One fear I had going into Fostering was “what if I don’t love the children as much as my own biological children?” And then the follow-up was thinking, I suppose if I didn’t love them as much and they are only here temporarily, that’s not the end of the world, but what if I adopted and I didn’t love that child as much as my bios?
I read blogs, Facebook posts, and books where people always just said they loved their foster and adopted children as much as their bios. But, it still scared me. Okay, so those people love their kids as much, but what if I don’t? And frankly, no one can answer that question before they begin fostering or before they’ve adopted, and it may be on a case by case basis. You may have that “as much” love for one child and not another.
Last night, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel with a former foster youth who aged out of the system, a reunified parent, and I was representing foster parents during a training for new foster parents. As I was answering a question about the dynamic in our home between bios and fosters, I came to this realization, and voiced it: I love my foster child with the same intensity that I love my biological children. I often think that no one has ever loved their foster child as much as I love mine. But I would be lying if I said it was the same type of love. Before you judge me too harshly, let me give you an example.
I love my husband intensely. If the dial goes to a 10, I love him at an 11 (name that movie reference!). I also love my bio children, and I love them at an 11. But it’s a different type of love. Same goes for my parents. 11… but on a different dial. I love them all to the same intensity, but my love for each of them is a love that plays out differently. So, when I say I love my foster son just as much as I love my biological children, I don’t want to give you a false idea about how it may be for you, by leaving it as simple as that.
You will (hopefully!!!) love your foster child just as much as you love your bios, but don’t be surprised or feel guilty if that love is different. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe because I co-slept and nursed my bios, so there was that really early physical bonding. Maybe because they are a permanent fixture in my life and in our home. Maybe because I’m parenting with just their father, and not co-parenting with a stranger. I’m sure there are lots of components to the puzzle.
My encouragement to you today is this:
If you are considering foster care or adoption (yes, those are two very different categories!) and the fear of loving a stranger is holding you back, I’m here to encourage you, that it is very possible to love a child who is not from your body, just as much as you love your bio kids.
If you are currently loving on a foster or adoptive child, and you love them just as much, but it feels a different? That’s okay. I think it’s that way for a lot of us. It doesn’t mean you love them less— it’s just a little different.
No one sits behind their desk and says “Lets emotionally scar a child”.
No one speaks out in a courtroom and tells a judge, “Your Honor, we need to ensure this child ends up with RAD.”
No one sits at your dining room table and says, “We really ought to set this baby up for complete emotional failure in life.”
In foster parent circles, you hear a lot of people saying, “The system is so broken! It must be fixed!” And indeed it is broken. Like the public school system, it is a one size fits all path. So while slight variations may be made here or there, it’s designed to work for the average case— whatever that is.
In my county, young children are not supposed to end up in the system terribly long. This is a good thing. But what is supposed to happen and what does happen are two different things. A child whose life hangs in the balance. A baby who has formed attachments to people other than their parents for months or even years, suffers from the instability of belonging nowhere. An older child passed from home to home, racking up a line of diagnoses and worsening behavior with each disruption. A teenager, ready to age out, with no real hope or plan of what comes next.
So we should speed up the process, right? Well, if we reunite these children too quickly, their parents will fail. Often times, parents have a long history of struggles to overcome in a short time. Addiction, mental health problems, abusive tendencies, and the like cannot be fixed with the swish of a wand. These hurdles can take a long time to overcome. We set children up for failure and re-entry into the system, we risk their physical and mental health, and sometimes we risk even their lives by reuniting too soon.
But, if we terminate parents’ rights too quickly, we needlessly rip families apart. This leads to resentment on the part of the adoptee. We see depression, RAD, we see regret, we see that a family may have been reunited if the parents only had more time. We see two families worn down and broken.
So what’s the fix? How do we “reform the system!”? I don’t think there is an answer to that. Call me a pessimist, but there is no fix that would work in a one size fits all system. The system, “broken” though it may be, is the most effective formula for the middle cases. The ones on top and the ones on bottom get the short end of the stick, but there simply has to be a middle of the road procedure they slap on every case.
Individualizing every case would be ideal of course. But this would require so much more manpower, so many less hard and fast laws, and so much more personal interpretation of the rules on a case by case basis by the decision makers. While that sounds great, it is, of course, a lawsuit nightmare waiting to happen. You terminate the rights of one parent at 3 months into the case, give others 6 years, and you’re asking for revolt.
