Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My Letter to Ellen (2.0): A petition for Ellen to host a (Foster) Mother's Day show

Just hanging with two of my BFFs on a totally normal hair day.

If you know me well, you know that one of the beliefs I deeply and firmly cling to is this:
Ellen DeGeneres can make anyone's dreams come true.

Case in point: once she ordered 99 pizzas to feed some hungry celebs who were trapped for hours in theatre seating and probably uncomfortable formal-wear.
Among some of my friends, there's an ongoing joke (or hope) that we all have one wish Ellen will grant us, so sometimes we talk about what that wish would be- getting feedback to make sure we're holding out for the right one. One friend in particular would ask her to get Matthew McConaughey, whose name I just had to Google to spell correctly (I wasn't even close) to his wedding. I feel like that's a pretty solid choice- MM could probably deliver a killer toast.

For a while, I had a few wishes I tossed around. My top three (in no particular order) were that she would:


But these days things have changed. My sister recently broke the news that Josh Groban is in a pretty serious relationship, which I guess would make a blind date a little bit awkward. In terms of a Broadway audition- I have a child and house in Waco these days, so committing to rehearsal time in New York (because obviously I'd get the part*) would be pretty challenging. I'm not sure I have the skills to balance that kind of a schedule yet.

Obviously I'd still take a vacation (who wouldn't?), but since becoming a foster parent I have a new wish that takes priority.

If you've followed along on this blog for the past year- or if you just found it and have backtracked a bit- you know that last year I wrote a letter to Ellen asking her to dedicate her annual Mother’s Day show to foster moms. The letter was kind of long, but the main reasons behind this wish were 1.) foster moms are awesome, and 2) it would be such a great way to promote foster care- during National Foster Care Awareness month, no less! As great a a vacation would be, I can figure that wish out on my own. What I cannot do is magically expand my sphere of influence to match the level of Ellen's. She has such a positive impact on so many people, so for her to share the world of fostering with others would be incredible.

I don’t think my letter got very far last year, but I've decided writing one will now be my annual tradition in the hopes that, one day, she'll read it.

Obviously my personal experience makes me a little biased, but the concept of a Foster Mother's Day episode really just seems perfect to me. Ellen loves making the world a better place. Her last name has the word "generous" in it, for Pete's sake! Misspelled, perhaps, but all my last name has is the word "egg", so I'm pretty sure she still wins that one.

On top of that, her motto is "Be kind to one another," which is sort of like the unspoken motto of foster parents. And did I mention the episode falls during Foster Care Awareness month? Because it does. 


So anyway- that's my wish these days. And I think it will always be my top wish- even if Josh Groban were single again. (No offense, Josh.)

So here’s my letter for this year.

I’d love it if you considered reading and sharing it. As I said last year, if we’re all just 7 degrees from Kevin Bacon, we have to be only 5 or 6 from Ellen. She seems to know a lot of people.

Tweet out the link, post it on Instagram, share it 50 times on her Facebook page. Maybe if enough people share it enough times, she'll actually see it! (Or someone on her staff will, who would then maybe share it with her.) I'm all for beating the "third time's a charm" odds. Forget that noise- let's shoot for second time's a charm here.

Be sure to tag Ellen when applicable- and use the hashtags #BeKindToOneAnother and #FosterMoms4Ellen if you can squeeze them in there. Admittedly, I’m not very savvy when it comes to social media, but from what I understand hashtags are the best way for things to spread on the internet these days. (If that’s changed in the last few years, please, someone let me know. I’m too young to be so out of the loop with technology.) (Also- I'm open to other hashtag ideas- I just couldn't think of any  better/shorter ones.)

And if you happen to know Ellen personally, let me know. I’ll give you a hand written version to pass along to her directly.

*For those of you who don't know me personally, it feels important for me to clarify that I was joking about me obviously getting a part in a Broadway show.
____________________________________________________________________________

Hi Ellen!

My name is Kaley. I’m a 28-year-old social worker living in Waco, Texas, who loves spending time with friends, music, crafts, coffee, sweatpants, and (obviously) you.

I’m also a foster parent.

I could probably write a novel about why I became a foster parent and the journey it's been since then, but- to save us both time- I'm just going to give you the Spark Notes version. About 18 months ago, I got my foster care license, and a few weeks later I received my first placement- a newborn boy. And when I say newborn, I mean 2 days old and straight from the hospital. While I’m still surprised the hospital staff let me walk out of there with him (like most new parents, I had no clue what I was doing), he's been with me ever since!


Having been a foster parent for only a year and half with one placement, I’m still relatively inexperienced in the world of foster care. But man… I have learned a lot. And I’ve gained so much respect for the people who have committed to taking on this role- some of whom have been fostering longer than I’ve been alive. Can you imagine the impact they’ve made? Not just on the children in their care, but in the world! It astounds me just thinking about it. And it’s one of the things that makes this responsibility so beautiful and rewarding.

 But at the same time, fostering is challenging- emotionally, mentally, and even physically. (These days, I'm chasing after a surprisingly quick and clumsy toddler. It's exhausting.) As a foster parent, you open your heart up to so much love and joy, which inevitably leaves it open to a lot of grief and pain. Fostering  requires a unique sense of vulnerability. You have to balance two very different truths, and figure out a way to carry them both at the same time. 

In one hand, you hold the truth that these children are your own. You open up space for them in your home and heart, and you care for them as if you gave them life and will walk with them through it from start to finish. You love them completely and without condition.


