What are some unexpected joys and challenges of foster care? How did your expectations line up with reality?
Today’s post will be a little unique. I’m letting my husband take over and guest post for me today! I hope you guys enjoy his perspective on today’s topic.
Joys and challenges. Expectations versus reality. Right now I’m asking myself how to tackle so much in a reasonable amount of words. I’m not in the business of curing insomnia, so I’ll attempt to keep this short.
So it’s time for some #realtalk. Let’s keep it 100. (Isn’t that what the kids are saying these days?) I grew up as an only child. No brothers or sisters. The couple younger cousins I have lived a few hours away while growing up, so I only saw them on special occasions. To say that I had little to no experience with infants or toddlers would be…well…accurate. So, before launching into this new life of parenthood, I was fairly anxious, nervous, and flat out scared about being a dad.
I’m sure every new parent wrestles with that. I’m sure that even after parenting for a decade or more, I’ll still worry about being a good dad or scared of what will come up next with my kids. But I hope we all can put away the pretense and admit that these kinds of worry, nervousness, and fear of parenting are real. It just comes with the territory when you love someone else that much.
So expectations versus reality. I think I’ve cleared up some of my expectations of foster parenting.
How about the reality? Frankly, it’s just a lot like being a new parent. For those first couple weeks of our first placement (one year old TWINS, mind you!), life was just crazy. There were days that I didn’t eat anything but lunch because our nights after work were just an attempt to keep everyone alive and somewhat sane. I would fly out of bed in one motion at any tiny noise in the night, thinking something surely must be wrong. That sort of stressed/half awake sleeping did a number on me for a couple weeks. But, as with any new parent, time and experience began to soothe my anxiousness and a new routine took hold. I like routine. Don’t get me wrong—it was still organized chaos, but it was at least organized chaos that I could handle without ending up in the fetal position myself.
Foster care has some challenges in the need for extra processes, paperwork, and so many various people being involved in your life and in your home. It comes with extra requirements, extra meetings, extra training, and more things that can add up in your schedule. I would say, however, that these have generally been small frustrations. Just parts of the system that tack on some extra work to the parenting role.
There is a set of unique challenges that comes with doing emergency short-term foster placements, as we have done a fair share of those on weekends. With one phone call, our plans can be drastically changed. We might have to scramble a bit and make an unexpected trip to the store for diapers, formula, or whatever else is necessary. Sometimes those placements happen late at night, and so we’re up at midnight or later attempting to soothe a screaming baby who just wants his or her mother. I can’t say those are joyous moments, and I can be honest enough to say I haven’t handled all of those high stress moments with grace and selflessness. However, you keep going and striving to be better, because those children need someone. The sad part is we would get calls for emergency placements all the time because there are not enough families on the call lists. Our area especially needs more families to open up their homes, even to short-term placements.
So what about the joys? Giving a child a bath and a fresh set of clothes after you know they most likely haven’t been bathed in weeks. Helping a child who had only crawled learn to take steps without holding on to anything. Seeing a child learn to be generous with what he owns or even his own room when other children need a place to sleep for the weekend. Seeing a child spell their name for the first time. Or ride a bike. Or see the ocean.
Just like any parent can attest to, these are joys that I will carry with me for years and years. Many of the children I may never see again, but the impact can be felt for much longer—not just for those children, but the impact they had on me as well.