Thursday, September 24, 2015

Happy 1st birthday, Little Man!


Last night, I went to sleep with a precious and wonderful baby. This morning I woke up with a precious and wonderful toddler

How on earth did that happen?? Exactly  one year ago I was frantically trying to find a day care so I could officially accept the short-term placement of a newborn. Today I am frantically trying to keep up as that once-newborn speeds around the house.

Honestly, I am struggling to wrap my brain around it. In some ways it feels like it was yesterday that I got a text saying “the baby was born, and it’s a boy!” In other ways it feels like he’s always been a part of my life and my family. 
The past 12 months have been incredibly challenging. There have been moments of exhaustion, loneliness and stress- sometimes all at once. But those lows are so far out-shadowed by the highs- all the moments of joy and gratitude, the countless giggles and snuggles, the sheer amazement of watching someone experiencing everything for the very first time… It’s just such a gift. 

Being Little Man’s mom has taught me about patience and determination, joy and grace, courage and strength. I mean, I don’t want to pat myself on the back too much here, but basically I feel like I’ve become the best, most badass version of myself. To date, at any rate.

But really- I feel incredibly fortunate and immeasurably thankful to have shared so many adventures with this little guy throughout the past year. We’ve been on 12 planes, visited 4 states, gone to Hogwarts (and Hogsmeade), attended one incredible concert, ran in a 5k, cheered on the 2-time Big XII champs in their home stadium (sic ‘em), bought a house, moved into said house, fed a giraffe, and a lot more. I think it’s safe to say he’s had an eventful first year.

As I take time to reflect on the year behind us, I have to take a moment to say thank you. Yes, you!

Thank you for the support you’ve given us- even if it’s just through reading about our story here. My mom posted about Little Man’s birthday on her Facebook page this morning, and I honestly teared up as I saw how many people commented with encouragement and well-wishes- many of them people I haven’t even met. It’s humbling to know that our adventure matters to so many people. So, really- thank you for loving and supporting us. I truly am grateful.

So happy birthday, Little Man! I’m thankful for the adventures behind us, and excited for the adventures that lie ahead…. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

We're still here!

Remember that time I was on a roll with posting regularly and then fell off the face of the earth for three months?


Well...

Guys-- it's been a crazy summer. Little Man and I have been pretty (aka incredibly) busy for the past few months, and I'm not really sure when things will slow down.

We have been- and will be- swamped with exciting things that I'll share more about soon, but for now I at least wanted to write something just to let everyone know that we're still here!

Both of us!

Little Man and I have now been together for over 10 months, which is three times longer than I initially expected. Lately I've been prone to lots of emotions as I realize how quickly the time has flown by. Little Man has changed so much since September- I'm not even really sure he could be considered a "Little" man anymore; he's adorably chunky- as strangers at the grocery store always love to tell me.
But beyond that, his personality has changed and grown a lot, too. He's so spunky and fun! He gets shy around new people, but he warms up quickly and becomes very lively and energetic. He also gets pretty chatty, as you can see here:

I like to tell people that he feels things very deeply- particularly hunger and joy. He's passionate and determined and wonderfully silly. He loves playing with his friends and feels just fine taking charge of social situations by grabbing their faces to say hello.

Lately, he loves brushing his teeth, watching me brush my teeth, using my legs to pull himself up, eating (obvi), reading, dancing with me, and trying to see if he can crawl across the room and stick the dog's bone in his mouth before I can catch him (so far, he's only been successful once).

He is definitely an observer and seems to take everything in around him; he is fascinated by anything from cars driving by to finding a tiny leaf on the ground. It's exciting to think about how that's helping his brain develop!

So, besides him crawling and me chasing him down, what have we been up to lately? Well, here's a short list:

  • I bought a house! I still can't believe it some days, but it's true- I'm a homeowner.
    • Because of that, I've spent a lot of time cleaning/packing.
    • I've also been busy with re-doing home inspections! Remember how fun that was one year ago? I get to do it all again!! I've measured rooms and drawn evacuation plans, covered every outlet, put up smoke detectors, etc, etc. Today was actually my official fire inspection, but I'm still trying to get ahold of the health inspector. There have been a few issues with the new place, but I managed to pass initial inspections (allowing us to at least move in), so hopefully that's a sign the official ones will go smoothly!
Here we are in front of the house! Little Man refused to look anywhere but directly at the camera, so I had to disguise him.
  • We've traveled!
    • Early in July we went on a family trip with my mom and siblings to.... Harry Potter World! It was a really great trip. Apparently Little Man is too young to be sorted into a House, but I'm pretty sure he's a Gryffindor. Obviously he didn't get to go on any of the rides, but he was woken up by a dragon in Diagon Alley on multiple occasions, so it was still pretty memorable overall.
The calm before the storm- or the fire-breathing roar.
    • We also went to New York! Two of my friends and co-workers came with us, which was so helpful. It was nice to spend time with my mom and sister, and also to have my mom watch Little Man while I explored the city with my friends. He loved playing with my mom's tiny dog, but I think his favorite part was our picnic in Central Park. (Because food.)
  • I was promoted! Little Man wasn't too involved with this particular event- which happened in the beginning of the summer- but it did lead to a day care change for him. While I'm really excited about my new job, it's definitely added to the craziness of the summer. I've transitioned to this role in the peak of a hectic season at the office, but I'm hopeful things will slow down a bit eventually!



