There is an inordinate amount of phrases and words that have negative connotations that really should have more positive meanings. These words and phrases have a large impact into how we (ourselves and as a society) view the world around us. Sometimes I have to wonder with a language as vast as ours if we are too often sending the wrong message to the next generation by over using words with double meanings. But what do we do? Are we sending the wrong message?

Should we avoid using words with bad or double meanings? Do we somehow cleanse these words of their bad connotations? Or do we continue to use these words, teach their double meanings, and educate our children on not letting a negative meaning color their outlook?

I bet you are wondering where all of this is coming from.

In several posts I have brought up how the word “foster” has received bad publicity. I have also mentioned that the term foster parent has been replaced in some states and literature with the term “resource parent”. The reason for the change has to do with re-branding. Changing the label of something with a bad rap but a new image can sometimes help eradicate the negative stigma attached to it.

Here DCS (Department of Child Services) wants to show how it is changing and evolving for the better. They want to reassure the public that they are doing what they can to help families stay together; protection and oversight is being provided; homes (extended family and foster) are being thoroughly vetted; and more. Essentially that this is not the same DCS from our parents generation.  DCS wants a better public image. This also links to the need for quality foster parents.

There are a million reasons to re-brand and DCS isn’t wrong that in some ways they are in need of a re-branding. In this case I am not sure changing a term like foster parent to resource parent is going to have the over-encompassing effect wished for.

There are plenty of other words and terms in our society that have similar negative feelings attached. Words like “used”, “second hand”, and “thrift” have more negative associations than positive.

Lately I have been wondering if we, as a society, are putting way too much positive emphasis on “new” and sending the wrong message about words tied to “used”. It is true that no one wants a used tissue but a used piece of clothing can evoke much the same feeling to a good portion of our society.

So…  Why is second hand such a bad thing?

Second Hand: Is there a point missing?

Sending the wrong message?

There is an inordinate amount of phrases and words that have negative connotations that really should have more positive meanings. These words and phrases have a large impact into how we (ourselves and as a society) view the world around us. Sometimes I have to wonder with a language as vast as ours if we are too often sending the wrong message to the next generation by over using words with double meanings. But what do we do?

(Click here for full message)

Why is second hand such a bad thing?

Seriously, why is second hand such a bad thing? The double meanings and strong negative connotations associated with the phrase “second hand” and the word “thrift” have had me baffled for a long time. How I was raised taught me to appreciate what I had including second hand items.

(Click here for full message)

How have others treated me and my second hand items?

As a child no one said anything really. No one other than those who passed along items knew that my ridiculously expensive clothes were in reality hand-me-downs.

(Click here for full message)

So why is there still a stigma surrounding “thrifting” and consignment shopping?

Why is it there still a bigger emphasis placed on buying something new over just wearing something you like regardless of where it came from?

I can see an argument being made that it is all about consumerism and how industry/marketing has implanted in our (society) heads an emphasis on new vs. second hand. Yes, I can clearly see that argument. In working with kids I see how the more money a family has the larger the emphasis is on having the new trendy thing. How it doesn’t really matter your income, you want to have a new thing but money is what dictates what you have. The monetarily poor get left out.

(Click here for full message)

The value of second hand in a flawed system

So here is where the stigma with “second hand” really bothers me. The foster care system (in general) places a high value/standard on new over second hand. DCS has its reasons and plenty of people with good intentions buy into those reasons and don’t see their hand in making changes as having anything but a positive outlook. However life is rarely so clear cut.

(Click here for full message)

Perhaps there should be a disclosure or warning here: Truly long post about the term second hand and how I see it through my eyes, societies eyes and how I see it being used in terms of the system. This is a truly long post and not one you will easily read in one sitting. I would suggest either bookmarking it or… I have created a sister post of sorts, an umbrella post, one with smaller subheadings with links to the full “meat” of that subheading that then links to the next subheading a bit like Alice’s journey through wonderland… Now that I have outlined that you have options and several ways to read this post… Read in your own way/time.

Second Hand: Is there a point missing?

Sending the wrong message?

