spent the entire day in dress-up clothes. I couldn’t wait to have little kids in our home again.
It was a Sunday night, and we got a call that the following week a little boy would be available for a meeting with us, if we were interested. We went to the agency with a box of donuts to meet Jeremiah, 5 years-old. He was small, curly dark hair, and a fantastic smile. How could this little boy need a new family? He was wonderful. I immediately loved him. I wanted to take care of Jeremiah. My husband made a paper airplane for him and they tried to see how far they could throw it. We took him home and helped him make it through his first night in a strange place. The first weeks were an adjustment for all of us. Jeremiah didn’t like casseroles. He wanted to watch Thomas the Tank Engine episodes at bedtime every night, and he refused to bathe. Jeremiah didn’t know his colors, numbers, or shapes. But he knew how to share, he shared everything.
There are children in our neighborhoods that need someone to love them
There are 400,540 children in foster care at any point in time. These children enter the foster care system because of parental neglect, abuse, or exploitation. They need temporary homes to call their own. Being a foster parent is a unique kind of service with much responsibility. It has, like biological parenting, long term affects for parents and children. It is more than just giving shelter and food to someone else’s children. It is what good parenting is; bonding and sacrificing for children by loving, nurturing, and providing appropriate discipline when necessary. Corporal punishment is not acceptable when working with foster children. Good foster parents have a long term view of the children within their care. Their foster children aren’t perfect, and neither are they. They view their foster children like their actual children and are willing to sacrifice and work to help them grow and develop correctly.
Foster parents come from diverse backgrounds. Some are married, some single. Most foster parents work and use daycare for their children, some stay-at-home. Foster parents can live in apartments or condo’s. Foster parents get to choose what age, gender, and number of children is best for them. Foster families should have sufficient income to care for their own families without the reimbursements the state provides for foster care. Having said that, reimbursement payments assist with the cost of raising foster children. Foster children also receive medi-cal for medical and dental care. In short, you can afford to be a foster parent.
Agencies like Legacy Family Services provide a tremendous amount of support for foster parents. Social workers, licensing personnel, therapists, and others serve as strong allies for foster parents to help them adjust, succeed, and ultimately triumph as foster parents.