Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fostering Happiness

A couple of months ago I stopped by the mall to pick up a birthday gift for my nephew.  Since he was traveling to visit a mouse with big ears and a princess with a flouncy gown I decided to stop in at the Disney store. As I approached the store I was thrilled to see my sister, nieces and a friend of theirs selling Girl Scout cookies. I had no idea that they were going to be at this mall so this was quite a delightful discovery. My sister's friend Linda, and her daughter were also there selling cookies. When I saw Linda I nearly gasped, she was holding the tiniest bundle of love that I ever saw. A precious little baby girl. I've known Linda for several years and she has had numerous children during that time; you see Linda is a foster mom. When I was holding the little baby I wondered how she could give the children away when it was time for them to go back; after all it had just been about five minutes and I was already in love with this little angel. 

I asked Linda how she got involved in being a foster mom,what some of the challenges and rewards were. Here are her thoughts:

What made you get involved in being a foster parent?

"I always wanted to become a foster parent but was never able to afford or fit it in my life.  I needed to work full time to make ends meet.  Then years down the road the software company I worked for moved and I didn't want to move with them.   I still had two small children in daycare and needed to be closer to home.  My husband could support me so I became a stay at home mom and that was when I started Foster Care.  I saw an ad in the paper for Dare Family Services and called them. I asked many questions.  I didn't know if I was a good match or if I could do it but I wanted to find out. "

What kind of background is done on the foster parent?

"I had to have a home study done where they come to your home 4 or 5 times to look at everything.  I had to do MAPP training that lasted a few weeks and be CORI'ed.  This CORI is not like coaches CORI's.  It's in depth and can open unsealed records, etc.  No skeletons."

How long have you been a foster parent & How many children have you taken care of?

"Well, I've been doing foster care about 9 years.  I've lost count of the number of kids I've had.  Maybe 50?  Some are adolescents and some teens but mostly babies.  Some I have for as long as two years, so as short as a night. "

What are some rewards? What are some challenges?

"Working with children is the best job in the world.  It's "therapeutic" foster care.  Kids have more issues to tend to than just not having parents. They give you a new perspective on what's important in life.  They look at the world through innocent eyes and can see things more clearly than we can.  They constantly remind you to "not sweat the small stuff".  For example, I remember when my own daughter was little and she saw a black and white movie for the first time.  She asked me "Mom, when did the world turn color?"  She thought it was just a different "Age" of life.  Like the Ice Age.  Silly little things like that make it worth the experience of working with kids.  They make you laugh alot.  They are very smart at a young age.  Many people underestimate them. 
That's why my work is important.  They absorb everything right from birth.  How they are treated and loved is critical from birth.  I specialize in babies.  I have had many preemies and newborns.  I lay the foundation for a normal, healthy, loving start in life.  This is critical if they are to have a fighting chance in life...all children, foster kids or not.  That's what I do."

"My most difficult challenge is that they leave me, I have to give them back.   This tears my heart out but I don't focus on the negative.  I have people say to me all the time that "I could never do that because I  couldn't give them back".  The way they say it to me is like I'm cold hearted.  I guess that is their way of convincing themselves that it's ok for me to do it but not for them.  I don't know.  I love every second of it.  The screaming, spitting up, sleepless nights and dirty diapers.  Because the other side of that is the way the newborns turn their head when they hear your voice across the room, the way they look at you when they are infants with pure trust and love.  The way they run to you when they are toddlers and are scared or hurt knowing that you will protect them or heal them and there is no doubt in their little minds about it.  These are the joys for me.  You have to earn that....nobody just gets those pleasures unless you earn it.   And I appreciate those things in every child because I end up loving them all.  Even though they will go on with their life and never know of me and how I loved them.  I know and wouldn't trade a second of it."


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