What I Want You to Know About Foster Care

It has taken me many attempts to write this article. The first attempt started with the story of the little girl and the starfish. The one where she picks them up one by one and tosses them into the ocean. A man stops to tell her that it will take her forever and she will not be able to save them all. She continues to do it and responds with something along the lines of “but if I can just save one.” The second attempt quoted scripture. That was surely going to do the trick! I really wanted to write something so deep that it motivated every reader to stop what they were doing and call their local DCFS to enroll in the foster care classes. I really wanted to move each of you to tears and break your hearts into a million pieces for all the little children out there who need loving homes, but I could not lie. I could not sugar coat any of this. It is hard. Beyond hard.

Maybe I was warned. In fact, I know I was warned, but my rose-colored glasses got in the way. The burning desire to be a mom got in the way. I ignored every single time I was told that fostering a child would be one of the hardest things I would ever do. I ignored the stories that foster parents told me about children coming into their homes and wreaking havoc on their lives and their biological children’s lives. I only heard the stories that ended in the adoption of a perfectly healthy baby. I blocked out every negative story and latched on to the fairy tales. 

During my 3 short years as a foster mom, I have spent endless hours crying over children. Crying that God would let me keep some and crying that God would find some of them another home because I just could not handle another day with that child. I will repeat myself so those of you who have your jaw on the floor will have a moment to pick it up, fostering is hard. Not every child is a perfect fit and not every child who is a perfect fit will get to stay. As a foster parent, our voices are often silenced. We do not get to say, “this child cannot go back to her mother because she is unfit.” That is not our place even though we may know for a fact that the biological parents are unfit. That is for the state to determine. Our duty as a foster parent is to keep our eyes focused on the child in our care. To love that child and parent that child. To show them what stability looks like, even if it is only for a few days. Our duty is not to determine if a parent is fit or if a home is stable. Our opinions do not matter and that can be quite hard. It is hard to stay silent when you are seeing signs of drug abuse but the state is not. It is hard to stay silent when you see a parent who has a half dozen other children to care for, cannot keep a job or a roof over their heads, but the state is ruling that the child needs to return home. We have to keep our silence when the state teaches us that siblings should never be separated, but the state is sending one to an aunt in another state and keeping one here. It is not our place to shout from the rooftops that the state is tearing apart a family and wrecking the lives of precious siblings who know no other life except a life with that sibling. Silence is what has made fostering a child so hard for me. It is why I cannot tell you the story of the girl with the starfish. I cannot write that story in hopes that I blot out the reality that fostering children gets ugly. I cannot quote scripture about Jesus leaving the flock of ninety-nine to save one, even though it is one of the most beautiful bible stories of love and sacrifice. It is unfair of me to tell you that the ripple effect that you will cause by fostering just one child will reach generations. All of that is true. Saving one child from a life of abuse will cause such a ripple that generations will be changed for the better. Fostering just one child will change the outcome of more lives than we can imagine, But listen very carefully: it is hard.

Do not be blind to the reality that there will be some children who come into your picture perfect home that sits in a picture perfect cul-de-sac who will not be picture perfect children. They will come to you with so much hurt and disappointment that their only way to cope is to scream at you every time you glance at them. There will be a child who comes to you who has no desire to ever be your child. They will miss the life that the state deemed chaotic and dangerous. They will want to watch television on sunny days because no one has ever encouraged them to go outside and play. They will come to you from the NICU with tubes and medications. They will have you driving to doctor appointments, therapy appointments, and visits with the biological family. Your carefully-planned life will suddenly become complicated. It will be very hard and you will want to give up. There will be days when you just need a break. This is not an article shunning foster care. It is to tell you the truth. It is not always easy. You will feel defeated and discouraged at times. You will be totally disconnected from friends and family. Those who said they would step up and help, don’t. 

What I have learned is that every tear I cried had a purpose and a meaning behind it. It was not shed for nothing or for no one. It was shed out of love. Love for my foster child, love for the life I want them to have, and love for the life I use to have. With each tear, my life was changed. As much as I would like to go back and change the hard days, I know I grew from them. I learned so much on this short journey. I no longer watch the news in ignorance. I no longer turn a blind eye to the realities around me. I cannot pretend that there aren’t children in my community in need of a stable home. As much as I miss my old life, the life where I turned my phone on silent as I slept, it is gone.

My new life is different. I keep my phone on loud in case DCFS calls through the night because a child was removed from their drug infested home during a raid. I keep bins of baby clothes in my laundry room for that last minute placement. I let my passport expire because international travels are just not a part of my life anymore. I have a village of foster mom friends who I talk to daily. I have built up an armor around my heart and I have learned to protect it. When an unhappy, fearful child enters my home, I utilize every tool in my toolbox to make it work. I have learned how to comfort them, how to protect them, and how to incorporate them into our family. I have learned that each child is unique and requires a different parenting approach. Some will want to be rocked to sleep, some will want a nightlight on, and some will want to keep a snack by the bed because they are afraid they will not get fed again. I have learned to be okay with everything that is thrown my way. I learned to adapt to the child as much as I can. To attend every visit with a positive attitude, to look at the dysfunctional parents with compassion and hope, and to see that although I am voiceless and my opinion does not matter, what I do to parent that child matters. 

This post was written by Holly Baudier.

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1 Comment on "What I Want You to Know About Foster Care"

  1. It’s true, and that’s why it’s a truly heroic choice to make. Not for the faint of heart or those who need to live Instagramable lives, but for those for whom doing good is its own reward.

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