It’s been a month now that we said “yes” to another member of our foster care journey. It’s been a whirlwind. Every day has brought a challenge and I’ll be honest, some days it’s hard to keep wanting to say “yes” to foster care. Before I dive into the past month, I want to say the biggest “THANK YOU” to all of you. Some of you have prayed for us, some of you have sent us digital gift cards for diapers and formula, some of you sent packages, some of you ordered from our registry and some of you sent us money to help get baby “J” anything she needed. Honestly, the packages kept coming and each time a box was left at our front door, I felt so much love and support.
I want to explain real quick the “bad” side of foster care before I get into all the good it has to offer. I often hear people say that people do foster care for the money. This has always confused me because I am not sure what money they are talking about! Yes, we do get a stipend each month for each foster child…does it cover most of their needs…sometimes. By the time we pay for daycare alone for the baby, we are actually “losing” money. However, God has always provided for each and everyone of our needs to be met with foster care. You learn as you go. I think that is why I felt so loved and supported by each gift we received for baby “J.”
Each box of diapers or formula can that was delivered was more God providing for our “need” to us, through you!
When you become a foster family, you have to do everything you can to protect the details and information of the case. This is why I can’t go into detail and share with you everything I would love to about our journey. I can tell you, though, we don’t get that much information anyway. Sometimes months go by and we hear close to nothing. The system is overloaded. The case managers have too many cases. There are too many kids in care and not enough homes. On a weekly basis we get frustrated with the system. Honestly, it is really hard some weeks to keep saying “yes” to pressing on. Decisions are made that are out of your control. They say they want to do what is “best for the child” without asking the people who are caring for the child/children. We often times endure the brunt of what the court/system thinks is best. We are left with kids throwing shoes and socks at our heads while driving because of choices made beyond our control. This past week was a rough week. Why did we sign up for this? Better yet, why are we still continuing to sign up for this after almost 2 years?
It had me questioning everything and pondering the “why”.
Regardless of each foster care journey, it is inevitable that there will be trauma with each case. Things the children have been exposed to before they come into care. Things they may have seen or heard. Things that could have been done to them or things that weren’t done. Basic life necessities that weren’t met, stability that wasn’t given or even a lack of knowing how to feel safe and loved. Trauma can come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t just get cured when they enter a foster home. Trauma is a big part of what foster care is all about. You don’t know what might set off a trigger at any point.
This past week I experienced a bad trauma meltdown with one of our foster children. Not only was she in tears, but so was I. I was embarrassed. I was heartbroken. I sat there feeling “stuck” and asking myself why in the world am I doing this? I ended up needing to sacrifice time with one of our bio kids to go home and pour into the meltdown child. How does that even seem fair? Why should my own flesh and blood suffer because of decisions and choices the foster care system makes for us and we have to deal with the aftermath? Somehow you press on. You roll the windows down and sing Hamilton songs at the top of your lungs with the other children while you get screamed at and block things being thrown at you until you safely arrive home.
You learn empathy real quick. Your heart becomes full of sympathy. You try every parenting tactic in the world. Sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t.
I could go on and on about our frustrations with the system…but that isn’t what Foster Care is really all about. At the end of the day, the good outweighs the bad…big time. In just one month since we said “yes” to baby “J,” we have witnessed first hand what incredible things foster care is really all about.
If you have children of your own, you learn real quick what makes them happy and what makes them sad. Parenting is basically a balancing act of preventing meltdowns, feeding, cleaning, bathing, and sustaining life! It is the hardest job in the world for sure. Imagine having a 10 month old baby placed in your arms that you know absolutely nothing about. What does she eat? How does she sleep? What kind of bottle did she use? How much formula? What kind of formula? I would say taking a baby into care has been harder than taking in older children because they can’t verbalize anything! This past month has been a month or trial and errors. Mostly errors, but some victories!
