May is Foster Care Awareness month. And there are a million statistics I could share. A million reasons about WHY you should consider foster care or HOW you can help kids in the system even if you can’t be a foster parent. But those have all been written before, and as I am confident you’ve seen more than enough this month, what I want to share with you today is a glimpse into my family’s journey though the foster system, and my little ones who I sometimes think of as my invisible children.
The thing is, it’s the shock value of foster care that seems to get the most noticed. And believe me it’s there. Every case there is something:
I could tell you about the little boys who came to us with only one garbage bag, not even half full, of soiled, ill-fitting clothes. No diapers. No formula. No information on their past or their family. They were dropped off late at night on a holiday weekend even after we had initially decided we couldn’t take them – because there was nowhere else for them to go.
I could tell you about the little girl who came with cardboard boxes and a history of bringing fleas into foster homes after visits to her birth family. We were her third foster home. Her foster family from before us dropped her off and never came back to visit her, despite repeated calls and emails from me asking them to make time for her so she’d have some sense of transition.
I could tell you about the baby boy we took in as an emergency respite placement for another foster family. We didn’t know this when we took him in, but none of our local daycares were accepting babies. I lost a week of precious vacation time I’d hoped to spend with my family just to stay home with the little guy calling his social workers every day begging for daycare.
I could tell you about the sisters we took in who both still wet the bed, even through big kid overnight pull-ups. I could tell you how a room full of ammonia stench made me want to vomit as I cleaned up after them each morning and how I hated myself for wondering if I should just throw away the bedding after they left or try to keep washing it until the smell was gone.
I could tell you about the toddler who didn’t know how to control emotions, who hit me, bit me, scratched me, kicked me, and left me with bruises not because she was bad, but because she was scared and didn’t know how to handle all the loss in her world.
I could tell you about the time I had to call 911 in the middle of the night and get police to remove a boy from my home because my family was no longer safe with him there. I wept so, so hard as he left. I wept for the time I would have spent as his Mama, and the life I had wanted to give him. I wept because I had to make a choice and as much as the officers who showed up that night assured me I did the right thing, I knew the cost that call would have on the boy I had to give up on in order to keep my family safe.
I could tell you about the call I got for a two-year-old high on meth or the 16 different kids removed in a single night from a drug bust in a neighboring city or even a six month old baby who was so little he only weighed 11 lbs due to neglect. I could tell you about the 3-5 calls I get per week for kids needing foster homes and I guarantee each one would break you heart.
I could tell you story after story. But the thing is… these stories aren’t them. These stories aren’t MY kids. These stories are just the parts that stand out to people because it’s so different from what they know.
We have had nine amazing kids since we started our foster journey. It’s been incredible. And you know what? Every single one of my foster littles has been amazing. Every single one of them. Those stories I just told you? Only a part of it. The rest is silly songs, and giggles, and reading books, and riding bikes, and waking up every day to a home full of love and laughter. Yes, it always ends in good-bye, but that time before? That time before is just the most life-changing, wonderful moments as a short-term family.
I affectionately refer to these as our invisible moments. For in truth, my foster children feel sometimes like my invisible kids. I can’t share their pictures or their names. I can’t help you get to know them on any real level. If we go on a family vacation each and every snapshot/video/post has to be “sanitized” to make sure we aren’t revealing the identity of our little ones.
In so many ways it’s an invisible life and that makes it so, so hard to share the positives of foster care with everyone. But believe me, behind every shocking story is just a child who just needs to be loved and who deserves a chance to be helped. So please, as you read all the sensational pieces this month begging for foster care parents (and believe me they are needed!) just let your heart be tugged by the reminder that even the hardest kids still have more amazing moments then bad ones.
I’ll finish by sharing that this isn’t to try to make you want to do foster care. Only you know if you can do it. But I can promise that if you have room in your home and room in your heart to help even one local child in crisis? You will be forever changed.