There is an inordinate amount of phrases and words that have negative connotations that really should have more positive meanings. These words and phrases have a large impact into how we (ourselves and as a society) view the world around us. Sometimes I have to wonder with a language as vast as ours if we are too often sending the wrong message to the next generation by over using words with double meanings. But what do we do?

Should we avoid using words with bad or double meanings? Do we somehow cleanse these words of their bad connotations? Or do we continue to use these words, teach their double meanings, and educate our children on not letting a negative meaning color their outlook?

I bet you are wondering where all of this is coming from.

In several posts I have brought up how the word “foster” has received bad publicity. I have also mentioned that the term foster parent has been replaced in some states and literature with the term “resource parent”. The reason for the change has to do with re-branding. Changing the label of something with a bad rap but a new image can sometimes help eradicate the negative stigma attached to it.

Here DCS (Department of Child Services) wants to show how it is changing and evolving for the better. They want to reassure the public that they are doing what they can to help families stay together; protection and oversight is being provided; homes (extended family and foster) are being thoroughly vetted; and more. Essentially that this is not the same DCS from our parents generation.  DCS wants a better public image. This also links to the need for quality foster parents.

There are a million reasons to re-brand and DCS isn’t wrong that in some ways they are in need of a re-branding. In this case I am not sure changing a term like foster parent to resource parent is going to have the over-encompassing effect wished for.

There are plenty of other words and terms in our society that have similar negative feelings attached. Words like “used”, “second hand”, and “thrift” have more negative associations than positive.

Lately I have been wondering if we, as a society, are putting way too much positive emphasis on “new” and sending the wrong message about words tied to “used”. It is true that no one wants a used tissue but a used piece of clothing can evoke much the same feeling to a good portion of our society.

So… Why is second hand such a bad thing?

Why is second hand such a bad thing?

Seriously, why is second hand such a bad thing? The double meanings and strong negative connotations associated with the phrase “second hand” and the word “thrift” have had me baffled for a long time. How I was raised taught me to appreciate what I had including second hand items.

As the baby of both my immediate and extended family I always had hand-me-downs. Getting second hand goods didn’t bother me. Sometimes I even really looked forward to receiving the items if I had good memories of my cousins wearing a favorite item. When I got older I even appreciated said hand-me-downs especially when they were not cheap to come by and we’re still in great condition like a leather jacket.

With hand-me-downs there wasn’t often a need to buy me new things. Several of my aunt’s friends passed on high-end dresses and coats from Lord & Taylor. Why would I need my parents to buy me something new?

Most times the only new items I needed were shoes. This helped my parents out at a point where our family hit on hard times because of unexpected illness with my father.

Even still, my parents made sure that if I needed, I could get brand new shoes as well as a brand new outfit up to four times a year. As I went to a school with a uniform, this was all I really needed.

From an early age I learned to have positive associations with hand-me-downs and second hand items. So as preteen, I would ask to go to a thrift store well before I would ask to go to a department store. First I saw thrift stores as a veritable smorgasbord of clothing options from brand new to gently used.

I would get my biggest thrill over vintage items that fit my rather curvy frame. One Halloween I used a vintage pale blue 1930s gown with a gorgeous Irish wool cloak as my backdrop to a silver screen vampire costume.  I have a love affair with fabric, costumes, shoes… I grew up at the heels of generations of women who sewed.

Now ask the question I am sure you have been wondering about.

How have others treated me and my second hand items?

How have others treated me and my second hand items?

As a child no one said anything really. No one other than those who passed along items knew that my ridiculously expensive clothes were in reality hand-me-downs.

It was a slightly different story as I got older. No, the kids didn’t really know that some of my clothes were hand-me-downs. What they knew was that I didn’t have the same saddle shoes the rest of the girls wore. They assumed I couldn’t afford it. Why? Well, because my parents didn’t dress as lavishly as theirs did.

At first no I didn’t get picked on for my second hand items but rather I wore sensible loafers while others wore the black and white saddle shoes. I received some heckling because the shoes were not as pretty as theirs. It was true. Also true was that my shoes cost less. The reason I had them though was more medical than cost. I have low ankles so shoes with firm high backs caused my ankles to bleed. My sensible loafers had soft leather backs.

