I've heard a lot of people contemplate fostering. Their excuses are always something along the lines of, I don't want to get attached or I just wouldn't want to let them go. What they seem to not realize is that foster care isn't about them, it's about children who have been stripped of the one environment they know. Although this job is based around the child, it will benefit the caregivers. Foster care is grueling, emotional, and overall just a huge bumpy roller coaster, yet it's such a beautiful thing no matter the outcome. Foster care has made me into a better sister, friend, and has prepared me so much for adulthood.
I became a foster sister around the age of 10. It started with my mom asking how I would feel to share my home with another kid. My mother would always say I was the second mom of the house and I've always known myself to be a fairly kind person. Knowing I would be helping a family in need was all the convincing I required. My family grew quickly within a couple of years. We went from being an average family, two parents and three kids, to a rotating roster of kids every year. Due to starting this process at such a young age, foster care has shaped me into the person I am today.
It's a known fact that kids are not a fan of sharing. Things like toys, food and their bedroom feel sacred---but imagine how difficult it is for kids to share their parents' love. Now, I'm one of the oldest in my family, so I've had that experience. I know how it feels to not be my parents' sole focus, and I'm okay with that. My sister, on the other hand, had some issues. It probably didn't help that the first little girl we took in was four days older than her. I could see the jealousy radiating off of my sister. She struggled because for the first time she wasn't the main character. We all coped in different ways so I can't speak on her behalf.
I personally enjoyed having another sister around. She was quiet, reserved and incredibly sweet. We would dance to loud music or laugh about nonsense. I remember celebrating holidays with her. The joy that lit up her face when opening Christmas gifts, blowing out candles on her very own cake, or dyeing Easter eggs rainbow colors are memories I'll treasure. The small gifts are what counts. It showed me the common blessings in my life could become a brand new experience for someone else. In a way, it allowed me to relive the excitement.
It would be golden if each foster child arrived with their own personal guidebook with all their loves and hates, their favorite TV characters, or even a description of their personality, but each and every kid is different, and they can't be parented the same.
The first little girl I talked about, returned to her mom after living with us for eleven months. My mother would wait and wonder who would come next. I did too! We had a few weeks of just being a regular family again, until we got the call that changed everything.
There was a big age difference from Lulu* to our next child, Kira.* Lulu was seven years old when she lived with us, but Kira was only three. Her hair was like red fire ringlets and her skin, pale like freshly fallen snow. She had a couple freckles scattered across her cheeks. My mom used to call them kisses from the sun. And if there was one kid to be kissed by the sun it would be her! She embodied the sun inside and out. From her outward appearance to her bold personality. She made herself known wherever she went. We learned to adapt to her. We took notice of her loves and hates, her favorite shows, and grew to love her bold personality. We loved her with all our hearts.
Then we got "the call" again, for Kira's little sister Tasha*, who was only 18 months old. Just like we adored Kira, we adored Tasha. She was our squishy bundle of joy! She had hair that bounced every which way and her giggles would echo throughout the house as she wobbled around. Having a baby in the house was even stranger than having a toddler. We had to sacrifice a lot for them. Our room that used to just be me and one of my sisters now occupied 4 girls. It was pure chaos. We all had to get our shots updated because Tasha was under two. Having really young siblings taught me the skill of caring for babies, and not all people are given that opportunity.
By 5th grade I knew how to prep a bottle, hold a baby, put kids to sleep, and more. Our journey with them was very long and emotional. There was a lot of back and forth with their bio parents. I remember the week it was over. They were told to return to their biological family. They had been with us four years, and it matched the pain of ripping my beating heart from my chest and stomping on it. The pain I felt when I thought about them leaving was extreme and really hard to deal with. But low and behold their dad changed his mind and it ended with our whole family becoming one.
We adopted them and our family became official. It's been almost 3 years since we adopted and we're still friends with their first parents. You would assume my parents would chill out on fostering kids and close their license, but nope. We have done foster care for infants across the board; some were just a couple months old. They all were incredibly unique.
With one little girl we learned to see the beauty in Down Syndrome as well as how to feed a baby after heart surgery. She made my bad days good, and she has always stuck with me. I got very attached to her and I cried buckets when she went home.
At the moment, we have the cutest kid! He's our teddy bear and he'll make your heart melt like ice cream on a hot day. When he lights up, his smile truly goes from ear to ear. These kids make the all the noise, responsibility and even dirty diapers all worth it. I know my mother is doing what she's been called to do and it makes me happy that I can assist her in any way, shape, or form.
Often people who have had to parent siblings at such a young age will avoid having kids of their own, but not me. I watch my parents love and nurture children who aren't even their blood and that empowers me. Seeing the happiness they bring to these kids is great, but it's powerful to see the hospitality they extend to the bio parents as well.
My mom and dad have always been loving people, they never wanted their bio kids to feel replaced. No matter how many kids came through our home, they never seemed to run out of love. They always have some stowed away. Seeing how selfless they can be encourages me to follow in their footsteps. I would love to one day have a safe space for kids to grow.
Foster care will always be hard, but who doesn't like a good challenge? Having this be part of my story has made me think more deeply about others. I truly can't imagine where I would be if our family didn't take this path. I'm 15 and have the skills of a new mother and the love of one, too. I have the mindset to give up my free time to watch these babies and I wouldn't change it for the world.
*Names changed to protect privacy
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "