t age 14, I was going to my first high school dance. I wore a borrowed dress. No one helped me get ready. My foster mother’s daughter dropped me off and picked me up.
I had been in the foster care system since I was 12. Before that, I was in foster care at age 6 while transitioning from my parents’ home to my grandmother’s house.
I was 20 the first time I was asked to speak to foster parents about what the experience would be like. I searched my brain for those memories.
Now at 22, I’ve lost a lot of memories from my six-year foster care experience-throughout the entirety of middle and high school-to rid myself of past pain. But those memories were exactly what I needed to help people considering becoming a foster parent.
I thought about all things I would be expected to say: “You’re going to help a child in need. You’ll give them a stable home. You’ll save their life.” That stuff is all generic.
While I dressed myself for the high school dance, my little sister’s eyes looked up at me with all the wonderment of what high school would be like. My eyes looked back with the hope that she would never have to live this moment.
That day I did not need a foster parent. I needed a parent.
I actually wanted that talk about not staying out too late and not dancing too close to the boys. I wanted a mother to help me with my makeup, to share my excitement, encourage me and love me.
If you can’t do that, you really shouldn’t be a foster parent.
If a child comes to your home and it’s the age when it’s time for them to learn how to ride a bike, learn to swim, learn about the birds and bees or start to plan his or her future, do it.
There are too many foster parents in this world who take broken children into their homes, and when those same kids leave, they have acquired more tears, rips and fragileness.
No matter how broken, miserable or misunderstood the home they came from was, it was still home. What you provide for them will be a house until they trust you enough to consider you a parent.
When you were a child, there were probably things you couldn’t stand about your parents. There may have been times you talked back, lied to them, drew angry pictures or vowed to run away.
Foster kids will do that too, and their affection for you will be devoid of an obligation to the person who brought them into this world. They may never say thank you, say they love you or call you mom or dad.
You just have to be confident that your purpose to help a child make it through life is a gift for you both.