So those are the big summer happenings, but let me follow them up with some photos for you:
Here's Little Man with a ghost during his first time in a pool. It seemed to startle him at first, but he warmed up to it quickly!
He's gotten really good at hide and seek, using this bowl to take it to the next level. He has also has gotten very drooly. 
He's tried so many good foods this summer! Here are the remains of watermelon and yogurt.
Spinning records like a champ.

And working on his yoga.
RG isn't sure what to think about his BFF's new level of mobility...

...so he tries to keep him pinned in one place.


There you have it. An brief update, some pictures, and the peace of mind of knowing I haven't completely forgotten about this blog!

But before I end this post, I have one more photo...

In case you haven't seen it, Wendy's is doing a campaign where you take a picture completing the heart on one of their cups (see below) and share it on social media with he hashtag, "Share4Adoption." For every new photo, they donate $5 to the Dave Thomas Foundation- which helps find permanent families for children in foster care. So go treat yourself to a Frosty, and then take and share a photo. You get a delicious treat, and you get to support kids and families! Win-win. And it's so easy! 
So do it for me and Little Man! 
(If you're like me and you don't frequent fast food establishments, you could always hang on to the cup and take new pictures every once in a while. The campaign wraps up at the end of September, so take as many photos as you can until then!)



Thanks for reading today and catching up with us- and stay tuned for more exciting updates soon!

Monday, May 11, 2015

My Son's Other Mom


Yesterday I celebrated my very first Mother’s Day as a mom. Little Man had a fever, so it wasn’t the calm and blissful day I hoped for. But as he lay sleeping and drooling on my chest, I found myself reflecting on what I’ve learned in my seven and a half months of motherhood.

I’ve learned about how to live in a new kind of selflessness. I like to think I had moments of selflessness before becoming a mom- like most people do- but being responsible for another human being is different than anything I’ve experienced before. I’ve learned what it means to give of myself constantly- to put another person’s needs ahead of my own, even when doing so is tiring or terrifying or frustrating or lonely, and even when that person can do very little to reciprocate. I’ve learned through months and months of night feedings, a midnight trip to the ER, incessant loads of laundry, thousands of readings of Your Personal Penguin, and being constantly (it seems) covered in spit-up. I’ve learned through pudgy-cheeked smiles, contagious giggles, lots of early morning (and late night) snuggles, Little Man's tiny hands clinging to my arm when he’s scared or uncertain, and the look of excitement on his face when he sees me return from a long day of work- or a few moments of being across the room.
I’ve experienced more joy and more love than I ever could have imagined eight months ago.

And yet, I didn’t feel particularly celebratory on my first Mother’s Day.

(And not just because Little Man gets very cranky when he’s sick.)

While I am proud of- and so, so grateful for- my time as a mother, I cannot help but think about Little Man’s other mom.

The one who we haven’t seen in 5 months, but who I know is missing him very much right now.

I can’t help but recognize that this day- which is supposed to bring her such joy- is, in all likelihood, causing her unfathomable pain.

I think about this other mom frequently. Little Man and I talk about her and pray for her every evening. I tell him daily about how much she loves and misses him.

We decided to make her a Mother’s Day card to acknowledge and update her- and to let her know how loved she is. We stamped his footprints in a heart shape on the front (or as much or a heart shape as we could achieve with such squirmy little toes) and glued it onto some colorful scrapbook paper. And then I sat down to write a note.
As I sat there- trying to find encouraging words for a woman I’ve only met twice and haven’t seen in months- I thought a lot about how small of a difference exists between the two of us.




I think it’s easy as a foster parent- or as an upper-middle class person- to lose perspective when thinking about biological parents. It’s easy to judge them based on the fact that their children live with other families and wonder why they can’t seem to figure it out- to land a job, to get sober, to find a home, etc, etc etc.

But then I think about what enables me to manage life as a single parent.

I think about how I am surrounded by an incredible community- family and friends who are willing to drop everything to help when I welcome a newborn into my home, or take a day-long CPR class just to be available to babysit, or spend time with Little Man so I can do chores (or even do chores so I can spend time with Little Man!). There are so many people in my life who make my job as a parent manageable, and I really am not sure I could do it without them.