So what happens? What happens is you sit awake all night with a screaming baby on visit days who is torn apart by anxiety because you left her with a stranger for a few hours. Except that stranger is her mother. You have a little boy, so shaken up by instability that he eats obsessively, hoards food, and steals more for later, because it’s the only thing he can control. You have a preteen girl punching holes in walls, completely conflicted by the stability she gets in one home, and the love she feels for her mother— no matter how unstable her mom’s home may be. You have an adolescent boy shooting up heroine to stop feeling the rejection he has felt from being bounced around home to home for the majority of his life.
So, no. There are no lawyers asking to inflict RAD on a child. There are no social workers providing drugs for foster youth. There are no judges sentencing small humans to a life of depression and instability— but it’s still what’s happening. Fix the system? I don’t think you can.
Sound bleak? Yeah. It is. I’m worn out. I’m weary. I’m tired. I’m wrecked. What can I do? What can you do? If we can’t save the foster care system, how do we make a difference?
By taking the punches— sometimes literally. By being a child’s rock to cling to when they’ve been shipwrecked in a stormy ocean of instability. By praying for that baby while you rock him, since he is too small to understand why he is so scared of visit days. By advocating for resources when you are personally tapped out, and that young lady needs clinical help. By not giving up on the child— even when you’ve given up on the system.
You cannot control the system. You cannot control the parent. You cannot control the judges, lawyers, and social workers. You cannot control the child sometimes. But, you can control the conscious decision to keep going.
So. Tired though we may be. Exhausted. Wrecked. Jaded. Bruised and broken. Soldier on. Keep going.
I don’t want to co-parent today. I don’t want to pretend that it isn’t frustrating that someone parents differently from me. I don’t want to get a child back with a diaper put on incorrectly. I don’t want to smell someone else’s strong perfume on him.
I don’t want to have to spend 3 days getting eczema flares down after a visit. I don’t want to deal with the meltdowns that will plague us for the next 24 hours. The clingy baby who refuses to let you pee alone, because he’s so afraid you’re going to leave him with someone else again. I don’t want to deal with crappy naps and night terrors for the next day.
I don’t want to send texts and pictures every day. I don’t want to give updates that aren’t appreciated. I don’t want to spend hours writing up parenting instructions per the social worker to find out they were never read. I don’t want to spend hours every week transporting and dealing with 3 other whiny children stuck in a car. I don’t want to make pleasant small talk at drop off and pick up.
I don’t want to worry. I don’t want to be scared about something going wrong. I don’t want to spend hours with my stomach in knots in fear. I don’t want to get a baby back who has gotten hurt.
This is the point where you ask “Then why are you a foster parent? Stop complaining and find something else to do with your life!”
Because this is what I’m supposed to do. Because doing the right thing is hard— but you still have to do it. Because being selfish isn’t a right– and it’s a pretty crappy character quality. Because, if I don’t do it, someone else also might not. Because this is what i signed up to do. Because being a co-parent is a necessary role for a foster parent to fulfill. Because this is how I can help a family reunite. Because sometimes you have to fake it ‘til you make it. Because this baby is worth trying for. Because his mama is worth trying for. Because it’s not about me. Because, today is just a bad day. Because, tomorrow will probably be better.
If you’ve ever had the feeling of a steel toed boot kicking you in your pubic bone and been told “it’s because your baby is low”…
If you’ve ever tried to get out of bed in the morning only to feel like your pelvis is about to snap in half and been told “oh that’s just because you need to do prenatal yoga”…
If you’ve ever had pain radiating from your SI points down your legs, like electric shocks and firey needles and been told “that’s just normal pregnancy back pain!”…
I’m here to tell you honey, that ain’t normal. And I hereby give you permission to tell your Aunt Barbara, Dr. Know-it-All, and Queen Earth Mother Yogi where to hang it.
I can’t tell you how many times I have read posts like these in mom groups, only for “veteran” moms to tell other moms that it’s normal. Can back pain in pregnancy be normal? Sure. Should normal pregnancy back pain debilitate you? No. Do women experience round ligament pain? Even though that concept seems like a made up term to push mothers out of OB and Midwife appointments quickly, sure, it exists. But is it normal to feel like your pubic bone is about to snap in half? No, ma’am, it is not.
