Let me start by saying I still feel encouraged to continue being a foster parent after the first month. That frankly feels like a huge step with everything we have been through in such a short time. We have had four placements, including one that passed on an illness that made my oldest sicker than I have ever seen her. However, everything I have and will mention is insignificant in comparison to serving these kiddos. If anything my belief in the importance of being a foster parent has been strengthened. I have composed a few things that not necessarily surprised me but definitely were things I wish I would/could have prepared myself more for.
Not Being Able to Say “No”
It is much easier to say on paper that you will only take one kiddo at a time. When you get the phone call and they say “we have a sibling set we can separate. Would you be willing to take the baby?” While filling out our foster application my husband and I had a short conversation about how our two plus two more was too many kiddos for our hectic life, especially with the fact that caring for the kiddos would predominantly be my responsibility. Yet, when those calls come we can’t say “yes, separate them”. I couldn’t imagine my daughters without each other and couldn’t do that to someone else’s kiddos.
The Need to Immediately Assess Kiddos Well Being
All of the tasks that needed to take place upon their arrival. Assessing whether they needed immediate medical attention, examining their clothes, taking note of what was sent with them, the condition the kiddos were in, how dirty the kiddos were, if they had lice, getting them cleaned up and fed, giving them hugs if they needed them or space if they needed that more, listening to their stories and if it gave an insight into their case, taking any photos that could be of use to their caseworker.
All the Phone Calls
There were many contacts I was responsible for updating the second we needed something or the kiddos situation had changed. At one point I had five people I needed to call to update. I was also trying to understand who talks to who. Who do I need to report information to that can pass it on or is it always my responsibility?
I took for granted knowing my kiddos eating and sleeping habits. What their bedtime rituals are. You have no idea what they can/can’t eat or drink. What they are allergic too. What foods they simply don’t like. Whether a one-year-old has transitioned to milk from formula. Whether the baby has had soft foods and knows how to chew them up. As a parent, I’ve had time to work with my kiddos on these things, but as a foster parent your thrown in the deep end and have to figure it out.
The Sibling Set
When you take a sibling set there is a history you haven’t experienced. Whether the kiddos have been together or apart and for how long. You have to learn how they communicate and interact with each other. Because we have two daughters we had to figure out how to blend foster siblings into our family with an already strongly connected sibling set.
Surprises are Not Surprising
Always be ready for surprises and expect the unexpected. Of course the unexpected is unique to every placement, but with each kiddo placed in our house, I have learned something. For instance, I had learned about Medicaid in training but hadn’t yet lived experienced it. What the numbers looked like, how to find a doctor that would take Medicaid, or what to do when Medicaid information was incorrect.
Being a child’s advocate that I had just met felt like a huge task that I couldn’t fail at. But I didn’t realize that I would literally be their advocate from the moment they walked in my house.
The Hardest Part
As we waited to be foster parents I often wondered what it would feel like when the kiddos were sent onto their next home. We have been foster parents for just over a month and have had 4 kiddos in our care. I was prepared for these kiddos to be with us for six months to a year and then go back to a court-appointed individual or be with us long-term. What I wasn’t prepared for was these kiddos being rushed back to questionable environments in an urgency to keep families together. Every single day I worry about the safety of these kiddos and that daily worry has been far harder than saying good-bye.