I also have a secure and stable job- one that pays me a living wage and gives me a lot of flexibility as I transition into parenthood. When I had to take a week off of work to be with Little Man while he struggled through RSV, I was never concerned I might not have a job to return to. 

Those are luxuries that countless parents do not have.

And why do I have these things? Because I happened to be born into them.

I don’t want to dive into the philosophical deep-end here because I know it would take me forever to climb out, but- ultimately- what separates me from Little Man’s biological mom- what separates me from most parents who have ever had to place their children (willingly or unwillingly) into foster care- is the fact that I was born into opportunity. Financial, educational, and relational.

That’s not to say I've just coasted along from birth until now and somehow wound up where I am today. I definitely worked hard and made positive decisions to get to this place.

But I have had the opportunity and ability to do that work and make those choices.

Many people- and parents- don’t.

Many parents- despite longing to create the best life possible for their children- face incredible obstacles. Poverty, addiction, lack of family or community support, loss of jobs, mental health issues, physical health issues, crisis situations, lack of education or educational opportunities... the list could go on for ages. 

Some parents become exhausted- facing such overwhelming barriers every day. And some, sadly, grow hopeless. But almost every parent tries.
And that’s what I wish everyone knew and understood.

When well-meaning people find out I’m fostering and say things like, “Don’t you just hate the parents??” or “I can’t believe some parents would rather _____ than raise their child,” I feel so, so sad- and very frustrated.  It’s hard to see such a lack of empathy for a woman who loves her child so much. I want people to understand that with Little Man’s biological mom (and with most biological families) the problem isn’t a lack of caring- it’s a lack of opportunity and resources.

I have never met a parent who is indifferent about the life he or she brought into the world, but I’ve met many parents who are facing obstacles I can hardly even imagine without the supports and resources I too often take for granted.

Most parents set out to do the best job they can with the resources, skills, and knowledge they have available, but many parents have very few- or no- resources to go on.

In the four hours I’ve spent with Little Man’s biological mom, it was clear to me how much she cares about her son. I have no doubt that she loves him and wants to be able to give him a good, safe and stable life. But it was also clear to me that she’s encountered unimaginable challenges over the years- and she has an uphill climb ahead of her.

And so she’s missing the first months- almost year- of her son’s life.

And as much as I love being able to step in and care for Little Man, my heart aches for the loss she's experiencing.





Eventually, I managed to write a brief note on her Mother’s Day card. I wrote about what Little Man is up to these days and how much we think of and miss her- and I hoped it didn’t sound cliche or condescending.

Because I really do care about her, and I want such good things for her.



So as I celebrated my first Mother’s Day, I made time to pray for Little Man’s other mom- and for all parents who are working and waiting to be reunited with their children.


It was essentially an echo of the prayer Little Man and I say for his biological mom every night: may they be filled with strength, peace, hope, and the knowledge that they are loved.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Guest Post!


Guys-- this is the second post of the week!! My commitment to post more regularly this month is off to a good start thanks- in huge part- to a new friend of mine.

Remember earlier in the week when I mentioned how a fellow foster parent and friend I've never met reminded me it's National Foster Care Awareness Month? Well, I've enlisted her help for today's post!

Her name is Amanda T, and she hails from the great state of Kentucky- pretty far from my own little Texas town.

One evening several-ish months ago- after I shared one of my posts, she sent me a Google message to tell me how much she enjoyed reading my blog.
I was thrilled when mentioned that she, too, is a young, single foster mom- I don't know many (or any) other people who are in this boat, so it was immediately encouraging to have that connection.

Even more encouraging: she's been doing this job much longer than I have- and she is still going strong! Over the past 3 years, she's provided a home for 13 children. And she is amazing.

I've been so inspired by her commitment to fostering, and I think you will be, too!
Here are her thoughts on her journey thus far:




About three and a half years ago, I felt called to become a foster parent. Honestly, I was hoping I was imagining things, because at the time, that didn't seem like anything I wanted to do. I prayed about it, and I basically told God that I wasn't interested, but thanked Him for thinking of me. He had other plans. The next Sunday was, not coincidentally, "Orphan Sunday" at church. I remember thinking that that was ironic, but I knew better than to shrug it off.

That week, I called a social worker at DCBS to ask about what was involved in becoming a foster parent. I found out that I would need to go through 10 weeks of classes (MAPP), complete a profile, go through a background check, and complete two home visits. After that, if approved, I would be ready for children in my home. 