Let’s talk a little about Symphysis pubis dysfunction aka SPD and PGP— that’s pelvic girdle pain. (I’m not a medical professional, so this is in super laymen’s terms… laymoms? That sounds weird. Laymen’s.) SPD is what occurs when your body produces too much relaxin and your joints get all mushy. Your ligaments stretch out, and become useless, because your body thinks it’s time to push a baby out. Except, for most is us with SPD, this hits long before it’s baby time, and often lasts for some time after baby has left. With your joints and ligaments in an uber relaxed state, your pelvis becomes unstable. Nerves get stuck between bones, your ability to balance becomes iffy, and your pubic bone and SI points click and grind. In a nutshell, it’s a little taste of torture, often with no real end date in sight. This can lead to depression, agoraphobia, PPD, PPA, and a whole lot of frustration.
This is my 5th pregnancy, with SPD and PGP. I am taking several proactive measures to (hopefully!) help make for a smoother journey with my SPD this time around!
Here’s what’s worked in the past that I’ll be continuing:
Physical Therapy: I actually didn’t have success with PT during my previous pregnancies. I had PTs who didn’t know what to do with me, handed me a cane or a walker and said “Sorry, we don’t know what to do with you.” However, after Peachy was almost a year, I connected with a great PT who took me seriously and got me strong again! I’ll be working with him this pregnancy, and I look forward to seeing how that will help in the midst of pregnancy!
Acupuncture: I was so hesitant to try acupuncture, partially because I thought it was fake and partially because I had given up on anything working. But at the urging of a physical medicine doctor, who assured me there was science behind it, I gave it a go! I had tremendous results! Now, mind you, tremendous results for me meant 2-10 hours worth relief or maybe 24 hours without a walker, but when you are living in constant pain, those breaks are what keep you going! The acupuncturist I saw, focused on needling and massage, not on herbs. We were a good fit, and I look forward to connecting with her sooner than last time.
Quality medical equipment: I have a wonderful and trusty cane at my ready! I started out with a walker that was for a much shorter person last time, and I was crouched too low. This time, I’m planning on getting a walker that suits my height better! And in time, hopefully I can snag a great wheelchair (my last one was a little rickety!)
Here’s what didn’t work in the past, that I will be doing without:
Chiropractor: I have been to MANY chiropractors. 2 certified in the Webster technique. What I got was really high quotes for treatment, cockiness (two chiropractors told me they were going to hang my cane on their walls for a trophy once they “fixed” me— which neither accomplished!), worse pain that before each adjustment, and no relief whatsoever. Because this is an issue of your ligaments and joints constantly failing you, even if I found a chiropractor who could set me straight, I would be out of alignment within an hour with how loose my pelvis is. Some have found relief, but overall, the ladies I’ve talked to with SPD, there are many of us who have not had success with chiropractic care.
Ill-fitting, poorly made supports: I have 6 or 7 belts, braces, and harnesses in my collection from my last 4 pregnancies. Some given to me my bewildered physical therapists that aren’t even made for pregnant people. Some from amazon, some hand me downs. Some are full over and under the belly braces, others just under the belly belts that cut off blood flow. None of them have worked, but I’ve held on to each one, maybe hoping it might work one of these pregnancies. None of those are made for people with SPD, so none of them address the problems caused by SPD! So, the crappy, useless braces have got to go!
Here’s what I haven’t done before, but am doing this time:
When I was pregnant with Peachy, I read an article about a man in England who had a wife with SPD and had fashioned a brace specifically made for women with SPD and PGP. I told Milkman about it, and he said “if you ever get pregnant again, we are getting that thing!” Well, I got pregnant again, and so guess what? I got “that thing”. The brace is called the Harness Gravidarum Maternity Support Belt. The first time I put it on, I was 10 weeks pregnant, and as I fastened the last strap I let out an audible “ahhhhhhhhh!” The relief was immediate. I’m going to be talking a lot more about this harness and it’s creators in posts to come, but I gotta tell you, I’m already impressed with it! I have high hopes for a better quality of life in this pregnancy!
So! That’s what’s going on with me and SPD this pregnancy! And the next time someone brushes your SPD or PGP off as “normal pregnancy back pain”, you send ‘em to me, and I’ll set them straight!
Have you struggled with SPD and PGP? What helped you find little bits of relief and sanity?
First, two became one. And that was the day Milkman and I were married. We were going to wait a year before trying for a baby.
2 months into our marriage we decided to “leave it up to God and see what happens.” We were pregnant the next month. Just two weeks before our first wedding anniversary, we became a family of 3 when Captain was born.
