My niece, Melissa Walker Fenderson, her husband and three teenagers have fostered 10 different children. Her words tell of the challenges, joys and sorrows of fostering children who need guardianship often while their parents get help or an adoptive parent can be found.
These are the first two posts in a series she is sharing on Facebook. Thank you, Melissa for giving me permission to share your posts here. I hope your words will serve as encouragement, support and information about fostering to others who are interested. These posts were so heartfelt, informative and honest that they had to be shared. More posts will be posted as she shares her experiences.
“Foster care has been on my mind since our latest 3 kids have joined our home. In the past 2 years, we have cared for 10 different children. We have learned much but have also grown in understanding of the very broken world around us. I had been curious about Foster Care and what it would be like, and truthfully, nothing could have prepared me or us for it. We have heard 5-6 year old kids say stuff I had not heard from anyone mouth till I was 30+ years old. We have seen the struggles of people who want to do right by their kids, but had habits that had such a strong hold on them, that it was nearly impossible to overcome. We have seen successes and reunification of families and have witnessed the heart breaking effects of poor parenting on children. We have come to recognize our own weakness and inability to fix things that were broken long before we were involved. We have felt the rewards of helping others, and of having our kids learn to help others, and then felt the sting of having people look down at us in stores for using WIC or vouchers to purchase clothes for our Foster kids who came with only their dirty clothes on their backs. We have felt the love and generosity of our church people, who, at the drop of hat, brought full set ups of snow clothes for some of our kids who were begging to go outside but couldn’t because we didn’t have any way to keep them warm. We have felt the benefit of having people share their bassinets, pack and plays, toys, swings, and other things with us so these kids could have what they need. We have recognized value of the life saving meal someone brings by when we first get the kids and feel overwhelmed with trying to figure out their needs and meet them in anyway we can. I have felt the disappointment in myself for not having the love I should for the kids at times, or for feeling frustrated with them for showing bad behaviors they have had modeled for them their whole lives. I am glad for my Loving Heavenly Father, who loves me unconditionally, who will never leave or forsake me, and who continues to bless me/us with the wonderful people he surrounds me/us with!”
Part 2 – On Foster Care
I love babies, I love how they smell after a bath. I love how they snuggle in and cuddle when you hold them. I love the sweet look on their face when they are full of milk and their eyes roll back because they are perfectly happy and content. I love the way they look when they sleep…it’s the closest thing on earth to Angels. smile emoticon I love they way they look at their moms with love and how they view their parents in such a safe and trusting way.
Then, I feel grief for the parents who are missing out on the chance to see the smiles, feel the babies cuddle with them, smell the soft scent of their skin, hear the coos and happy little sounds I get to hear from their kids who, for this time, see me as their mom. There is a cost to the kids, for the mistakes and bad habits their parents fall into or make. When the kids cry, misbehave, or seem unreasonable, I can’t help but wonder if they feel the emptiness I felt when I left home for the first time for college and missed home so bad. The difference being they they are so much younger and less able to cope with with how they must feel. It breaks my heart for them.
Then there are the parents of these kids. I can only imagine how it must hurt the parents to see their kids look to me and Ryan as their parents, when they should be filling that role. There has got to be some pain in hearing your kids call someone else mom. There has got to be regret when someone else gets to be the tooth fairy for your kids, when someone else gets to see their faces on Christmas, when someone else gets to experience firsts that you wanted to see. It’s got to be tough to have to ask someone to get permission to get to see your kids, and then have to see them under the watchful eye of Health and Welfare staff. It might be easy to assume that the parents don’t love their kids, but that isn’t the case. Many of the situations we have encountered have come about as a result of desperate circumstances or foolish choices and were not done in an effort to hurt their kids.