After learning about the process, I began to tell some women in my Bible study group about my thoughts regarding fostering. Another lady in my group told me that she had considered fostering, and may be interested in going to the classes with me. I remember thinking that if she was going to go, I would too. If she backed out, that was my sign that I wasn't supposed to do it, because I didn't want to go alone. Funny story...a day or two before classes were to start, she told me she wasn't going. Perfect! Now surely that was the sign I had been looking for. Too bad that literally minutes later, I received a call from my friend who worked at DCBS telling me that the person who was supposed to teach my class wasn't going to be able to, so she would be. Well, now I knew for sure that it was meant to be.

Don't get me wrong, I knew that I was fully capable of fostering. I love children, I understand the needs of children who come from hard places, I had the extra room, and knew that I could financially make it work. Basically, I had no reason to say no. I think I was just scared of the unknown. I was scared of the birth parents, scared of the behaviors that I may be dealing with, and scared of getting attached. I was just scared, but I decided to trust God, and take this leap.

I began MAPP classes on April 19th, 2012. The classes were very informational, and I actually looked forward to going each week. My last class was June 28th. After turning in a bunch of paperwork and having two home visits, I was approved in July. Then, I just became attached to my phone...waiting for my first call. Every time an unfamiliar number popped up, my heart began to pound.

On August 9th, I received my first placement. Oh, what a nervous couple of hours I had while waiting for two little girls to show up on my doorstep. (Thanks to some friends and a nearby toilet, I was able to pull myself together before they came.)

Now, almost three years later, I have been blessed to provide a home for thirteen children (mostly infants). Sometimes I feel like I have a revolving door to my house, as most of my placements have been short. But, when I stop and think about it, I am so grateful for any amount of time that I was able to provide a safe and loving home for a child when they needed it most.

Fostering has been a journey of ups and downs. Seeing a happy baby grow and learn is awesome. Having to hand a baby over in the parking lot of DCBS is rough. There are days of laughter, and there are days of grieving. There are days when I think I have this whole parenting thing down, and days when I feel like a complete failure. There are days when I feel like I have a great support system, and days when I feel all alone. I am honest in saying that fostering is so hard, but so worth it.

I think one of the things that has surprised me the most while fostering has been the public perception of what fostering is, and how things work. I would be lying if I said I didn't have the same thoughts and questions as other people before I started. I think when a topic or cause is close to your heart, you want everyone to become educated and involved.

The general public thinks that foster parenting is like a job where you earn a paycheck. That's simply not true. The state does pay for the child's needs, but that money is to be spent on the child. The $22.70 p/day doesn't cover everything. So, most likely, foster parents spend their own money as well. Clothing, diapers, wipes, childcare, formula, food, and everything else adds up quickly. The state does allow the children to be placed on WIC, and while that is so helpful, it is not enough for the entire month. Daycare assistance is also available, but again, there is always an overage to be paid. Most foster parents don't receive baby/kid showers, so everything comes from their pockets in preparation for a placement. Preparing for different ages, genders, and clothing seasons really adds up. (This is why foster parents are so grateful for hand me downs and donations.)

Another misconception is that there is a chance to "keep" every child who comes into a foster home. The main goal of foster care is to reunite the children with their parents when mom/dad has made the necessary changes and is ready to parent. These birth parents (or at least the ones I've worked with) are not terrible people. They are people who lack positive role models, have grown up in similar situations, or simply don't know how to parent appropriately. They are fully deserving of an opportunity to get themselves together in an effort to get their child back. While many people foster with the intent of adopting, this can be a long process as time is given to the birth parents to make progress. Before asking a foster parent if they are going to get to "keep" a child, remember that they probably don't know the answer. Foster parents do what we do knowing that things could change at any time. We are all pretty good at living in a state of uncertainty.

A third misconception is one I hear almost every time I mention that I'm a foster parent. Someone looks at me and says, "Oh, I could never do that! I'd get too attached. You are awesome!" Um, no. Have you met me? I'm far from awesome. If I'm being completely honest, this can sometimes sting a little when I hear it. I'm sure I've said this to people in the past, and I completely get it. I appreciate the compliment. Let me say that we DO get attached. We care for these children like they are our own, and we love them deeply. Foster parents are not robots who take care of children and then hand them back without any feeling. We are not superheroes who are trying to save the world. We are people who are passionate about helping children, and are willing to put our own emotions on the line to do what we can for them. Please know that if it's something you are interested in, and feel is right for you, you can do it.

I personally want to take time this month to say thank you to the people who have supported me along this journey. I have friends and family who pray for me and for the babies. There are people who have been willing to photograph my babies for free, or at a discounted rate. Some people are willing to babysit. Clothes have been donated by people when their children outgrew them. I have friends and family who create bonds with the babies, and love them like I do. I have friends who are there to celebrate the milestones, and friends who listen through my tears. Foster parenting is something I chose, but I cannot do it all alone. Please know that your support and generosity are greatly appreciated.