We thought we would wait a year before trying again. And then when Captain was 8 months old, we got another positive pregnancy test. Our sweet Mamitas was born 41 weeks later, and we became a family of 4.
When Mamitas was 11 months old, we had another positive pregnancy test. We were so excited to be a family of 5! We cherished each moment we had, but at my 17 week appointment, our little baby love was no longer. I delivered Ezra’s sleeping body 4 days later, and we remained a family of 4.
4 months later, another positive test! Our rainbow baby was the greatest joy of our lives. Peachy was born that Fall, and then we were 5. We knew after such a difficult pregnancy and traumatic labor and delivery that biological babies would not be in our near future, but we had already completed our foster parenting requirements, so we trusted that our family would grow in time.
9 months later, we received a call for two sisters from our foster agency. Within 24 hours of getting a call, we were a family of 7. Three months later, they reunified, and for two weeks, we became a family of 5 yet again.
It was too quiet, so imagine our joy when we received a call for an “adoptable” 5 day old newborn baby boy. Sweet Warrior. He left us just under 3 months later to a non-family relative home. We were devastated.
And the calls stopped. We were just 5 again. For 6 months we sat by the phone, and no more children came. But then, a call. And we were 6, when little Chatito came to live with us. And 6 we have happily been, and 6 we shall remain for a little while longer. Then 5 again when he reuinifies, but not much longer after that…
And we will be a family of 6 yet again. Because the Lord has blessed us with the gift of pregnancy!
We are grateful to God for giving us another baby to love. Our hands are full, but our hearts are bursting. What a joy to have 4 children at my feet to love on while a 5th steadily grows in my womb! Join us in praying for a healthy pregnancy and a sweet, full of life baby in Summer 2018!
As we all piled for our morning cuddle on the couch the kids asked what the plan was for the day. I told them, “Don’t forget, you guys need to pack your backpacks with quiet activities, today is visitation.”
Captain, my oldest asked, “Is it the one where we go to the coffee shop?”
“No, that’s the other visit. Today is the one where you need to sit quietly in the car in the parking lot so your baby sister can sleep while the baby is visiting with his mom.”
Both my preschooler and kindergartener groaned. This is the least favorite day of the week. We eat an early lunch, every one goes potty, and we load up into the van and head to the other side of the county for our fosterling to visit his mother for an hour. Because of when it’s scheduled, my little ones end up stuck in the car for two and a half hours. I don’t like it either. Trying to keep my older kids quiet and occupied so that my youngest can get some sleep is stressful. On good days, she gets half of her normal length in nap. On bad days, it’s a 5 minute nap and a whole afternoon of meltdowns. It’s not easy on our foster baby either. Some how it always works out that he gets awoken to go to the visit or awoken once we get to the visit. Lots of interrupted sleep usually equals a very long day with lots of crying, nap fighting, and fussiness for him.
“Mom, we don’t like this visitation day! It’s boring!” I sighed as the day had just started and the complaining was already starting. Milkman looked at me sleepily from the corner of the couch where he spent the early morning after a very early wake up call from our foster baby. We trade off nights, so I actually got sleep last night, but I couldn’t say the same for my sweet husband.
As much as I wanted to reply, “Stop complaining, too bad!” I realized this was a teaching moment. “You know what guys? I don’t necessarily like this visitation day either. It’s stressful for me trying to ensure every one is quiet in the car. But… Well. Do you know why we do this? God says that we need to care for orphans and widows. Do you know what a widow is? It’s someone who has lost their spouse and has no one to care for them. Do you know what an orphan is?”
They looked at me blankly.
“An orphan is someone who either doesn’t have living parents, or their parents cannot currently safely care for them. The foster children we’ve had in and out of our home are considered orphans. So we actually have a really important job, because we are obeying God when we care for foster children. We don’t just do this because babies are cute— even though they are! We do this because we love them, and have a duty to obey God, and this is how our family has been called to obey. And one of the jobs of foster families is to make sure foster children get to see their parents.”
They nodded slowly. Well, the older kids did. My youngest, Peachy, was dancing around like a wild maniac to Celtic Christmas music. Never a dull moment.
Milkman chimed in, “Can you imagine if you only got to see mama and papa two hours a week?? You would miss us so much and we would miss you so much, right? The baby’s mommy wants to see her baby.”