The preteen me did get picked on for her second-hand items but I don’t believe it was ever solely about what I wore. Once you get heckled or picked on you are always an “easy target”.

Moving from middle school up to high school I had a whole new world open up to me. Suddenly I was going to a school where only a few people actually knew me. The world was changing (vintage was so in!) and there was a good variety of students. Kids wore brand new things, used things, old things, and things they made themselves. It didn’t really matter what I wore, although at the time it still felt a little bit like it did.

All freshmen feel like they have something to prove. They are little fish in a bigger pond and they are searching for their identity. Once I felt like I knew who I was, no it didn’t matter one bit what I really wore. In fact most times I found it thrilling that no one else really would be wearing the same thing. Even when my best friend and I chose to wear the same dress the same day we often had different accessories.

Going through college, post-college and full on grown-up, I still have kept my thrifty ways. My wardrobe has a mix of new, used, and vintage. Generally no one knows what items I have that are from thrift or consignment stores. I became so good at “thrifting” that I could tell someone where they could buy high end items (like manolo blahniks) for next to nothing. In fact I made a business and career of it for some time as an ebay seller and a costume coordinator for a theatre outside of Washington DC.

My move to Tennessee only put a small crimp on my thrifting. Thrift stores down here are just as big of a deal as they are up in Washington DC. It is sometimes just a bit harder to find high end high heels in good condition without hitting up a consignment store.

For the past twenty years of my life thrifting and consignment shopping has been so popular that my friends and I try to see who can find the best deal. We have even “snatched” up items at places while the other person is “thinking it over”. No hard feelings ever. Some of the thrill is in finding a great item for a great price. We even see who can find the best “brand new” item at a thrift store or even the lowest priced “new” item at a high end store. For us it is all about saving money while looking good. It doesn’t matter if it really is new or gently used.

It is true that most of my friends understand the value of a dollar; that money comes and goes; kids cost LOTS of money; if it looks good- wear it!; and life is too short to make a big deal over how expensive something is.

Not only is saving a “buck” a good thing but vintage trendy. It is also trendy to take old items and give them new life: Up-cycling. People are more aware and concerned over their carbon foot print then ever.

So why is there still a stigma surrounding “thrifting” and consignment shopping?

So why is there still a stigma surrounding “thrifting” and consignment shopping?

Why is it there still a bigger emphasis placed on buying something new over just wearing something you like regardless of where it came from?

I can see an argument being made that it is all about consumerism and how industry/marketing has implanted in our (society) heads an emphasis on new vs. second hand. Yes, I can clearly see that argument. In working with kids I see how the more money a family has the larger the emphasis is on having the new trendy thing. How it doesn’t really matter your income, you want to have a new thing but money is what dictates what you have. The monetarily poor get left out.

Here is where I get a bit left behind in this… a second hand item like a DaVinci painting has worth but a second hand shirt is considered “used” in the sense that a tissue has been used and therefore dirty and less. How does that make any sense?

I grew up having things but my family not having lots of disposable income. For all intensive purposes we were monetarily poor. That didn’t mean I went without all of the time. Overall, I was a happy kid. Society (or consumerism, take your pick) is saying that because my family was “poor” that I shouldn’t have been happy because I didn’t have “stuff” but I did have stuff and my life felt full and rich regardless of our income. My parents tried not to place a strong value on what we didn’t have but chose to focus on what we did have. They have even said I taught them so much about thrifting and making do because I saw color in places they felt were bleak.

Great, I changed my family’s outlook and view. I have had a hand in changing the outlook some friends have had. All of that is great but it doesn’t change society as a whole or the view it has on second hand items, unless it’s a highly prized/sought after item.

Something needs to change.

Why? Because I still see today kids placing value on having brand new Nike sneakers over being happy that they have a pair of shoes that fits well and they like irregardless of the swoosh on the shoe. Most of the time the kids don’t know why they want those Nikes except for peer pressure or other outside influences.  Worse, I see this misplacement of value being forced on kids not just by their parents or the media but even by schools and the branches of the government. Shouldn’t we (society) be doing more to change how “second hand” is viewed?

