“Being a foster dad, I’ve had to come face-to-face with a few of my own preconceived ideas. Having been raised in a home where abuse was normal, I came to dislike, detest, and even loath any parent who would harm or neglect a child. In my mind, there was no excuse, no reasoning, and certainly no grace for these types of people. In my opinion, abusive or neglectful parents had horns and pointed tails. I hated them.
How could anyone hurt a child? How could anyone hurt their own child? Seeing a hurting child turned my stomach inside out and caused anger to rage within the deepest levels of my soul. I hoped these parents would never get their child back, never even see their child again. And I was determined to be the perfect foster dad swooping in to save every vulnerable child. But eventually, my disdain changed.
As Mother’s Day rolls toward us and I have foster kids in my care, this holiday can be an especially difficult time for a child separated from their mom. It can be equally difficult for a mother who’s separated from her child. This is something I had to learn over the years. Moms carry sadness over things missed, not just on Mother’s Day, but during many days of the year.
The first tooth lost, first time riding a bike, first day of school, sporting events, first dates, going to a high school dance…each of these milestones can feel like a missed occasion for the mom whose child is in foster care. Slowly, this reality of a mother’s pain became a reality in my world of fostering. Slowly I began to understand the many varied reasons a child may be separate from Mom. No longer do I vilify and judge moms in my heart or in my mind. All horns and pointy tails have been removed. Believe it or not, most biological moms have become my unexpected ally. Instead of seeing myself as a savior, I understand my role as simply bridging the gap while Mom works to get healthy and learns how to parent effectively.
The most prominent episode that changed my perspective was when my second foster child arrived; I had no medical history about him. One night he began wheezing and having difficulty breathing. My first thought was to rush him to the emergency room. As I loaded him into the car another thought came to me. Call his biological mom and ask if she knows what’s going on and if this has happened before. I stopped and made the call. She knew exactly what was happening and talked me through the steps to help her child. Suddenly mom was no longer an evil enemy but a trusted partner. And mom no longer looked at me as the enemy but rather appreciated that I let her be mom. We both realized we were in this together.
My life as a foster dad changed completely from that moment forward. I foster with the understanding and purpose of reuniting children with their parents. While there may be some parents who should not live with their children, for the most part, parents can be good, healthy caregivers once they’re given the proper tools and guidance to raise their incredible kids.
As a foster dad, I participate in focused training and have many resources, including professionals, to help me out. Many moms don’t have any support. Some parents struggle with drug addiction, homelessness, abusive partners, or being a single parent. Some simply become overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn. It’s not my job to judge them; it’s my job to come alongside and bridge that gap.
Intervention is the best way to keep kids from having to go into the foster care system. Helping parents by providing resources and training, as well as empathy and understanding can save the child, and maybe an entire family.
How wonderful for me to learn that I have an unexpected ally in the moms of these foster children. What a privilege to get to know these moms and then return a happy child to their arms. I suddenly realize I have new family members whom I get to visit and share holidays with. I can watch the children grow and the moms gain confidence, all because I stopped seeing moms as enemies and embraced them as my heroes.
Many moms do the hard work, break their bad habits, transform their lives and strive to be the best version of themselves for their kids. Yes, these moms are my heroes. Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere who are trying their best and choosing to love each and every day!”