I continued, “Exactly! And that’s one way we can serve his mommy, too. She loves her baby. So I know that visitation day is kinda lousy and boring for us. But it’s a sacrifice we make together as a family to obey God and to serve the baby and his mommy. Can you understand that?”
“Yes, mama.” They replied. I’m sure they didn’t feel super happy to go on with the plan for the day, but at least they now knew there was a valid reason behind their boring day ahead.
Sometimes teaching moments are hard to come by, and sometimes they fall perfectly in your lap, like it did for us today. My kiddos do sacrifice a lot for our family to continue fostering. While it’s not as much as Milkman and I have to, it’s a decent amount for very young children.
I hope they know, for as long or short as we have to foster, it’s not just something we do for the heck of it. It’s something that takes self sacrifice. It’s something that is hard to do. It’s something that takes giving up our schedules, preferences, and desires. It’s certainly not something we do for praise from others or accolades. But, most importantly it’s something that we do in love and obedience— together. As a family.
We went camping a few weeks ago with some friends (total blast, don’t be afraid to go tent camping with a bunch of very young children!), and they had other friends camping with us as well who I hadn’t met before.
It came up that I have a blog, and as we talked I told them that though I had a post that went viral totally unexpectedly, I would never be a successful blogger. Why is that? Because I can’t write for the sake of keeping an audience.
See, in order to be a successful blogger, you have to put out content consistently. When you stop writing, people stop reading, and when people stop reading, Facebook and search engine algorithms make you less visible to the internet world.
With just one week of us being on vacation, I chose to stay off of social media as much as possible. When I came back and began posting, Facebook had made it so that my posts were viewed far fewer times than the week before when I was posting consistently.
But my problem with trying to write simply for the sake of keeping an audience is this: I can’t– in good conscience– fling crappy content at you just because the algorithms tell me I should.
When I started this blog in January 2012, I was 7 months pregnant with my first baby, and had just left my job as a nanny to get ready for stay at home motherhood. I never expected anyone to read it, and if a tiny piece of me hoped someone would, I certainly never expected thousands and thousands of people to read it, and yet here I am, 5.5 years later with a pretty strong readership.
I’ve never been able to write for the sake of writing. In fact, I have gone long periods without blogging at all, because I didn’t feel I had anything worthwhile to share. When I write– it’s because I want to. And I usually want to when I am stressed, exhausted, drained, and/or passionate about a topic.
Blogging is not my job. I can’t promise new content every Monday and Thursday, or once a week, or even twice a month. My job is being Milkman’s wife. My job is being mother and homeschool teacher to Captain, Mamitas, and Peachy. My job is being a foster mother to whichever little one(s) are in my home. My job is keeping our household running smoothly, making meals, and scrubbing toilets. As much as I love writing, it can’t be my first priority.
When you read something here on my humble and homely little blog, it’s because it mattered enough for me to take the time to say it. No filler, no fluff. No pandering to the masses or clickbait. Just the musings of a tired mama, tapping away on her phone screen while rocking a child or hanging out on the bathroom floor while kiddds brush their teeth.
So for those of you who stick around for my occasional content, THANK YOU. I’m so glad there is someone to read what I have to say. And in turn, I promise not to fill your newsfeed with “Ten Ways to Turn Your Houseplants into Dragons”, “16 Steps to a More Organized Kitchen”, and “Why My Children are Way Better than Yours.” 😉
PS I just posted this blog without a featured photo. This is practically blogocide.
On a Tuesday afternoon last October we got the call. “Would you take a 5 day old baby boy?” 3 hours later we were pulling into the driveway with a tiny stranger, screaming both from withdrawal and hunger.
We jumped out of the van, unbuckled everyone, ran into the house and I yelled to Milkman, “Make him a bottle!” He looked at me completely confused.
“How? Do we use hot water? Cold water? How much do we scoop in? How much does he need?”
I was frustrated– not because of *his* lack of knowledge on the subject, but of our collective ignorance. As I fumbled with the pacifier and white noise, Milkman was googling and so was I. “Okay! Warm water, sanitized bottle, 2 ounces, so that’s one scoop!”
How is it that 2 adults who had been parents for 4.5 years to 3 children not know how to make a bottle and feed a baby?
As a nursing advocate, lactation hobbyist, and exclusive breastfeeder, I was (and am!) steeped in all things human milk related. I can help you latch a newborn, hook you up to a pump, make you lactation cookies, and assure you at 4am that that screaming gassy 3 week old you have is totally normal, and it’ll pass. (No pun intended…) but formula feeding? Totally new. We were lost.