So here is where the stigma with “second hand” really bothers me. The value of the term “second hand” within a flawed system: foster care.

The value of second hand in a flawed system

So here is where the stigma with “second hand” really bothers me. The foster care system (in general) places a high value/standard on new over second hand. DCS has its reasons and plenty of people with good intentions buy into those reasons and don’t see their hand in making changes as having anything but a positive outlook. However life is rarely so clear cut.

When going through foster training classes (a multiple week process called PATH) we learn a variety of things from medical administration and CPR to a variety of scenarios we may find ourselves in. One big thing is learning the difference between being poor and neglect.

Our instructor made a big deal over the fact that someone can be poor, have a clean home and nice things BUT that doesn’t mean they are dirty, or scum of the earth. Why would she need to say that? Well because our society thinks that poor means you are “trailer trash” or scum of the earth. That poor people are lazy and get what they deserve. Even in the definition of “poor” one of the meanings states “low quality”. There is a difference in being poor (lacking funding) and being of low quality.

So Instead of focusing how the rich get richer through the sweat of the masses, the bulk of society focuses on the multiple meanings of the word poor and false statements attached to being poor. Thus devalues the people who are in many ways forming the infrastructure of our society.

With a view like that it is no wonder that our instructor put such a high value on making sure that our class, and others taking foster training, understand that being poor does not equal neglect. That even the rich can be neglectful. How a lot of cases of neglect come not from the truly poor but the upper lower class through to the middle class.

This builds a case over understanding what neglect really means. It puts an emphasis on how poor people can have a good clean home and never once have a situation that would need the involvement of DCS.

In foster training, one week we learned the difference between being poor and those who are neglectful. Another week we learned about some of the conditions children are found in. We also learned that when many children are taken from their dwelling that any “stuff” that is brought with them is often bagged up in garbage bags. The reason could be a duffle bag or suitcase was unavailable. Perhaps any available bags at the residence were unfit (dirty, drug covered, or bug infested).

This juxtaposition of learning what poor truly means, what being neglectful is, and the mental image of an infested residence where not even one clean bag could be found is all rather overwhelming. It is easy to see how it can all get muddled in someone’s head and evoke strong negative feelings.

The idea of a child leaving their home with only a garbage bag filled with an odd mix of belongings always pulls at people’s heart strings. It is no wonder then that a large number of organizations have popped up over the past five years with the sole purpose of making sure no child enters the system with their belongings in a garbage bags.

Most of these organizations are grass root based. Some have been formed by teenagers who want to help make lives better for others.  A few of these organizations don’t just provide a bag for belongings (like a duffle bag) they also make sure a stuffed animal or blanket is included. Some even go out of their way to make sure new clothing is available to CPS workers for children coming into care. All wonderful intentions especially when trying to make a scared child feel more like themselves.

So where is my argument? What is my problem? How does “second hand” even fit in here?

The fostering classes provide scenarios that seem grim and often are. DCS paints pictures of abuse and neglect. Non-profits see a need to provide children entering the system with new items. If foster parents or birth parents provide clothing or shoes that are not brand new, often they are questioned, criticized and made to feel less. Sometimes they are called out as being neglectful as they are not providing a “new” item. Why?

These children deserve the best; they need to feel valued; and used items make these children feel less than.  The stigma surrounding the second hand item is that it is used and therefore dirty or less. One never wants a child in the system to feel less.

I won’t argue that children entering the system deserve the same opportunities as all other children in our society. What I will argue is that having something new is what will change their lives or that somehow receiving something second hand will in effect make them feel second hand. Getting a new pair of shoes or a shirt does often brighten the day of anyone, especially someone who has had grimy, filthy clothes and shoes filled with holes. But I will argue that a nice second hand outfit that appeals to that person will have the exact same effect.  How do I know? Lots of personal experience most of it first-hand.

Beyond my own experiences as a child receiving second-hand items I see how my own nieces and nephews react. They are always ecstatic. They love consignment shops and thrift stores as much as they love Target.