Due to confidentiality, I cannot post pictures or information about the children I have, but know that the sweet babies who have come through my door are amazing and beautiful. I commit to advocating for these children. I will continue to share posts about fostering on Facebook. I will continue to try to recruit other foster parents. I will continue to do my small part.

If you've ever considered fostering or want to help a foster parent or child in some way, this is the perfect time to make a move. Feel free to ask any questions you have. I would love to walk down this road with you. There's a child who needs you. Do you have a reason to say no?

Monday, May 4, 2015

NFCAM 2K15


Wow. It’s been a long time since I’ve written here.

I often have ideas about things I really want to write about- I've even made 2 or 3 lengthy lists, which are currently lying somewhere around at my house. At one point, I decided to get organized and made a calendar to list what I would write and when I would write it!

That was about two months ago, so you can tell how successful it’s been.

Over the past seven months as a new mom, I continually tell myself, “I’ll get the hang of this soon! One of these days I’ll have this down, and then I’ll be able to (insert some activity such as writing a blog post here)!”

It always starts with such confidence...
But here’s the thing about babies: they change. A lot. Every day.

As soon as you get used to one phase, they wake up in a whole new one.

All of a sudden, they want to eat (or play with) solid foods. Or they learn how to roll over- eliminating your ability to leave them on the couch while you grab a rag from the other side of the room to clean up the spit up flowing onto your floor. (Random example.) Or they figure out they can move their hands and miraculously grab things like house plants, cups of hot coffee, or dog faces.

Or (Lord help me when this happens) they learn how to crawl.

When you finally get used to one stage, you’re already halfway through the next. It’s beautiful and incredible and so much fun, but it also means you’re always in the stage of “figuring it out.”
(And by “you’re” I mean “I’m”- I’m using a generic pronoun in the hopes that I’m not alone here.)

...and ends up like this. (Making it happen, but maybe not always with those most grace and ease.)

So that’s my excuse. I’m still adjusting. (There are also a lot of other things going on in life right now, but more on that soon.)

These days I’m adjusting to two new teeth, the precarious balancing act that is learning how to sit up independently, the unquenchable curiosity of a growing mind, and the fierce desire to crawl comically combined with a complete lack of limb coordination.

Actually, that may not be fair to say. Little Man is adjusting to those things. I’m just adjusting to him adjusting.

But this month, I’m going to try to make updating this blog more of a priority. Partially because I love writing- it helps me figure out what the heck I’m thinking and feeling, and it gives me an outlet to express it all. It also helps me feel connected. Every time I post something on here, I am so humbled and amazed by the fact that people read it. It’s such an encouraging reminder of how many people care about Little Man- and about the story we’re living and creating together.
Which, of course, stirs up many more thoughts and feelings, thus creating an even bigger need for writing. It’s a wonderful cycle!

The other reason I’m hoping to make blogging a priority? May is National Foster Care Awareness month- aka: NFCAM 2K15. (Thanks to a fellow foster mom- one whom I have never met in person but still feel so connected to- for reminding me of this fact! With everything I have on my plate right now, I would have been weeks into the month before remembering- if I remembered at all.)

I want to celebrate this month- and the incredible journey/responsibility/joy that is foster care- by sharing stories and information and updates with you here. I’m also trying to do regular posts on Instagram, so you can check in there (@ukulelekaley) if you feel so inclined!

When Ramses II says it, you know it's for realz.

I’ll start small- with this humble post. But I’m hoping to work through a good chunk of the list(s) I’ve created, so be sure to check in every once in a while!

But, since it’s been a long time, I’ll leave with a few updates on Little Man.

Here are some facts about him in his seventh month (what??) of life:
  • His current loves are eating new foods, making people laugh, being tickled, visits from Gigi (my mom), being or watching things outside, dancing with me in the living room, spending time with the dogs, wearing his sunglasses, and making new sounds.
  • Favorite book: “Your Personal Penguin” by Sandra Boynton (it may seem odd for a 7-month-old to have a favorite book, but, man, he loves it.)
  • Favorite time of day: Bath time.
  • Favorite food: Any. But he seemed to be an especially big fan of sweet potatoes.
  • Recent firsts: First trip to the dentist and first trip to the pool (God bless Texas)

Here are some pictures:

At seven months, this kid's style is on point. So are his elbow rolls.

Hide and Seek champ.

In all seriousness- this book has magical powers.

This kid is honestly just the sweetest little guy, with the absolute best laugh and a grin that would make anyone melt. He’s so much fun to be with, and every day I feel lucky to be a part of his life!