So, we began to educate ourselves, learned proper handling, preparing, and best practices for formula feeding. I thought time and time again how much easier it would be if I could just give him breastmilk. I did some googling and found that while it was not common to get approval for human milk, it was in the realm of possibility.
Because of the baby’s particular set of health concerns, I presented the idea to his pediatrician. She agreed that human milk would be optimum for him. The next step was to get approval from the social workers, who surprisingly were also in support of the idea. The last (and most important) approval I needed to receive was from the baby’s mother. I was so nervous, it was my first time meeting her, and while all the social workers had told me his case would go to permanence and he would likely end up apart of our forever family (he didn’t by the way, because foster care!), I knew this was still her baby. I told her of his particular struggles and that the pediatrician had recommended human milk. Before I could even finish my question, the response she gave was, “Ew. No.” Of course I was disheartened. It was a long road to get him on the right formula, to help with his various health issues, but thankfully we were able to sort his problems out with Gerber Gentle formula.
I had been cautiously optimistic about being able to give human milk to our foster baby, but once I talked to other foster parents I began to realize how rare approval was. Since then I’ve been asked dozens of times in breastfeeding groups online, crunchy mom circles, and friends “since you have milk, can’t you just nurse your foster baby?”
So let’s break this down.
Biologically, can I nurse a foster baby while still nursing my bio child? Yes. Absolutely. I’ve spent almost half of my nursing journey tandem nursing– that is, nursing two babies (of different ages) at the same time. Milk production works based on demand. In general, the more you nurse, or the more children you nurse, the more milk you make. So biologically, it would be possible for me to nurse a foster child– or any other child for that matter.
Legally, could I nurse a foster baby? The short answer is no. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but the general rule is, this isn’t my baby, so I don’t have the authorization to feed this baby whatever I please. In my county, I can’t even switch formula brands without pediatrician approval. The other issue we fall into is the matter of that of physical boundaries. We live in a culture that has re-assigned the human breast to one task: sexual arousal. Of course, we know biologically that the primary purpose of the female breast is to provide nourishment to children, but nonetheless, offering your breast to a child who is not yours, and may have experienced sexual abuse is going to be a logistical nightmare.
So can you bottle feed pumped human milk to a foster baby? There will be times where a baby is struggling badly with withdrawal, is having serious digestive problems, or is premature, and a doctor will approve human milk, likely from a milk bank. If a biological mother were to refuse this recommendation and it was deemed to be medically necessary for the child to receive human milk, with proper documentation and approval, it could go to court for a judge to overrule the mother’s protest. Again, there could be a biological mother who says yes, and it’s approved that way. On the other hand, some mothers send their own milk with baby, which (if pumped safely and mom is sober and healthy) is a great option. However, the most common answer is going to be no. Of course, this is a hard pill to swallow for me as an advocate for human milk for human children, but it all comes back to this: these foster babies are not my children, so it is not my choice to do something I have been told not to.
Imagine if you were an exclusive breastfeeder and you found out that your child’s day care provider was feeding them formula every day. You’d probably be pretty floored, right? Well the same goes in this situation. I’m caring for this child, I make decisions to keep this child safe, fed, and loved, but generally it’s not in my jurisdiction to change their food source if I’ve been denied that request.
Do foster parents breastfeed or bottle feed human milk to their foster children? Yes. I’ve talked to many of them who have. Some in hushed tones, others with boldness. Many social workers will say “don’t ask, don’t tell”, some doctors will say the same, and some bio parents aren’t around to give approval or denial for the request. Most of these foster parents have the best interest of the child in mind, I’ve never met anyone doing it maliciously. Some counties care less than others and leave more decision making up to foster parent, so it’s not as big of a deal.
The important thing is that we feed babies using best practices. Clean hands, sanitized bottles, properly prepared, and portioned. So if you’re a crazy breastfeeder like me who ends up formula feeding, instead of being too crestfallen at your denial for human milk, do all you can to become educated on formula feeding so the baby has their best chance at a healthy start! And if you’re a formula feeder who has been told to feed human milk, do your research for best practices on handling human milk!
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on foster parenting, breastfeeding, or everyone’s experiences ever with feeding every foster child on the planet, these are merely my thoughts, experiences, and observations. If you’re unsure about human milk and your foster baby, contact your social worker!