I have seen children in very poor conditions be offered a bag filled with washed second hand items in great condition and love them as equally as they love the brand new items. They never know the difference between the second hand items and the new ones because I remove price tags off of everything before I give them. To them everything is bright and new.  The key is to get them things that are tailored to their likes. As long as all the second hand items are in great condition then no one should ever really care.

The take-away is that one does not have to equate second hand or used with something dirty or shameful. As long as we (the providers) make sure that the items are clean, spot/tear free, in-style, and tailored to their likes, well there is no “big deal” between something being second hand or new. It is all based on our (society) outlook.

Am I wrong for purchasing second hand items for children in foster care? If I am purchasing stained, torn or items ready to fall apart, then yes. However I am not. All second hand items I buy are in decent to very good condition. Most times I let the kids pick out their own clothes from the thrift store.  Am I only purchasing second hand items for my foster kids? No. So on two accounts I am not doing anything wrong. Everyone in my house has second hand items. I am not singling out any foster child in my home and making them feel any less than myself. Also I am not only buying second hand items. There is always a mixture of new and gently used that way everyone has a good choice of clothing.

I do want to take a moment and point out that DCS as a whole (at least in our area) fundamentally has nothing wrong with second hand items. Our DCS has even supported a locally formed organization that provides an “open closet” with both new and used items available to foster parents. The goal of DCS is for every child to have items that are weather appropriate, clean, free of stains and tears. Another standard is that everyone in the household be treated the same. So if a birth child wears second hand items then yes second hand items are fine. However if no one in your house wears second hand items then it is wrong to force a foster child to wear second hand items.

All that said, there are plenty of case-workers who look down on, and question, foster parents and birth families for providing second hand items to children in care. Faced with those case-workers, and well meaning volunteers or organizations who only believe in using “new” items, it can be hard to be a family who believes in using second hand items.

What is a temporary parent and should they celebrate Mother’s Day?

I have used the term “temporary parent” a lot in recent shares and posts. For me being a temporary parent isn’t just being a foster mom. There is a weird limbo state for parents who don’t get to see their children often. Generally this involves some form of split custody which includes weekends, monthly or summer visits. For us it involves helping to raise our nephews who stay at our house (on average) 3 to 5 out of every 7 days. Between being a foster mom and helping to raise our nephews, Rent-a-Dad and I easily I fall into this temporary parent category.

Over the past four years I have been told, often enough, that as a temporary parent I don’t get to celebrate Mother’s Day. I find that odd as birth parents who do not get to see their child[ren] very often still get to call themselves parents and celebrate Mother’s/Father’s Day. Adoptive parents are also allowed to celebrate these holidays. However, acquaintances, and even friends, have been so kind to point out that aunts have their own special day. The point being I am aunt not a mother no matter how much time my nephews spend with me.

That doesn’t even begin to bring up the amount of grief I have received from strangers, and a few friends, over the years about being a foster mom and celebrating Mother’s Day. It is true that when strangers find out I am a foster parent they either say “God bless you” or stare at me like I am a leper. When they find out I am celebrating Mother’s Day, well that’s when most just look at me like I lost them. A few have been so bold as to ask “why?” referencing that I am neither a birth parent nor an adoptive parent.

Personally I find it is important to acknowledge any person who has a hand in helping to raise children. They may not be birth parents or adoptive parents but they are all still serving parental roles in the lives of the children they help raise. Doesn’t that qualify someone as a parent no matter the name they are called? Yes, I think so.

Still unconvinced? Here are a few questions that I feel further my thought process/point of view:

Do they (the children) live with me for some portion of a week/month? Yes.

Am I helping to raise them? Yes.

Do I provide the same level of care (and even love) that a parent does? Yes.

So yeah, I am a parent no matter what anyone else has to say about. I should be able to celebrate Mother’s Day just like any other mother. There endeth the debate, on who gets to celebrate Mother’s Day, in my book.

What does this foster parent think about Mother’s Day?

Being that I am a temporary parent sometimes it involves a bit more complications past acknowledging what I may deserve. When I think about what Mother’s Day means to me as a foster parent, I come back to a post I wrote back in December, Traditions: Cornerstones, Hassles, or Non-existent.

