The last week of summer which morphed into the first week of school, we watched a six-month-old baby boy in our home for a foster family who went out of town. I was actually surprised that our RFC called to ask us about watching a baby because we've gotten rid of most of our baby things and I had to borrow a Pack-N-Play so that the baby would have somewhere to sleep.
It was a lot of fun for our kids to have a baby in the house to dote upon, but I'm starting to feel too old for middle of the night teething and feedings and lugging car seats around. In fact, when I got information from the baby's foster mom, including visitation times and locations, I realized that I'm literally old enough to be this baby's grandma as his mother is certainly young enough to be my daughter. It's not that I necessarily consider myself to be "old" in my 40's- I'm just not "young" anymore and I think since I have younger children people assume that I'm younger than I am.
During a middle of the night feeding, I calculated (with the help of this blog) that this is the 20th foster child to come into our home and the 11th baby. This caused me to do a lot of reflecting and I found myself asking, "Am I done yet?" "Do we keep fostering?" I wasn't sure if I was asking myself or asking God- or perhaps both, but those were the questions on my mind.
Some additional questions helped me to come up with some answers, or at least to fine-tune how I felt about things:
"What was your purpose or motivation for fostering in the first place?"
"Do you still have room in your home?"
"Do you still have the energy and health?"
"Do you still have the same passion for fostering as when you first started?"
As for motivation or purpose, some people foster to adopt and others foster simply to foster- because they know there is the need and they want to help children. Both are worthy purposes. In our case, we felt "the call" to open up our home to children not knowing what the end result would be but hoping it might end in adoption. We ending up being able to adopt a sibling group placement after nine years of fostering. And after that miraculous adoption was finalized it was a very tempting possibility for us to say, "Okay- we're done. Someone else can take a turn now." But something kept us from closing our license. Maybe it's just because when you've done something for so long it becomes a part of you or maybe it's because we know all too well that there is a shortage of good foster homes.
As for the answers to the other questions: "Do you still have the room?" Some families may have the desire to foster or to keep fostering but they can't because there literally isn't room- they are filled to capacity for their license or they don't have the space for a child. As for our home, it might be a little crowded but we can make room for one or maybe two more children. "Do you still have the energy and health and motivation?" Hmmm- that's debatable and not anything necessarily new to consider as both my physical health and motivation wax and wane. I think at this point in time my biggest concern is "How will bringing more children into our home affect the children already in my home?"
I think, for the most part, having other children come into our come has been an enriching experience for my children. But I also know that I need to meet my own children's needs before I meet the needs of any other children- that's where my first responsibility lies. And even though I have "just" three kids (because I'm aware there are much larger families out there!) giving each of them the individualized attention they need and chauffeuring them to lessons and practices and appointments keeps us busy enough.
Unfortunately, I still don't have a definite answer to the question of "Am I done yet?" "Do we keep fostering?" but we did decide after our last respite placement that we will no longer be fostering babies. If we do decide to keep our license open for another year we will be focusing on older children (at least school-aged) or respite placements. In the meantime, I'll be focusing my efforts on our three children and graduate school and my internship and trying to find some occasional time to volunteer in my children's classrooms. I think that's plenty to keep me busy for now.