Before you bristle too hard at the title, stick with me.
Back when Milkman and I started our journey to welcome non-biological children into our home, it was with one goal in mind: adoption.
We knew that we wanted to adopt, and we knew that private and international adoption was costly, and were familiar with fostering enough to know that it was a good thing, and thought of it as a means to an end. The end? To adopt a child.
When going through our training and our initial home study interviews, we made our goal clear to our agency from the onset. We were a “Foster to Adopt” home. Foster to adopt… that’s totally a thing, right?
Our first placement was last July. We were asked to take 2 children for a 3 day stint. We agreed to it firstly because it meant our paperwork would be expedited, and secondly because it was so short term. Those 3 days turned into 3 months, and by the end of it, we informed our agency we were no longer looking strictly for “adoptable kids”, but that we were happy to foster with the intent of reunification.
The next baby we fostered came into our home at 5 days old. He was an “open and shut adoption case”. Guess what? He left us to live with a distant relative 3 months later. Not so open and shut. It was really hard, but he was never ours to begin with.
Our current fosterling is headed toward eventual reunification, and though we desire to one day have our forever child via the system, I’ve learned something really important: There is no such thing as Foster to Adopt.
The very point of foster care is to be a temporary caregiver. Your social worker could tell you all day that this is a for sure adoption case and even still, foster care should be looked at as a temporary thing. You are to welcome a child into your home, care for them, feed them, love them, protect them, all with the goal of them reunifying.
You then tell me, “Well, I have a friend who adopted through foster care! And I’ve seen all those cute pictures with families holding signs that say how long the child has been in foster care, posed next to their forever family on adoption day!” Yes, we all know people who have adopted from foster care. I hope to be one of those people one day. Some of those people didn’t intend on adoption, but it happened that way. For some, adoption was the initial hope. But let’s think about what has to happen for a child to become “adoptable”.
If a child in foster care is supposed to be a temporary fix while their biological caregiver gets their ducks in a row, how is it that children are adopted through foster care every day? Because something has gone TERRIBLY wrong.
“WRONG?? Adoption isn’t wrong!” I didn’t say that. For a child to become “adoptable” a parent’s rights have to be terminated. Let that sink in for just a second. This means that (in general, there are always exceptions) a parent has been given the tools they need to get their child back, and they couldn’t or wouldn’t use those tools in order to reunify. That’s tragic. Even if the foster family that is set to adopt them is the best family in the world, we cannot brush past the real and awful reality that parent and child have a tie that has been severed. Their flesh and blood has lost the legal right to raise and nurture that child. That’s a terrible thing to have to happen.
Would you not agree, that assuming a parent has followed the steps they need to, and is safe, the best place for a child to be is with their biological family? When I say this I really mean “safe” not “my standards”. It’s easy to think you need to fight reunification because your house is bigger, you provide higher quality food, and you dress them nicer. Those aren’t qualifications for being a parent, though. Your job as a foster parent is to love and care for this child, all the while supporting reunification.
But what about the parents who are really far gone? Well, of course if a parent is abusive, neglectful, crippled with addiction, or can’t see their way out of a relationship with someone who is, those are the cases where adoption becomes necessary.
Am I saying adopting is bad? Absolutely not. It is still mine and Milkman’s deepest desire to adopt a child. But adopting via foster care is a bitter sweet act. One in which a child has to lose one family in order to gain another.
And this is why I say, there is no foster to adopt. You foster to foster. You foster to reunify. To help this child and their parent get to a place that is safe enough to become a family again. Adoption, is merely a bittersweet tributary off the main course of foster care. A beautiful, yet tragic thing.
So you still want to be a foster parent if it means giving every single child back to their family? If it means your heart is broken into a million pieces, so that a biological mother’s can be made whole again? So that a father can raise his child with his own culture and blood as their bond? If the answer is no, foster care may not be the right road for you. But if the answer is yes? Then you are in the right frame of mind. And maybe, just maybe, your family will grow through adoption one day. But let that not be your main goal in this journey, lest you be entirely disappointed and crushed. However, if you’re willing to take the risk, I can promise you, it is worth every step if the journey.
Want to read more unpopular opinions, follow our foster care and bio parenting journey, take a look at our life living on a working farm, and laugh at the stupid memes I post? Come check out She Rocks the Cradle on Facebook.