In so many ways, Mother’s Day is just like any other holiday for me. There may be a family tradition of giving/receiving a card, a plant for my garden and a homemade family dinner (essentially a quiet day) but I have to look past my family’s traditions.

As a foster parent each holiday is flurry of complications. I have to do this balancing act between the wishes/traditions of my family, the wishes of DCS and the wishes/traditions of the birth family.

DCS always has expectations of the foster parents reaching out to the birth family to come to some form of decision about an extra visitation for the foster children. Some case-workers acknowledge that foster families have the right to observe their family traditions. Other case-workers feel that foster parents should put their family traditions on hold (or cancel them all together) to help the birth family observe their traditions. Even when you have a case-worker who acknowledges that foster parents have families too, there is still a balancing act to find a compromise of your own traditions and those of the birth family.

From a neutral corner this all makes sense. When a child is expected to return home (reunification) then it is important that foster parents help foster positive relationships and interactions relating to the birth family. That reunification plan does not involve a need to have the same experiences/interactions between the foster child [ren] and foster family. As long as the birth family is working their plan, a case-worker will push the foster parents hard for extra visits on/around any holiday.

In this way, sadly foster parents lose.

Whether you are ready to admit it or not, Mother’s Day (and respectively Father’s Day) is mainly about the birth parents.

That doesn’t mean that foster parents should give up on their family traditions. Nor should foster parents not make a point to recognize each other on this day as the acknowledgment does help your foster children. We have often found that the birth families don’t have set in stone traditions. So compromises can be made so that everyone can enjoy the holiday.

How does this temporary parent celebrate Mother’s Day?

I never got to celebrate my firs Mother’s Day as a foster mom. Our first foster care placements had returned home a month prior. I had made a cookie cake for their mom so that she could be reminded how important she is in her children’s lives. Sadly that cookie cake never made it to her as she spent most of her weekend with a stomach bug.

Instead of seeing her or our former fosters, I spent the day with my mom at her senior rehabilitation facility (she was for a three months following a bout of pneumonia). While a small portion of my heart was sad that I did not get a card or a gift, I was happy that my mom was well enough to spend the day with both Rent-a-Dad and I.

In subsequent years I have focused on helping our nieces, nephews, and foster children make cards and make or buy gifts for their mothers. I want them to learn how cherish their moms and how to give openly/freely of themselves when they care about someone. Starting this process at an early age makes it easier to connect an emotion like love with being open to give your love to others. I also hope that in doing this they understand that giving of yourself and your love is bigger than a card or a physical gift. Perhaps one day they will make another connection between how much their mothers love them and what their mothers do on a daily basis to make sure they are protected, fed and cared for. If the kids can also learn to value gifts based on what they give and receive, well that would be a bonus.

All I ever ask in return on Mother’s Day is a day filled with love and laughter, not all the commercial stuff. If somehow peace and quiet can be mixed into that then that would be my perfect Mother’s Day.

I don’t know that I ever needed validation from others that I am a mother. All I think I needed was to acknowledge it myself. Doesn’t mean I won’t stand on my soap box, if needed, and preach how all women serving as a parent should be acknowledged on Mother’s Day. What it does mean is I would much rather simple things to celebrate this special day.

This Mother’s Day I received everything I have ever wanted. I was able to share the day with my mom. The day also included a mixture of quiet time with love and laughter. One nephew picked out a simple rose plant for his mom and another for me without being prompted. The other nephew and niece picked out other items when they were shopping with their mom. They all signed a card for me and gave hugs + kisses.

Be careful what you share and the words you use. Even the most innocent phrase can come back and bite you on the butt.

At some point in the past couple of months I shared a Huffington Post article on our Facebook page. The article, titled: Are You ‘Good Enough’ To Be A Mother? Musings After Adoption, is about the feelings an adoptive mother had about how invasive the process was.

The articles I share on our Facebook page are ones that I feel further, or add to, our story;  are good sources of information; or are ones worth noting even if the views do not agree with our own. In general when I share a post I do not give an in depth write up along with it. Rather I opt for something short to interest readers to open and peruse the shared piece.