Okay, that's it for now. But stay tuned for another update soon! (I've said it here, so it has to happen, right??)



(Oh, and bummer update: I still haven’t heard back fromEllen. I’m hoping it will happen one day, but I think I’d need a few thousand people to tweet at her in order to get her attention. I guess people send her a lot of mail or something.)


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

10 Things You Probably Shouldn't Say to a Foster Parent (And what you should say instead)

Soon after Little Man entered my life, one of my friends sent me a video that so perfectly captures something I would say most- if not all- foster parents experience.
The video is called “Stuff People Say to Foster Parents.” I’m assuming it was created when making videos about things specific groups of people say was really trendy. Remember that phase? Those videos were all over the place for a while.
But in any case, this particular one showcases some of the most frequent (and- from our perspective- some of the strangest) things people say to or ask foster parents.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I completely understand why people ask me questions about fostering. I didn’t know any foster parents until I became one, so it wasn’t a world I knew much about until I entered into it. I would imagine there are a lot of folks out there who are curious for that exact reason- they don’t have any real experience with the foster care system- so I’m not surprised when people want to know more. Or when they just want to comment on it.

Curiosity, I understand.

And I actually have a lot of experience with it.


As an identical twin, I became pretty familiar (and patient) with people’s strange questions at a young age. “Do you have the same birthday?” “Can you read each other’s minds?” “If I kick her, would you feel it?”
LL gets it.
(These questions also taught my sister and I to become a pretty adept and creative liars- once going so far as to convince a classmate we were twins separated at birth, a lie she believed for months- but that is neither here nor there.)

This patience for questions has served me well as a foster mom, because- just as I have as a twin- I’ve heard a handful of questions and statements repeatedly for the past 6 months.

Some are pretty basic, like, “When did you become a foster parent?”
Some have a little more depth, for instance, “Why did you decide to foster?”

But I have to confess- some questions and comments put my patience to the test.
Although I know they come from a positive place, many of the things people say come across as insensitive, nosy, or just obvious.

I’ve never lost my patience or been angry at a person for their comments- but, honestly, there some things you just shouldn’t ask a foster parent. (Unless you know her/him very well- or find a more sensitive way to phrase them.) Additionally, there are some statements you should probably avoid making- despite your good intentions.

In an effort to help you navigate your future conversations with foster parents, I’ve created a list.

    (**Important Note: The goal of this list is not to make anyone feel self-conscious about interactions with foster parents or guilty about things they have asked in the past- it is just to help inform future conversations and questions.
Als
o, if you have said any of these things to me in the past 6 months, please know I am not annoyed or angry with you. I can understand where these statements come from- plus I’ve heard them all so many times that I honestly have no clue who’s said them at this point.)



10. I could never do that!
This is one of the things I hear most often, and- fortunately- it is one of the things I understand most.
When people say this to me, I know they are trying to convey a sense of respect or admiration, which I can appreciate. I would imagine people say it as a compliment.
But nonetheless, sometimes hearing this makes me a little uncomfortable. It feels like I’m being forced on a pedestal I don’t really deserve to be on.
I am not a super human. I am not Jesus. Or Mother Teresa. Or Fred Rogers. What I am doing is not unimaginably difficult. It doesn’t require any special skills. Foster parenting basically just requires a desire to help kids and their families, some patience, some adaptability, and a solid support system. I would imagine these are pretty in-line with the qualifications that are beneficial to have as a biological parent.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m not trying to say what I’m doing isn’t important or (at times) challenging. It is definitely both of those things. But I don’t think it’s an extraordinary and noble act... It’s just something I felt passionate about doing.
And I guess that’s what bothers me. If we treat foster parenting as some remarkable, inconceivably difficult, astounding thing that only exceptional people can do, people will continue thinking it’s something they could “
never” do. And I can assure you- chances are good that you could do this. It might be challenging, but you could do it.
So thank you for the compliment. I appreciate what you are trying to convey. But please remember-
I am just an average person who recognized a need and felt she could do something about it.
What you should say instead: Rather than paying a compliment through self-doubt, try something direct, like- There is such a need for foster parents- I really respect/thank you for your commitment to that role.”

9/8: How much money do you make?
How much does he cost, and do you have to pay for everything?


(I’m grouping these together because they are different but very similar- in what theyre asking and how inappropriate I think they are.)

Again- I can understand people’s curiosity here. I know they want to understand how fostering works. But, in my mind, this seems on par with asking someone how much money they make in their job. It’s not very polite.

When people ask this question (particularly the first one), it’s hard not to get a little defensive. The phrasing seems based in an assumption that fostering is just a way to earn some extra cash. And believe me- that is not the case. Much like teaching or social work, if someone became a foster parent for the money, he or she would be incredibly disappointed.