But then, in the other hand, you hold the truth that there’s another family out there- one they could return to any day. You have to accept that, no matter how much love you pour into them, they might not remember your name- or you at all- years down the road.


And those are hard realities to reconcile.


If there is a way to love my son completely while still protecting my heart from the grief of losing him, I haven’t figured it out yet. But, despite the uncertainty and heartache, I hope to continue fostering children- as so many parents around the country do- because there is such a tremendous need, and I know this is one way I can do something about it.


Which brings me to the purpose of this letter. Every May, you have a wonderful Mother’s Day show where you celebrate women doing something incredible- bringing a life into the world. Your audience is filled with women who are proudly rocking their baby bumps; it’s seriously one of the best shows of the year.

But over the past year and a half my eyes have been opened to the many mothers out there whose stories aren’t always celebrated- or even shared. From women who are led to foster care because they are unable (or choose not) to have children biologically, to women who become foster moms just so kids can experience safety and love before finding permanency with their biological or adoptive family- there are many mothers out there who don’t necessarily bring lives into the world, but they certainly work hard to make sure those lives thrive. Their stories are complex and challenging, but they are also beautiful and very much worth telling.

I think it would be amazing to host a Mother’s Day Show celebrating these women.  Not only because they deserve it for the love they selflessly give, but because it would inform millions of your viewers about a really important issue. Did you know that in the United States, more than 400,000 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system? And more children enter than leave each year.* There are so many things- big and small- that your viewers can do about this, but they may not even be aware of them.  They could donate items to children in foster care, volunteer with an organization that supports biological families working toward reunification, register to provide respite care for foster families, or even could become foster parents themselves.

 I’ve been amazed by how little most people seem to know about the reality of fostering. Many people tell me, “I could never do that!” without having an accurate understanding of what it’s like. I’ve become pretty passionate about changing people’s misconceptions by being honest about my experience- both the joys and the challenges- in my conversations and writing. But I know your voice can carry a lot further than mine. I also know you choose to use it to make a positive impact on the world- it’s one of the many reasons I admire you. I know you can’t support every cause people point you toward, but I at least wanted to ask you to support this one. May is actually National Foster Care Awareness month, too, so it could be perfect!

I’m not sure if this will actually reach you, but, if it does, I’d be so grateful if you’d even just consider this. Whether you think about making a change to the Mother’s Day show (it might be too late for that; I honestly have no clue how far in advance you guys prepare for each episode) or share this information in some other way, I think it could make such a difference for the kids across the country in need of safe homes and loving families.

Regardless of whether or not this letter changes anything, I am thankful for all you do to make the world a better place. You bring so much joy to so many people, which is why you always make my list when I answer the question: “What five people- dead or alive- would you invite to a dinner party?” There’d be so much good conversation and dancing.

Thank you for being kind.

All the best,

Kaley

(p.s.- I realize it may seem a little self-serving to make this suggestion given the fact that I am a foster mom myself, but I would be totally fine if you did this and I wasn't there- there are plenty of other foster moms out there who could fill an audience.)

(I mean, I wouldn’t complain if I was there, but I’d honestly be beyond thrilled to see others there, too.)


*AFCARS report, 2015: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/trends_fostercare_adoption2014.pdf

10 comments:

  1. Awesome letter Kayley!! I hope your letter is read this year and it doesn't necessarily need to be sent more than just this year. I look forward to watching the episode!! ((Hugs,to you and little man))

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    1. Thanks!! If she decided to do it, I feel like it would make such a huge impact on the world of foster care! Keeping my fingers crossed!! :)

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  2. Posted on Facebook! I LOVE this idea! #SingleFosterMomsUnite :)

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    1. Yay! Thank you so much!! :) Here's hoping it takes off....

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  3. I LOVE this, and would be so excited to see it happen. If you go, and need a friend, let me know. ;) Thanks for advocating for foster moms everywhere!

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  4. I truly hope she sees this and makes the change to the show. I have 3 bio kids and 2 foster children. I can honestly say loving them is my greatest honor. Too often people look at parenting as what a child brings to the family instead of what can my family bring to this child. A delicate balance of all in love, the kind that cant stop, and the reality that in a blink they could be loved by someone else. In the end, I hope I've given them a sense of knowing true love, given them the best start, and that they won't go a day without knowing what love feels like! From one foster mom to another -Jaime

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  5. Sign me up! As a fellow foster mom and Ellen fan, I would be ecstatic to be part of the audience. We need to continue building awareness of the fostering world and those who choose to enter into the messiness and beauty of it all.

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  6. Getting ready to share it on FB. I'm not a Foster Mom, but think you are spot on!

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  7. Yes yes a million times yes!!!! I am a fellow foster momma! I have 5 kids, 2 adopted from foster care and one still a foster child that is looking like we will adopt, to raise awareness and get people involved would be amazing! Even just to cook a meal for a foster family when they get a new placement like you would for a new mom bringing her baby home from the hospital, or DCFS is always in desperate need for mentors for the teens threatening to age out of the system, one lady made special bags for foster children coming into care so they wouldn't have to put all their belongings in a trash bag, maybe training people to babysit for foster parents, there are so many ways people can get involved and they don't even know it because they don't have the information so for someone like Ellen to be able to get that out there would be AMAZING! I will share this till I can't anymore in hopes it will get to her!!?

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