Featured article courtesy of Montgomery County Foster Parenting Services:
“We remember it just like it was yesterday. It was 10AM on a Tuesday when we got the call and the question that we had been anticipating since becoming foster parents; can you take a 6-year-old girl for a long-term placement? We jumped into action and 24 hours later, we picked up our first placement with her county provided “comfort case.” We didn’t know what kind of foster family we would be, and we did not know what to expect. We only knew what we had learned through our training, but now things were getting real. We signed up and trained to be a foster family because we thought if we can help a kid, then we should.
On that first day, we had no idea that the next 15 months would present us with the opportunity to help a little girl with so many different needs. All we initially knew is that this little girl needed experiences outside of living in a car and sometimes a motel room – which is how she and her 2 siblings had spent the previous 10 months. We quickly learned that she needed new clothes, needed toys, and needed love and attention. Add to that, the need to learn how to swim and run, a need for 3 significant surgeries, therapy, and a need to repeat first grade since she had not been in school for 8 months. The community we live in enveloped her and brought her gifts, clothes and included her in everything.
Our family doesn’t know moderation – when we get involved, we go “all in” and that is exactly what we did with our first foster placement. We embraced her and integrated her into the lives of our three other daughters. She did everything our own children did. We will never forget on day 2 when she was walking the 50 yards to the bus stop, she complained of being tired because it was too far away. Our response was, “If you’re going to be part of this family, we will need to build your stamina”. And so we did – soccer, gymnastics, track and field, swim lessons and then swim team, parties, family events, sleep overs, play dates and family trips. She did it all. And all of this on top of the doctors, dentists, specialists, therapists, court-ordered visits with siblings and birth parents… the child was busy for sure! It was so rewarding to see her RUNNING to and from the bus stop this past school year and to see her laughing and playing with her friends day in and day out.
As time went on, it looked as if our foster daughter would stay with us because there was no family coming forward for her and her parents were still struggling. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, an aunt appeared. A wonderful woman who wanted to care for her and give her a forever home. She was open to working with us and providing the best transition possible. We taught her about her niece, shared our insights about the child welfare system, and gave her some parenting advice since she has no children of her own. Getting to know her was a joy and we helped each other through the process, a new experience for each of us, but for different reasons.
While we did not want to say goodbye, we knew that the best outcome for our foster daughter was to be reunited with family. We had to take stock of the fact that this was supposed to happen and that this was our job when we signed up to be a foster family….to give a child a safe, loving home where she had opportunities and positive life experiences until she could be reunited with her family. Easier said than done. And we had to accept that sometimes doing the right thing can be difficult. We all cried at the thought of the impending transition, but in the end, we knew it was the right thing to do.
So rather than say goodbye, we planned a “Next Chapter” party at our local pool. We wanted our foster daughter to feel celebrated and loved as she moved on to start the next chapter of her life. 50 people showed up to wish her well and we had a beautiful celebration complete with a food, decorations and all the trimmings. We painted and decorated a bookcase for her and we asked the guests to bring chapter books that she could read at her new “forever home.” It was lovely.
Our foster daughter came to us with just a comfort case and left in her Aunt’s SUV, packed full of bins and bags full of stuff. It wasn’t about the volume of material things she left with that mattered. When we saw the car stuffed full of her things, it was a car full of memories that she had acquired over the 15 months she was with us. Trophies, ribbons, medals, books, birthday presents, holiday decorations, pictures, and clothes for every season…things that would take her into her “next chapter,” while reminding her of a positive past.
Will we do it differently with the next placement? Would we go all in? We don’t know how to do it any other way.
Consider fostering. The impact is real and you will forever be positively changed.”
For more information visit: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/fosterparent