What you should say instead: Honestly, probably nothing. It’s best to just avoid this question. If you’re that curious, ask Google, instead.

In fact, here’s some general information about foster care reimbursements (which I’ve copy/pasted from a Google search) to assuage curiosity. Because- seriously- I get this questions a
lot:


      “In the United States, states are charged with ensuring that children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect are well cared for in their out‐of‐home placements. Foster care providers are responsible for directly providing the shelter, food, clothing, supervision, educational necessities, and other personal incidentals required to promote the safety, permanency, and well‐ being of children in their care. To assist them in meeting the children’s needs, child welfare agencies offer a payment (or reimbursement) to the providers. Although the Federal government has certain requirements regarding the provision of foster care payments (if the state chooses to seek Federal reimbursement for some of the costs for children in care through the title IV‐E program), there are no national requirements regarding the specific payment structures or amounts provided.1 Rather, states have considerable discretion in designing and administering their own foster care payment systems. In some cases, the authority to establish the rates lies with the individual counties or localities across the state.”
“The basic family foster care rates in most states vary by a child’s age, and in most cases the rates increase incrementally by age.”
“The basic foster care rates in the majority of states fall below our estimate of the costs of caring for a child. A comparison of the basic rates for various age groups to a computed estimate (based on USDA data) of the cost of caring for a child of that age range in that region of the country show that only a small number of states have rates that meet or exceed this estimate. A number of states have rates that represent less than half of the estimated cost of care.”

(http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Foster-Care-Payment-Rate- Report.pdf)

7. So... what is he?

Alternate wording: “Whats he mixed with?” or “Is he (insert race/ethnicity here)?”
No joke- strangers ask me this question. To me, this seems obviously inappropriate. Maybe you wonder in your own mind, but you’d never actually ask aloud. Especially if you have no relationship with the person you’re asking. Is that just me??
I can tolerate close friends inquiring as to his ethnic background, but “What is he?” is too blunt for anyone to ask. The answer is, “a baby”.

What you should say instead: Again- nothing. Sorry. If you’re really good friends with a foster parent, you can maybe try to politely inquire. But if you don’t have a relationship, it’s probably best to just come up with your own answer.


6. Is this a new one?
Alternate wording: “Is this the same one you had before?”
Rule of thumb, never refer to a child with generic terms such as “this,” or “it.” At the very least- use a human-specific pronoun.
This question bothers me because it feels kind of dehumanizing- and not just because of the pronoun choice. Maybe some people assume foster parents have a constant rotation of children. For some foster parents, that may be true, I guess. 
As I continue fostering, I’d imagine I’ll have a number of children in and out of my home.
But I expect that- no matter how many children enter and leave my care- they will each be uniquely important to me. Each will have an impact on my life. Their stories will all matter to me- just as Little Man’s story matters to me.
“Is this a new one?” seems to brush over and minimize the relationships and stories connected with each child- however briefly they are in my home.
What you should say instead: If you are really curious and need to know this piece of information, try to get it in a different- more sensitive- way. Example: Comment on how much he’s grown (if you’ve never met him before, I’d just let you know and introduce you), or comment on how good it is to see him and ask how long he’s been with me now (again- I’d correct you if this is the first time you’ve met). You could also ask how many placements I’ve had as a foster parent.

5. Are you going to keep him?
The child I am holding is not, in fact, a stray animal I took in off the street. As such, his situation (as with every child in foster care) is much more complex than me simply deciding to “keep” him.
Every child placed in foster care is given a service plan- which includes details about long term plans for permanency. This could be returning to biological parents, being placed in the care of other relatives, or being placed with adoptive parents. It’s never up to the foster parent what that plan is, and in many cases, the plan could change over time. This is one of the challenges of foster parenting. (Remember how I said you have to be adaptable?)

Even if we did have a say, foster parents generally have very complicated- and sometimes conflicting- feelings about their children’s final placements. It’s not unheard of for foster parents to want their children to return to their biological family while dreading it at the same time. (More on this in an upcoming post.) This question- beyond assuming I have authority I don’t have- doesn’t acknowledge the complexities of my son’s situation or the hopes I have for him. (Also, if foster parents want to adopt but aren’t able to, hearing this question can be kind of painful.) 
What you should say instead: What does his service plan look like? (Just know- the response you get might be, “None of your business” if you don’t know the foster parent. Hopefully it would be phrased more politely, though.) You could also ask foster parents if they are fostering to adopt or simply fostering.

