I recently attended a training where a seasoned foster mother addressed the topic of dealing with reunifications. This woman has a wealth of knowledge from her experiences [She has 19 children, many of whom have been adopted from the foster care system] and one thing I jotted down that she said is that “As intense and hard as the pain and grief is at reunifications- you must think of an emotion even stronger than grief or loss to get you through.” (and, I might add, to continue to foster.) What is that emotion? In a word: LOVE. In other words, it’s not about what you’re going to “get” out of fostering, but what you have to give. To put it another way, I read another foster mother describe it this way: “It’s not about you.”
One of the earliest lessons I learned and continue to re-learn about foster care is that it isn’t about US and our wants but sometimes it’s hard to keep the needs of the foster children above my own personal desires- especially when comparisons come into play of what my family has to offer in terms of safety, stability, nurturing, opportunities, financial stability, etc. when contrasted with their family of origin.
I was very impressed with the amount of maturity, selflessness, and compassion this same woman displayed when she was faced with the situation of potentially adopting two little boys who had been in her care as her foster children. This foster mother has learned that it’s beneficial to keep an open relationship with parents and relatives of her foster children (to the degree that is as safe as possible, because in some instances that option just isn’t possible). Because of her willingness to keep the lines of communication open, she and her foster sons were visiting with their grandmother. This foster mother, who up to this point could have easily adopted these two young boys without any interference from the State or next of kin, asked the grandmother, “Why is it that the State hasn’t given you the option of you raising your grandsons?” The grandmother answered “It’s because I don’t have beds or dressers for them.”
Do you know what this foster mother did? She and her family helped furnish her foster son’s grandmother with the necessary beds and furniture so that she would be able to have them in her care because she felt so strongly that nobody should be prohibited from raising children simply because they can’t afford it. (Incidentally, I sometimes feel like people shouldn’t be prohibited from adopting a child just because they don’t have an extra $30K lying around, but I digress . . . ) I found her actions to be extremely selfless. This foster mother put family preservation above her own desires to adopt these boys she had been raising. What a great example.