That is exactly what happen and in July of 2008, we became "foster parents" for the first time. We received a call from the Department of Children and Family Services asking if we would agree to allow my niece to come stay with us for "awhile." Five and a half years and 3 more kids later, we found ourselves in the role of foster parents.
The journey has not been an easy one.
It is not for the faint of heart.
We have learned many things along the way and even though I did not give birth to these last four blessings, they are every bit as loved as my biological children. I guess that is why it makes me so angry. It happened again the other day, just before Christmas.
I was on the phone with an agency, regarding a current concern for one of the little ones and the professional (I am being generous here) on the other end of the phone made this statement, "Ma'am, you need to remember that you are JUST A FOSTER PARENT."
I knew I needed to wrap up the conversation before my sinful nature came ripping through, but she just kept going and before I knew it I was uncontainable. I took a deep breath and responded, "Ma'am, please tell me that you did not just say that I am JUST A FOSTER PARENT, because I believe I am so much more than that."
She asked a loaded question, "Well then, what else are you beside a foster parent."
In all fairness, she asked and it would be rude to leave her question unanswered.
"For starters, I am their aunt, but beyond that, by your own agency's standards, I am an advocate for the children in my care. I believe that is not only my role, but it is my responsibility as outlined by your policies." I was ready to reload and keep shooting when I came to my senses and realized I could go on for days and it wouldn't change a thing. So this Momma Tiger retracted her claws and finished up the conversation.
But here it is a month later and it is still bothering me. Since this latest encounter, I have been toying around with the idea or writing a job description of sorts for everyone out there who is "JUST A FOSTER PARENT," and since I am up rocking an overtired three year old, tonight seems like the perfect night, so here goes!
Foster Parent Job Description
I am a rocker, lullaby singer, bad dream chaser -and sometimes those dreams have very real roots.
I am a chauffeur- and sometimes that means driving these babies to places they are afraid to go.
I am a counselor- and sometimes that means having your heart broken into millions of pieces as you listen to the very real fears and feelings of someone so young.
I am an expert at self control- and sometimes that means biting your tongue when you want to criticize the biological parents, or holding back tears until you get behind closed doors.
I am an advocate, all children need someone to be their voice when they cannot be heard- and sometimes this means going to court, hiring your own lawyer, writing letters to judges, governors, and anyone else who will listen.
I am a repairer(with Jesus help, of course)- and sometimes that means more than fixing toys, sometimes that means rebuilding a little person that someone else has broken.
I am a homework helper- and sometimes that means figuring out how to fill in family tree projects and answering questions harder than those on the SAT.
I am a record keeper- and sometimes this means more than scrapbooking the typical childhood milestones, it means blending what was with what is. It means documenting odd statements and conversations, every mark or bruise before and after a visit, reporting anything out of the ordinary in just the right balance so it doesn't seem that you are making mountains out of molehills.
I am a promise keeper-and never has it been so critical to keep your word so that you can earn the trust of someone who has learned not to trust.
Like every parent, I am a nurse, a maid, a referee, a hairdresser, a made to order chef, a launderer, teacher, entertainer, event planner, hugger, hand holder but most of all...
I am a prayer warrior- and sometimes that means standing in the gap when it would be easier to throw in the towel and run away.
This description is similar to those mom job descriptions you have probably seen, that is because being a good foster mom (parent) and being a good mom (parent), are really one in the same. There is no distinction between the two...there cannot be if you want to raise healthy kids, "foster" or "biological." If you do the job right, labels like these will be indistinguishable.
I'll admit, when we first embarked on this journey, I was not sure we could do it. I feared that I could not love someone else's child as much as those I had given birth to.
I was wrong. I have learned that it is not giving birth to a child that causes you to love them unconditionally. It is something unexplainable, much like the unconditional love of God. It is not something earned or bought...it is just there, free, and for the taking.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters," Colossians 3:23,
Thanks for reading, as always, I love to hear your comments or questions.