In the case of the article mentioned above I made a comment on how Rent-a-Dad and I also found the home-study process to be invasive. I even said “birth parents don’t have to defend why they are having a child and yet we have to prove why we want to be foster or adoptive parents”.

Here is the problem with that phrase… I did not qualify that I was meaning birth parents as a whole and was in no way referring to birth parents whose children have been taken away by the department of child services.

I must admit I was taken back about by the comment I received concerning what I said. The comment was: “You have got to be kidding me”. It was from a mother struggling to get her kids back from the system. She read what I had written as an attack on birth parents like her. Based on her remarks one can assume that she thought I was against birth parents and could not understand their struggle. That was not my intention.

We all say things that we mean in one manner but are seen in an entirely different light. That certainly was the case with that share.

 

Additional Thoughts

If I was a married fertile woman having a child at what society thought was a respectable age then no one is going to question why I am having a baby (in theory). BUT if I was unmarried, single, younger than 20 or older than 30 female, well then society thinks I should get questioned and re-questioned every time my baby bump is noticed.

Being a foster or adoptive parent is a lot like being the elephant in the room. We are questioned as to why we want to be foster/adoptive parents at every turn.

Birth parents who have had their children removed by DCS are also under a lot of scrutiny. At times the scrutiny they are under feels unbearable and imaginable.

For adoptive parents, the majority of the scrutiny ends once the adoption process is finalized. Most likely you will still receive questions but instead of it being DCS, an adoption agency, or judge, it will be by family, friends, teachers, doctors… etc. The questions hopefully will feel less invasive and one day may stop altogether.

For birth parents seeking reunification, your pain will (hopefully) end when your child is once again safely in your home and a judge has signed off on the home trial period. It may have taken you six months or two years but your (full on) struggle finally has an end in sight. There will still be times you wake up in fear that your kids aren’t home with you. You may go to their room 10 times in one night to ease your fears; or even sleep on their bedroom floor because you can’t shake that worrying feeling that a CPS worker is going to knock on your door. Thankfully though, your child is finally at home with you.
My first hand experience as a foster parent has me living a life of constant worry. Here is a bit of insight into why:

 

Home Study Process

As mentioned in previous posts the home study process for a foster parent starts with an inquiry either on the state level or with a private agency. There will be training classes to take that will last two to three months. The vetting process (background checks, interviews and home walk through) will take another two to three months.

The first time we went through the process we started in January and were still awaiting approval in May. The second time around we started classes in February and were approved by the first week of May.

Why do I say first and second time? There are many reasons why you may have to go through the full blown process more than once. Ours was due to a clerk in Maryland refusing to release background information to our current state of residence.

The background checks are the easiest part of the process. You submit information on a form and you get fingerprinted.

The home-study and home walk through are a bit more invasive.

During one of our home-studies I had been asked if I had ever been molested as a youth. I was expected to answer honestly and to talk about how that event changed me; if I had been in therapy; and how being molested would help me relate to others who have been molested. That is just one example of intensely personal questions that were asked. Sometimes I deal better than others when asked personal questions and sometimes my face turns red and I want to cry as it is a topic I would like to forget about rather then discuss with anyone.

As for our home walk through we had to make changes to our home so that it met state requirements. This could be as simple as making sure to have a baby gate if you have stairs in your home or adding a fire alarm to a second floor or basement. For us it was a bit challenging because we had to make sure locks were put on cabinets containing chemicals or medication, our deck needed some work to pass an inspection, as well as a few other changes. That was not something we had planned on so it proved challenging and a bit costly.

 

Continued Education

After being approved to be a foster parent we have had to take, on average, 14 hours of foster training classes per year. Every other year we go through a smaller home study process to make sure our home, and we, are still safe as foster parents.

 

The Process Continued

If we have a foster child in our home we are visited by the child’s case worker at least once a month in our home and by our own case worker. That’s at least twice a month our parenting skills are discussed.

Truthfully though our parenting skills come into question every day a child is in our care through contact with every adult involved in the case from birth families to teachers.

If a doctor is concerned that a child is not receiving proper care or the doctor feels a child is being abused while in care, they will report that concern to Child Protective Services. Once CPS have been alerted they, under law, are required to investigate the concern just like any other that is brought to their attention. Foster Parents don’t (and shouldn’t) get a pass.