Baby “J” has stolen our hearts. She is the most fidgety baby I have ever been around. Without knowing anything about her past, her parents past or anything she could have been exposed to, we are in the process of appointments to help with some possible tools to help. She does not like to sit still. Playing with a toy for more than 10 seconds is unheard of. She really loves my scrapbook paper. She loves pull it off of my organized shelves and play with the paper, bite the paper and crinkle the paper! I think I found a way to block her of getting to it finally! A lot of emergency baby proofing has had to happen for sure. We had her sleeping in a pack n play until we knew more details of how long we might have her. Well, that wasn’t working so well. After a few longs nights of little sleep and out of desperation we figured out she loves to sleep in a soft king size bed right on top of daddy Dan. Since that is BIG no no (yes, we know co sleeping is a big fat NO) we found ourselves at Target purchasing the softest crib mattress possible and rearranging toddler beds and cribs so she now has a nice bed of her own to sleep in.
Some of the highlights this past month much outweigh all the bad of what foster care can bring. It’s the small things that matter. It’s the tiny moments that can be life changing. It’s the kindness of a friend at a basketball game who offers to hold the baby so you can have a break that can recharge your battery after a super long week. It’s the self sacrifice of each of our biokids that makes your heart feel so full. It really is the small things that make the difference. This is why we signed up for this. Even though it’s the hardest thing we have ever done, it’s also the most rewarding thing. Does it seem rewarding on a daily basis? No. Honestly, most days it seems ore of a battle than a victory. However, it’s the victories that matter the most! Let me share some victories…
After playing the bed shuffle, a new mattress, a new toddler bed, new swaddle blankets, a new weighted sleep sack…baby “J” only got up ONE TIME last night!!! This my friends is a VICTORY!
After having a fear of babies, Kenadie has become the baby whisperer. In the picture below, I basically forced her to carry the baby for the first time. She had no choice because my arms were full and I couldn’t carry her. She laughed, she cried and she conquered her fear. As I started to type this blog, she was the one crawling around on the floor and under the table playing and talking with baby “J.” All of our kids have stepped up way more than I would have every imagined. Baby “J” knows each of them now. She lights up and smiles when she sees them and so do our kids when they see her. She is 100% spoiled. Baby “J” is becoming a pro at attending basketball practices and games, watching Abbie cheer, visiting siblings at work, eating on the go and going with the constant chaos of our family.
We found the one thing that she enjoys to do that will keep her in one place for more than 10 seconds….WATER! Baby “J” loves the water. My older girls are upset because I bought her a suit that shows her belly. She takes baths every night and learned how to pull the plug out. Who needs a baby bath tub when you have a nice big sink all to yourself?
The picture below actually is probably by far one of my favorite pictures even though it is of the back of her head. One of the most important things to us since we said “yes” to baby “J” was teaching her attachment. Attachment as a baby can and will be life altering if you can help them learn what healthy attachment is. When she first came to us, there was not one ounce of attachment. She wouldn’t cuddle, lay her heard down on our shoulder, or act like she even needed us at all. She was stiff when we held her. She would crawl over you to get past you but never give you the time of day to interact with you. Within the last week, sweet baby “J” has started to lay her head on our shoulders! This is such a HUGE thing!!! This means she feels safe. This means she feels loved. This means she feels stable. This means she feels comfortable enough to trust us with her!! When she gets sleepy…which is a rarity in itself, she will let her small sweet body become loose in our arms and allow us to rock her. This is what it’s all about. Whether she stays or she goes, it’s the small moments like this that make all the hard moments worth it.
So…this is us…for today. We are not sure what the future holds, but for today…this is our family. I can only pray that one day our biokids won’t hate us for taking in more to our already full house. I want nothing but the best for each child God chooses to place with. I am not saying we are the best option and that is something we constantly have to pray and think about…are we what is best?
I know not everyone is called to foster. I know we already have an overflowing plate of chaos. Both of us working full time makes things tricky and hard. When we were raising our family, I was blessed enough to be able to stay home with them. Putting kids in daycare is something I hate to do, but am learning to be okay with. You learn to pick your battles. You take one day at a time and find the “wins” in the smallest moments of a head laying on your shoulder or smile from a stranger when you walk in with your 10 kids.
This is why we signed up for this.