My husband and I have been foster parents for 4 months. In those 4 months we have had 6 children in addition to our own to care for, feed, and help feel appreciated. This journey has been a roller coaster of emotions of the kiddos and of our own. Foster care is heartbreakingly beautiful because I get the chance to invest in other peoples kiddos and help change their lives. I get to expose them to new experiences and life lessons, but they have to do it without their family and without their normal.
The Word “Congratulations”
When a new placement arrives in our home, I am often told “congratulations.” This comes from caseworkers and fellow foster parents. The last four months I have been struggling when someone says “congratulations,” and I didn’t know why until recently. To me, the word congratulations equals something to celebrate, something you have worked hard for, something you have earned. Each time someone says that to me I am taken aback and I finally understand why.
A phone call for a foster placement can come at 1:30 pm or 1:30 am. Every time the circumstances are different, and every time I can’t imagine experiencing what these kiddos are experiencing. So why say congratulations to the foster parents? What is there to celebrate? Yes, some of these kiddos, depending upon their situation, are getting a chance to be safe, a chance to eat regular meals, a chance to sleep in a real bed, a chance to get regular baths, a chance to have clean clothes and shoes. But these kiddos are losing connections to their family and to everything they have ever known. They are getting put with people and or families that do get to stay together. So not only are they losing their family they get to observe up close and personal other kiddos getting to keep theirs.
Why I’m a Foster Parent
I love being a foster parent. I am in the thick of life serving others without asking for anything in return day in and day out. I get the chance to teach these kiddos, to put a smile on their face, to inspire them to laugh. I also witness their scars, their stories, their trauma, their night terrors, their need to control anything and everything.
When a kiddo arrives at our door we have no idea what is coming our way. In most instances, there is very little information known about them, and often the information that is known is incorrect or not the full story.
So why do experienced foster caseworkers and fellow foster parents say congratulations? I asked one the other day and they were taken aback that I would ask. That I wouldn’t celebrate a new placement. And frankly, I don’t think they had ever really thought through the entire context of what they were saying. Maybe we should say good luck or we will be thinking of you. Saying congratulations to the foster parents when these kiddos are losing so much just seems one-sided and another way to highlight these kiddos pain.