Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 14 of the 30 Day Blog Journal

Non-Fiction Book

I was a foster mom for the state of Florida for about two years. In

that time frame I had 23 children come and go through my doors. It was

one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

It all started after I read the book The Lost Boy, a true story by

Dave Pelzer about a little boy in the foster care system searching for

a family to love. Reading some of the horrible things he went through

in various foster homes I just knew that I could provide a loving home

and possibly make sure another child never had to go through that. I

wanted to save the world. It was also during the this frame that the

news was full of foster homes in Florida missing children or foster

children being murdered . I knew that I needed to do something quick.

When I actually made the call to get the facts on what I needed to do

to become licensed in the state of Florida it was because I was

watching Oprah one afternoon and she was doing a show on how badly

good foster homes were needed. I took it as another sign that I was

being guided into doing something that was calling out to me. So I

made the call.

In order to become a licensed foster home in the state of Florida at

the time I had to take classes , have my home approved, which meant

putting child locks on the doors and windows, getting a radon test ,

putting up more smoke alarms outside of every bedroom, having my

fingerprints taken for a back ground check, have my friends write why

they thought I would be a good foster parent and then talk my husband

into doing all of this too.

We started the classes on Wednesday nights with about 10 other

couples. Some of the people taking the classes were only wanting to

foster to adopt. There are hundreds of children in the system that are

available for adoption and if you are a licensed foster parent the

process of adoption is much quicker and in most cases you would have

the child as a foster child first so you can see if the connection or

fit works for all parties involved before it gets to the adoption

process. Some parents had other children at home. I thought this would

be ideal since the foster child would have instant friends/siblings to

play with but it also was a host of other problems if there were

behavioral issues. I had no other children at home and was not doing

this to adopt a child. I simply wanted to make life better for a child

in a bad situation and show them love and support while they went

through the system.

The type of foster home I had was an emergency shelter or short term

foster care. We got the calls on almost every holiday and weekend and

only had the children for a few days to a few months. The cases varied

from the parents getting in a fight over the weekend and the police

removed the children until a judge ordered them back home on Monday.

Very few of the children that went through my home were abused by

their parents, the most common reason stated was neglect.

My first two cases remain the most memorable for me. The week after I

was approved and licensed I got the call for a 13 year old girl. They

give you a brief history, that always broke my heart and made me say

yes. I did not want teenagers, I had asked for babies or toddlers only

but I did not know how to say no yet and took in the girl. She was

living in a car with her father and the state was called in to check

on her welfare.

I found out very quickly that I was not qualified for the mental

problems or risks of taking in a teenage girl. I had to call and ask

that she be moved to another foster home after only a few days. In my

amazement she came to see me the other day, she is now 18 and appears

to be doing well. She hugged me and thanked me for being one of the

best foster moms she had in her 5 years in the system. Hearing that

she spent all those years after leaving my home in foster care I felt

bad that I did't hang in there longer with her.

The next child we got a call for was a newborn. He was born a few days

before Christmas to a mother that was in prison on drug charges and

drugs were found in his system too so there was no telling what

effects it would have on him. It was Christmas eve and another foster

parent dropped him off on my doorstep. She gave me a small grocery bag

with a few clothes and a hand full of diapers, a bottle and some

formula. She left and I went into panic mode! I do not have children

and had no idea what I was doing but the from the second I held him I

knew that I was in love. Luckily my husband came home and he did have

plenty experience with babies, having three of his own. My family was

also thrilled to have a baby around and everyone wanted to help and

fuss over this little man.

We found out during our time with this baby that his mother was only

22 and had five other children , some living with her parents and

others living with their various fathers.

The grandparents did't make it to many of the visits they were

allowed. The mother wasn't going to be out of prison for several

years. And my heart became more and more attached to this little boy.

I started wondering if I could give an African American a happy life,

could I teach him about his heritage and do it justice ? The day came

we were taking him to court to see if the judge would leave him in our

care or give him to his grandparents to be raised with his other

siblings. The case manager and other foster parents told us that it

looked very good for us adopting him. I didn't have a doubt in my mind

that he would be coming back home with us from court.

We went to court and his grandparents walked in with his big brothers

and my heart dropped. I listened to the judge ask the case worker what

she thought and felt proud when she sang our praises as foster parents

and then felt the air in the courtroom being sucked out of the room

when the judge said the boy should be immediately placed with his

family and be raised by his grandparents. I handed over the baby and a

huge piece of my heart that remains missing.

We went home from court and continued to take in emergency cases. The

other 21 children that stayed with us were from the ages of 1-4 years

old. Most stayed only a week but some up to one month. We experienced

our share of lice, colds, doctor visits, laughs, smiles and memories

that will stay in our hearts forever.

Since then my husband and I have separated and have stopped doing

foster care. I think about the lives we've touched and play with the

idea of doing it all over again almost every day.



Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs said...

You are an incredible person. Your stories of the first two just wrenched my heart. You're a good woman and I'm grateful the LBS Tea Party directed me to you.

Thoughtful blog, you have. Best wishes for lots of visitors!

Debbi said...

This story, and the writing of it, is beautiful.

I have thought about fostering children but instead I got remarried and am still dealing with how to properly raise the new kids I inherited, let alone add NEW ones to the mix! Maybe some day. ??