Foster Parenting: the reluctant caregiver

I never chose to do this. I’m not one of those great people who seeks out ways to help others. I wish I were that person, but I’m not. My life revolves around my family and my church. I adore other people’s children as long as they don’t live with me. I’m most comfortable with my own children, and they usually make me proud. In fact, friends and neighbors tell me I’m spoiled by them. That’s why this was all so hard for me to swallow, but we did it anyway. Two and half years ago, we welcomed a teenaged stranger into our home, my husband with joy and seriousness, I with trepidation. But we both knew we had to take on this responsibility. The circumstances left us with no real option but doing what we knew was right.

It would be nice if I could say that this young woman changed my mind about foster parenting, that she has been a tremendous blessing to me and that I received more from having her than she has from being here. That is what the truly good people say, isn’t it? That it’s all more than worth it? I think of that book and movie The Blind Side?: “You’re changing that boy’s life.” “No, he’s changing mine.”

I just can’t say that because I’m not the selfless person I want to be. Actually, maybe I can say that. This entire experience has certainly changed my life. For instance, it has brought many questions to my mind that had never ocurred to me before. Why is it necessary to place cleaning supplies and medications at least five feet off the ground when my foster child is taller than five feet? How is it logical that I am allowed to have an open wine rack on the floor in the dining room but I can’t can’t have Windex in the kitchen cabinet? What do they want me to teach this child? Why do they offer us free stuff we don’t need but refuse to pay for braces? Why do we need a visit from the social worker every month and a visit from the psychologist every week? Why can’t I talk to her? Why doesn’t she appreciate us? Who is she? Yes, my life has changed. My bank account has changed. Everything has changed.

I must admit, however, that the experience hasn’t been as horrific as I’d expected. She really is a good kid, and I’m blessed that her difficulties are few and her strengths are many. She finally brought up her grades, landed a part-time job, and got her driver’s license. She has friends, and has not even once come home intoxicated or past curfew. She doesn’t smoke or use bad language or dress inappropriately. While the two of us may never be completely comfortable with each other, I am proud of her and she is maturing into a wonderful woman.

We have her only a few months more, and we need to prepare her for adult life, for college and roommates. She would like to stay here forever and not have to grow up, but the change is inevitable. Somehow, I know that if I push just the right amount, she will proceed in the right direction, overcome her fears, and have a great life.

Will I ever be a foster parent again? Probably not; maybe so. Either way, my reluctance is fading, I’m surviving, and I’m glad I was forced to do the right thing because I probably wouldn’t have done it on my own.

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