What inspired you to become a foster mom?
I’ve always wanted to work with kids in need as long as I can remember. As a child I wanted to be an orphanage mom. As I grew up my dreams changed and adapted but the desire to be a mom to kids who are in need of love and a safe home has always remained. For a long time I said I’d do it when I got married. But I really felt that this was my calling. Not my calling when or if I get married. Just my calling period.
So at the beginning of last year I started the process and was certified this past fall. There has been nothing shocking about it. It’s been just what I’ve expected and hoped for. My first little love was a three month old boy. Everything about that transition into momhood felt so natural and normal. I came alive. It fit perfectly. He only stayed with me a few weeks before they found his sister who had been adopted out of the system. The family that adopted her wanted to adopt him, so he left. Then I was out of the country for work. When I came home, I got my current foster son. This one did not feel quite so natural or easy. He’s a very developmentally delayed four year old and we’ve had our challenges. I’m exhausted. But at the same time it’s even more rewarding this time around. The growth I have seen in him in the past month is just mind blowing. He is learning so much so fast and I’m so excited to see what he will do in the world.
What is the best thing about fostering?
The best part of being a foster mom is loving the little ones. The sweet moments. Last night my foster son was having a hard time with me leaving his room at bed time. So I cuddled him a bit longer and then said I’d sit in my room where he could see me. He grabbed my face with both little hands and cried pitifully, “But not your faaaceee!” It’s those moments where I can give him just what he needs and let him look at my face and know that I’m there and I’m not leaving him. Those are the best.
What’s the hardest thing about fostering?
The hardest part is that I haven’t parented my child from birth. I’m currently going through developmental stages that range from ages 0 to 4 all in one child. I’m introducing the idea of obedience. I’m introducing quiet time in the afternoon and an early bedtime at night. Having a child who has years of habits that go against my values or how I run my house — that’s really hard. The hardest piece of it the lack of ability to listen because it’s often a safety issue and really limits what we are able to do.
They say, “it takes a village.” Have your neighbors been a part of your village?
It definitely takes a village! That’s the name of my group that I created on Facebook to share with friends about my foster loves. I truly know that I cannot do it alone. Most of my village is from my church. But I have one neighbor who has just been phenomenal. She lives across the street and is such a gift in my life. When I’m sick, she brings soup. When I’m out of groceries, she asks if she can shop for me. When it’s my birthday and I just got a new high needs foster son, she comes over and makes me fondue to celebrate me even though she’s pregnant and sick. I have another almost neighbor (a few blocks away) who takes the dog, asks how she can help, and offers me meals. Another a few blocks up the street who brought me flowers when my foster son arrived. I love where I live. And I love my neighbors and that they have chosen to dive into life with me.
Roughly 90% of the population doesn’t know their 8 closest neighbors. You’re in the 10% that does. Any tips for getting to know your neighbors for someone that doesn’t know where to start?
For me, it’s simple. I don’t love going out and I’ve always wanted to live near people I’m friends with. The way to do that is to become friends with my neighbors! When I moved in I made a point to meet everyone. I took people cookies, I invited people over, I hosted block parties. But mostly I just said, “hi.” I was a little bit of a creeper, looking out my window frequently. When I saw a neighbor walk by I’d pop outside and greet them. I was eager — which we’re often afraid to be. We don’t like to look too eager. But my neighbors appreciated it and responded. And we spent time together and developed friendships. The first winter I’d shovel for my neighbors sometimes. Just try to send the message that I like them and want to be friends.
How has knowing your neighbors impacted your life?
Knowing my neighbors has been great. They’re so different from me. I really value having a varied community. People who bring different gifts to the table. Heidi brings peace and laughter. Kristen brings kindness and generosity. Bridget brings a passion for justice. Dan checks my basement for intruders. You know. You need the whole crew. It’s been a blessing for sure.
If someone was considering fostering or wanted to better support the people that foster, what would you most like to share with them?
I’d tell them to just jump into any info class! If you’re considering it, my belief is you should do it. Because very few people even consider it. So if it’s on your heart, you were probably made for it. I go through Bethany Christian Services and they have great classes. They also do a great job of answering any questions you may have. But I also know there are many other organizations that are happy to answer your questions as well. Also ask me or any other foster parent any question you want. We’re always happy to answer them and share the beautiful mess of fostering with you.
If someone is looking to better support those they know who are fostering, that’s easy. We want food. And clean houses. And we want breaks from our kids. But our kids are messy and complicated and we’re not always quick to ask people to step into that. We also want our kids to have a village. We want them to have other adults besides us who love them and know them and give them boundaries and bless them. The key is offering. So offer away. The worst we can do is say no. But it’s more likely we’ll say, can you offer again tomorrow, if today doesn’t work for us. Also, accept our chaos. Let our kids be loud and disobedient at church and don’t judge us. Understand that even we don’t fully know what our kids have experienced in life and it’s been hard and left scars on their hearts. Don’t expect silence, stillness, good listening, or good choices.
Inspired by Coray?
Join the Love Your Hood Challenge — neighboring challenge to help you get to know your neighbors and forge stronger communities! Challenge No. 001 is all about knowing who your neighbor is and challenge No. 003 will start you on the path to being the village to the families near you.