4. Is he a drug baby?

To me, this question is on par with “What is he?” I’m not sure what makes people think this is appropriate to ask- especially when the person you are asking is a stranger or even an acquaintance. And yet, I’ve heard this from random people on multiple occasions.
The problem I have with this question is that it never feels as if it’s coming from a place of true concern for my son’s health. Instead, it seems to come from a place of nosiness. Again, I know this probably isn’t the case, but it generally feels as if the person is kind of hoping my answer will be “yes, he is.”
What you should say instead: This is, once again, a question that is best to just let it stay in your mind. (Unless you are the child's doctor.)


(The final three all kind of tie for first place. They are the things people say to me that I find most tiresome, and I could rank them differently depending on the day.)

3. This will be such good practice when you have real kids!
Alternate wording: “This will be such good practice for when you have your own kids!”
I really hate it when people say this to me. I know that might seem extreme, but it’s true.
I feel that strongly for a few reasons. 1) Last time I checked, my foster son was a real child. I know we have some pretty convincing dolls out there these days, but I am fairly confident he’s the real deal. 2) Although my son may not be “mine” biologically, he is “mine” for the time being. 3) Because he is both a real child and my son, I would never consider caring for him “practice”- at least not any more than another parent would consider her/his first child practice.
He’s my son, not a high school homes economics flour bag project, and I will treat him just like I will treat any other children I have in the future. Sure, I will probably (hopefully) learn things along the way that will improve my parenting. (Such is the burden of a first child.) But Little Man is not a test run or an experiment. He is a real, flesh and blood child, and how I parent him right now matters for
years to come.
Like most parents, I don’t take that responsibility lightly.
What you should say instead: Some variation of, “Oh, I learned so much as I raised my first child!” Then tell me something you learned, or ask me what lessons I’ve learned along the way. If you have never hand children, just stick with something like, “I bet you’re learning a lot as a new parent!” 

2. So... What’s his mom’s story?
Alternate wording: “What did his mom do??”

This is another question that- to me- never seems to be rooted in genuine concern. I always feel as if it’s coming from people’s fascination with tragedy. When people ask me that question, I first want to remind them that my son’s biological mom is (just like him) a real person. I have no desire to objectify her by sensationalizing her story. Also, because I care about my son, I care about her. She doesn’t deserve to be the object of anyone’s anger, pity, or hatred. Nor does she deserve to be judged and labeled as one of "those types of parents" by people who don't know her or her experiences.  I don’t want to reduce her or her story to a way of buying people’s sympathy for her son.
Additionally, foster parents have to abide by strict confidentiality laws, so- even if I wanted to tell you all the details of her life (and- really- I do not), I am not allowed to do so. (Also, in many cases, foster parents don’t know very many details themselves.)
What you should say instead: Instead of asking questions about biological families, try to empathize with them. Recognize how difficult it might be for them to be away from their child, and feel free to communicate that instead. I would much rather hear someone say, “I can’t imagine how difficult his absence is for his biological mom” over questions about what she “did.”

1. Don’t you get attached??

Nope. He keeps me up at night. This kid is the worst.
Of course I’m attached! I’ve spent the past 6 months with this guy- and look at how cute he is! (Man, I wish you could for real- he seriously is the cutest.) 

I recognize that this (like #10) is asked to convey some sort of respect and awe, but it frustrates me because it seems like a pretty obvious answer. And, while I doubt the ask-ers realize it, it’s also a little insensitive.
I know people ask because they’re trying to process how difficult it would be to build a relationship with a child only to (eventually) deal with separation. But while I appreciate the recognition of the heartache involved in foster care, I don’t really want to be reminded of it. Focusing on the possibility of future grief just makes it harder to soak up the joy I’m experiencing in the present. And while I certainly don’t want to be na├»ve or unprepared for what lies ahead, I also don’t want my fear of it to keep me from fully engaging right now.

So please- don’t ask foster parents this question. In all likelihood, you already know the answer.
What you should say instead: Empathize in a different way. Tell them you can- or can’t- imagine- all the complex things they’re feeling. Tell them they’re doing a good job. Remind them that what they’re doing is making a difference. Help them to soak up the time they have with their kids, because it’s precious. 


So that's my personal list. Other foster parents might read this and think, "None of these questions bother me at all." But, in my perspective, those are the top ten things that- as a foster parent- I'd be okay never hearing again.

But I'm sure I will.

I'm sure I'll continue to hear each of these over the months and years ahead. And- ultimately- I'm okay with it.

I may get tired of these questions and statements, but I always love when people care- and want to know more- about my experience as a foster parent. I love sharing this adventure with others. And- goodness knows- I love talking about Little Man. So I would rather people ask me a question I'm tired of hearing than ask me nothing at all. And I would imagine most foster parents feel the same way!



What kinds of questions would you want to ask a foster parent?
Or- if you are a foster parent- what questions do you enjoy/tire of hearing?


By the way, here is the video I mentioned- in case you want to watch it!