It may take a village to raise a child. Some days it takes a sisterhood to keep a foster mom sane.
But we’re not born with foster parenting sisterhoods – we have to build our own. I actually live several states away from both my family and my in-laws (not entirely by accident), so I didn’t really have a built-in village the way most new moms do. But I still expected to be able to call my mom or sister when the baby wouldn’t stop crying in the middle of the night, or I couldn’t figure out how to get gum out of the toddler’s hair.
But it turned out that the most urgent questions I had couldn’t have been answered by my mom or sister anyway. Here are some actual questions with which I called my mentor in my first 3 months of fostering:
Foster mom dilemmas that a phone call to YOUR mom won’t resolve:
1. “So I went to pick up Johnny at day care, and he wasn’t there! The case manager had picked him up for a visit and didn’t think I needed to know ahead of time.”
(this happened three times)
2. “Susie fell off the couch onto her head. There’s no bruise and she barely cried, but do I have to go to the emergency room?”
3. “Jasmine has a fever and is really miserable. Should I cancel the visit? Do I have that authority?”
4. “Should I go to court Tuesday? The case manager said I can, but that I don’t have to. How does it work? Do I have to say anything? How should I introduce myself?”
5. “Do you know anything about Sally Casemanager? She seemed nice but a little flighty. And some of the stuff she said was kind of confusing.”
Foster mentor responses:
1. “Let me call the Foster Care Liaison. That’s not okay.” (the third time) “Here, let me introduce you to her supervisor’s supervisor. That’s not okay.”
2. “Would you take your biological child? Then, no. You’re the mommy, trust your instincts.”
3. “Would you let your biological child go? Then cancel it. You’re the mommy, trust your instincts.”
4. “Yes. You go up and stand next to the G.A.L. You probably won’t have to say anything, but you will need to introduce yourself. Which judge do you have? Here’s what she’s like… Do you need me to go with you?”
5. “Yes, I had her once before (or so-and-so had her before). Here is my experience with her….”
That’s not to say I haven’t called my sister in the middle of the night to get her advice on a child that won’t stay asleep when you get out of the rocking chair, but I cannot stress enough the value of my foster parenting sisterhood!
As much as my sister loves me and cares about my foster kids, she just doesn’t understand when I’m excited for a baby that’s being reunified, but sad for me because he’s leaving. But my foster mom sisterhood gets it. Not only do they understand that sometimes I just need to vent about how horribly, heart-breakingly volatile foster parenting is; they’ve been where I am and they feel the same pull that I do to keep doing it.
That is perhaps the most crucial element of my friendships with veteran foster moms: they’ve been where I am. They don’t always know the right thing to say – sometimes there IS no right thing to say – but I know that they’re coming from a place of understanding and support, because they’ve been where I am.
I’m sure I don’t tell them enough, but I couldn’t do this without my foster mom sisterhood.
And to my sisterhood (you know who you are): Thank you!