Foster Care Part 3
The totally unexplainable, indescribable, potentially most important part of foster care. These visits help determine if the parents are ready to fight for their kids or not. Whether they are ready to figure out how to spend a specified time during the week with their kids as a DHS worker supervises or not. The visits are the starting point for the parents; the first thing they need to start doing to show they want to work for their kids to return home. It’s only the first step of many but it’s a very, very important first step.
As a foster parent, visits are a wild card. A day full of anxiety, worry, hope, and potentially inconvenience. It isn’t convenient to drive out of your way to pick your kids up from a visit because you chose a location the parents could actually make it to. It isn’t convenient for visits to last until 6:00 and then you, as the parent, have to rush those babies home for baths and bedtime while hoping that visit didn’t set them off emotionally. None of it is convenient. But it’s necessary. And if you’re really going to do everything in your power to support the parents, then you do what has to be done. Besides, you didn’t sign up for what is convenient, you signed up for what you were called to do.
The first visits were sporadic as they worked on getting a normal schedule put in place. The DHS worker would pick the kids up from their daycares (because they were at 2 separate daycares the first couple of weeks), take them to their visit, and then take them back. However, our daycare then informed us that was not something they would allow. A visit in the middle of the day causes a disruption for not only those kids but for the classroom so they would need to be before school or after. So we worked on a more regular schedule of visits twice a week. The DHS worker would pick them up from daycare, take them to their visit, and then I would pick them up. Seemed easy enough. Until the first time I went to pick them up and received a call from the DHS worker that the bio parents wanted to meet me that day.
I wanted to throw up. How was I supposed to actually meet these people by myself? Matt couldn’t come since he was at work and it was so last minute we didn’t get to plan ahead. I wanted to say no. Nope. No thanks. But how do you say no? And if you’re really there to foster and support, you can’t say no. So, I said ok. Very reluctantly. Then I panicked.
What do I say to them? How do I act? Their children were taken from them and placed in my home. I am literally raising their children and we’ve never met. They had their children taken from them. How do you act toward somebody when you haven’t quite figured out how to understand that one fact? You tell yourself over and over that they made a mistake but at the same time that other part of your brain is screaming at you that it wasn’t JUST a mistake. It was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in my brain. So I did what any normal 30 something woman would do, I phoned a friend.
My dear friend was also a foster parent in Arkansas. She had already fostered 2 babes who transitioned home and she had 2 current foster loves (who now lovingly share her last name) in her home. SHE would know what to do; she’d already done it. (Oh and I also have to mention that she is an overall phenomenal person.) I told her I was going to meet them but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to act toward them.
“Be humble. Treat them like you would treat C if she was her mom because if you don’t, C could end up like her mom. You have the ability to change that. Just love them like Jesus would.”
Be humble. Love like Jesus. Jesus wouldn’t look at them and think they’re less than because they had their children taken. He would love them and work with them to overcome it.
That is the only way I made it through that introduction. Love like Jesus. Love like Jesus. Be humble. Over and over in my head.
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked in. The worker allowed me to watch them as a family from behind a glass mirror (the kind where we can see them but they can’t see us). It’s hard to explain what I felt as a foster mom in that moment. Why were they parenting my kids that way? That’s not how I would do it. That’s not “right”. I’ll never forget when the worker said “they’re parenting the only way they know how; that doesn’t make it wrong”.
Those few words spoken from my friend and the worker that day changed the trajectory of the entire relationship. If I would have gone in as “holier than thou” or even tried to correct what they were doing it could have changed everything. I truly believe that first meeting (where bio mom hugged me and thanked me) is what set the foundation for the next 9 months.
That’s how 9 months of visits went. Every Tuesday and Thursday they would get picked up by the DHS worker, driven to their parents, I would go wherever they were, and then we would all walk back to my car together where they would load their children into my car, say goodbye, thank me, and then, as soon as the door was closed, C would say “hi mommy” to me.