My wife and I became foster parents almost a year ago and just two days after our license became active I got The Call. The call we had been wondering about and hoping for. The call that would potentially bring our future children into our lives. I had kept my phone on with the ringer turned up, even during group fitness classes and work. I didn't want to miss our first chance.
Sure enough, I was at work when the phone rang. At the time I was working as a journalist at a local newspaper, on deadline and expecting calls from various sources. I answered my cell phone, hoping it meant I could finally file the daily story I'd been working on.
It was, instead of the hard to catch Mayor, a social worker with a child in need of a home. A little girl, 7. I drilled her with questions – Why has she come into care? Why is she being moved from her current home? What relatives are involved? Is mom following her case plan? How long is the case expected to take? When are visits, and who takes care of transportation? Where is she from? Does she have special needs, medical concerns, current diagnoses, allergies? What is the goal (reunification, adoption?) Does she get along with other children? What does she like to do? Does she have clothing, toys? Is she afraid of dogs, as we have several? Satisfied with the answers I received, heart beating out of my chest, I told the caseworker I would call her back within the hour with an answer.
I called my wife to ask her opinion and we talked it out, and decided to take the plunge.
Our first foster child. L moved in a week later, with a few boxes and bags of clothing, toys. My two step-children were thankfully home the weekend she moved in, which helped ease the awkwardness of welcoming a new family member.
Nearly a year on, L is still with us. For nine months we also nurtured and raised E & E, ages four and one (age 2 when they left.)
We have learned a lot this year and navigated the difficulties of raising children who come with not only trauma and special needs, but an arsenal of therapists, caseworkers, judges, lawyers, family members, biological parents and mounds of paperwork. E & E have since reunified in part. Their grandmother agreed to care for them while their biological mother completed the last steps of her plan in a hopefully successful attempt to get them back.
This blog is meant to share my experience as a foster and step mom. A mom to those who need one. A mom to those caught in the middle of what is the worst trial a family unit can go through, hence the name Motherhood in the Middle. My wife and I are mothering children who aren't our own. Mothering in the middle of trauma and grief. Mothering through the middle of constant uncertainty. Mothering through the middle of crisis and chaos. Family for a time, but likely not forever. Forever in our hearts, yes, but functionally a family serving those in need in the midst of trauma. In between the abuse and neglect, before but toward the ultimate goal of reunification.
"Mommy, I miss my other Mommy."
My daughter, our first placement, now 8, walked into my room from playing outside today to tell me that. I gave her a hug and reassured her that its OK to miss her bio-mom, and that she would get to speak to her this coming weekend. She went back outside to play, seemingly cheered for a moment. She misses her mom often, and we talk about her a lot. They call and chat. We text. We share photos and snippets. She has voiced hurt that L calls me Mommy, but it is a title we share regardless.
I will be sharing some posts from the past year over the next few days, since I have been writing on my personal Facebook page since our journey began. To clarify in advance, we have three at home -- I hate labels and in daily life don't refer to my children as "step" or "foster" but for the purpose of background info we have L, age 8, foster and Hannah, 11 and Billy, 9 my step kids, my wife's biological children who we have joint custody of and see every other week.
Welcome to our life. It's not perfect by any means, and I feel like I screw up in some way everyday when it comes to this motherhood thing. But I keep trying. I keep researching. Most importantly, I keep connecting and showing up regardless. I look forward to you joining me on this journey.