I was never nervous about becoming a mother.
I think our friends and family were nervous for me, and I can’t say that I blame them. When I was pregnant with my first child, my (now) husband and I were young and unmarried. We were still in college and had no money. We were beyond poor; in fact, we were on public assistance during my pregnancy and for awhile after our son was born.
Despite all these challenges, we took to parenting like ducks to water. I attribute much of our success to the wonderful families we grew up with. We both learned from the best, and their example paved the way for us to become good parents.
We went on have another child, but when we tried for a third we suffered several miscarriages. We still wanted to grow our family, so we began the journey to become foster/adoptive parents.
We got “the call” on a Tuesday. There was a baby boy who needed to be removed from his home due to numerous safety concerns. DHS was preparing to make their recommendation to the court, so we would have some time before he came to stay with us if we were interested.
We discussed it, and decided he sounded like a good fit for our family.
We sat back and prepared to do a whole lot of waiting. It was then we learned the first rule of foster parenting: assume nothing will go as planned.
The worker called back the next day. Things had taken a turn for the worse and the baby wasn’t safe. They needed to get him out of his home immediately.
“Can you take him tonight?”
I drove to the DHS office to pick him up while my husband took our older boys shopping for baby items.
The social worker met me at the door with the baby in her arms.
He was adorable, of course. But it was the look in his eyes that I will never, ever forget.
What I saw was fear. Fear in his enormous, 4-month-old brown eyes.
And in that moment, everything made sense.
A Safety Net
Introducing our new family member to the general public was interesting, to say the least. (Rule number two of foster parenting: learn to deal with insensitive/nosy questions and comments.) People would often say, “How can you take that baby into your home when you might have to give him back? I could never be a foster parent; I would get too attached.”
Those are normal feelings, and I admit I had them as well. But when I saw the fear in our baby boy’s eyes, I understood what we had to do.
I realized our job, first and foremost, was to give him the best care we could while we had him. The future didn’t matter as much as the present moment.
Our job was to make the fear in his eyes go away, even though his future was uncertain. Above all else, he would be safe while his birth family worked through their issues.
When you become a foster parent, your role is to provide the best of yourself for the kids in your care. When or if the time comes to let them go, you do so knowing you did everything in your power to help them.
And as far as the circumstances that led him to our home, it wasn’t our place to judge. After all, my husband and I could have just as easily been in the same position. We were young, poor, and irresponsible in our own way. Our saving grace was that we had grown up with the benefits of a stable, supportive family structure. When I was pregnant both of our families were standing by to offer financial and emotional support as well as numerous resources.
Everyone deserves to have that type of support system in their life. The job of a foster family is to provide a safety net for children and families that don’t have one, temporarily or permanently if necessary.
From Foster Care to Adoption
The main goal of foster care is to reunite children with their birth families. In fact, 70% of the children who enter the system do return home.
However, in our son’s case reunification efforts were not successful. We finalized his adoption 17 months after he came into our care.
Three months later we received another call, this time for his sister. Her adoption was finalized 18 months later.
How You Can Help
If you’re interested in becoming a foster/adoptive parent, the first step is to contact Iowa Kids Net. (Iowa Kids Net is an organization that recruits, trains and supports foster and adoptive families.) The process begins by filling out an inquiry form and attending an informational meeting. If you decide to move forward, you’ll complete fingerprint and background checks, attend a ten-week series of training classes and complete a home study. The entire process can take anywhere from nine to twelve months to complete.
Once you’ve completed the training and been approved by DHS, you’ll hear from Iowa Kids Net when a child enters the system who they think will be a good match for your family.
When you choose to accept a placement, you become part of a very important team which can include social workers, birthparents, and therapists. Iowa Kids Net will also provide a support worker just for your family to help you navigate your foster/adoptive journey.
If you end up adopting a child in your care, you will have continuing access to resources. Iowa Kids Net provides a support worker for families with subsidized adoptions, and support groups are available for all adoptive families.
Most of us are familiar with the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child.” Foster and adoptive parents can help children and families who don’t have a village of their own. If you have a caring and patient heart, an open mind, an adventurous spirit, and a desire to make a difference, you can help a child and family in need.
*All images are courtesy of Microsoft Stock Images.
There are so many ways to become a mother. Read other stories in our series, “How I Became a Mother.”