I’m still not okay with calling myself a “former foster mom.” It just doesn’t feel right. My heart is still so in the world of foster care as I support families in the trenches and continue to deal with post foster care issues with my own kids. After five years in group home work and 7 years as foster parents, I can’t imagine a time when foster care won’t be on my heart and in my mind, but for this season we are not active foster parents.
This has been a weird loss of identity that I’ve struggled to put words to. Foster care is hard, but at some point it does become your normal. Dealing with caseworkers and lawyers and team meetings and all the paperwork– it can be frustrating, but it also can become the rhythm that structures your days. When you’ve spent years investing in “the system” to try and make improvements for these kids and their families (which can sometimes feel like beating your head against a wall), it is just odd to step outside of it. At first, there’s relief. And then there are questions.
Is there more we should be doing? What about all the other kids who need families? What about the kids already in our home– are they going to resent us if we keep going or if we stop? Will we ever have time to relicense if we let our license go now? Will we even know if our former foster kids or siblings of our kids come into care? All those relationships we developed– how do we continue to encourage those people now that we’re outside of the system?
Now that I’ve sat with these questions for the last two years (since our license lapsed because our home was too full by the state’s standards), I’m finding a place of peace. I’m learning that there is a right time to step out for a season, but that doesn’t mean we stop caring about the kids in foster care or that we stop being a voice for them.
But in order to end our foster care experience with a desire to continue to be advocates for these kids, we need to know our boundaries. We can’t keep being foster parents until we’ve burnout and we’re parenting our own angry, resentful, traumatized children because of how we kept doing this work long after our passion for it was gone. We need to know when to say “no” to placements that don’t work for our family or when we’ve come to the end of or ability to juggle the needs of foster care and foster kids with the needs of our own family. This can be an extremely guilt-inducing place to be.
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