It's Foster Care Awareness Month!
May is Foster Care Awareness Month! This is a time where we spread awareness about the foster care system, acknowledge the foster care crisis in our state and highlight and thank all of those involved in touching the lives of these children at such high-stress times. But we also want to remember the importance of bio families and family preservation.
Below is a story from Kristine, an Oregon foster parent, who always keeps family preservation on her mind throughout her foster parent journey.
Rooting for Families
Every once in a while someone will ask why I foster. My answer is usually pretty simple. I want to see families in our community put back together. I want to see children run back into the arms of their parents who are healthy and loved and ready to pick up where life left them. I want to see families have support systems around them and a community that cares about their success.
Over the years, I’ve been a part of almost every which way fostering can go.
I have handed babies back their sweet mamas and watched them drive off together to start a fresh life. I have had toddlers return home to their parents, only to end up back on my doorstep late at night a few months later with nothing but a teddy and dirty jammies. I have had siblings split by DHS for reasons I still don’t fully understand. I have had kids transition to their adoptive homes after years of calling me “ma." I have had parents stand in court in front of a judge and ask if I would adopt their child. I have had kids stay a night, a few days, and some even several years. Each soul with a different life story.
But there is one thing that remains constant... every one of these children has had a parent. And to be honest, building a relationship with the entire family is one of my favorite parts of fostering.
The parents in my life know that I am rooting for their family to be made whole again.
They know this because I tell them. I write in a journal and send it with kids every time they have visits. I write about who I am, who my family is, how amazing their kids are, and any special things that happened that week. I send pictures and I ask them questions about their kids because there is no one better to ask than a child’s own parent.
We build relationships.
And with case approval, I invite them to doctor appointments, preschool graduations, and Christmas breakfasts. I sit next to their family in court, I cry when they cry, I rejoice when they rejoice, and I speak absolute truth when the judge asks me. Every single time I see them, I hand their babies straight to them, because I know these are their children and not mine. These parents know that I am not trying to take their baby, but that I want to see their family made healthy, safe, and whole again. They know I believe in family preservation, reunification, but most importantly they know I will fight for the safety and well being for their child…no matter what.
This isn’t always easy. I have been yelled at in family decision meetings, I have had false accusations made against me, and I have received empty letters back from visits...but it doesn’t stop me from trying.
They know that for whatever time they may need, I will continue rooting for them. Not because I always think things will work out perfectly, but because I believe families deserve a chance to stay together.
Regardless of where my cases have ended up, I know each child’s parent in detail. Some only stayed around for a few weeks...but others still sit next to me at birthday parties four years later. And it’s moments like that, that remind me why I foster.
-- Kristine, Oregon Foster Parent