Even good foster parents can/are reviewed and scrutinized as if they did something wrong whether it is an allegation or the truth. No one should be treated differently (however that is not always what happens).

 

Finalization of the Process

So when will the process calm down? When will it be seen as complete?

Only when you stop being a foster parent will the process, evaluations and scrutiny end. If you choose to be a foster parent for ten years and one day, then your process wont end until ten years and one day is over.

But will it truly end then? If you, like us, put your heart and soul into the process of being a foster parent you will always carry your loss, pain and experience with you. It is said if you can not leave behind experiences that change you then you truly never leave the experience.

My point here is this. As a foster parent the scrutiny and challenges we face does not simply end when one placement returns home. We will experience on-going scrutiny whether we have a placement or not as long as we are foster parents. Each placement means new challenges, additional worry, and scrutiny we may have not face before.

I once heard a foster parent say that no foster parent is immune to scrutiny and to count yourself lucky if you are never investigated for an allegation of neglect or abuse while you are fostering. Many birth families will accuse a foster parent of harming children in their home as an attempt to get their children back sooner. Each allegation must be taken seriously. If you are a foster parent being investigated your entire world may be turned upside down from loosing your own children or job to potentially facing jail time if an allegation is proven correct.

 

Why foster?

With all of this information, I have been asked why we then chose to foster. I could say we felt called to do it or I can share my wish to be a foster parent from the time I was a child. Truth is I ask myself that question often. I want to know if my answer is still the same. So far it is. I want to provide a safe haven for children whose parents are experiencing difficulties and trying to find their way back.

If that was not my answer then I think I would stop fostering.

The system is exceptionally imperfect at times, challenges seem insurmountable, and some days I want nothing to do with any of it. But then I think of the children whose parents can’t be there voice, children who are getting lost in the system, children who need a safe place to call home either temporarily or permanently. When I think I that I know my journey is not yet done.

I know that I can not go on indefinitely but for now… for now I continue to be a foster parent.

Additional Thoughts

During the exchange with the mom seeking re-unification she said “I just want to respectfully caution you regarding one of your comments and tell you that there is NOTHING more stressful, horrific, nightmarish, agonizing, invasive, uncomfortable, unnatural, unimaginable or more unbearable than being a loving, competent, capable, innocent mother whose [child] was wrongfully [taken]”

I didn’t disagree that her experience is horrific.

Respectfully I added that many foster parents are also going through traumatic and painful experiences. I used a specific instance but the truth is these experiences can’t be quantified by another person’s pain. The pain we each feel is real to each of us. We shouldn’t be comparing our pain but rather recognizing it and accepting it all as truth.

Whether you are a birth parent, an adoptive parent or even a foster parent, when a child leaves your home you never stop worrying about them. As a foster parent I have been often told that I chose this path and I have to just get over any pain I experience. Even if I chose this path, does that truly mean my pain is any less valid? I can’t believe that. I can believe that others suffer more pain but one person’s pain or struggles does not simply invalidate another’s.

Born out of sadness; Used to cause pain.

The past two weeks have had its fair share of ups and downs for my family. Ups have included the munchkins in our life. Downs have included finding out my mother’s ever dwindling health is even worse. Watching those you love slowly die without being able to help them can be shelved up there with some pretty horrible life moments. Another down moment was a teaching lesson for me, a moment of sadness imparted in what I thought was a private setting that was then shared to cause others pain.

While writing a post this month I created a meme that pulled out a very specific moment in a post, a moment born out of sadness. I shared that post on our Facebook page and the meme with our state fostering community. The thought process behind sharing the meme and not the post was that it was a quick thought, no need to share an entire post. Something from one foster parent to another. After all if I couldn’t share my sadness with them who else could I share it with?

The meme was shared in what I felt was a safe place for foster parents, something advertised as a support group for foster and adoptive parents. In support groups you don’t judge those hurting, right? A support group is a safe haven, right?

What I couldn’t predict was that meme would be shared outside of our fostering community. Whomever the person was who shared the meme, they apparently shared it with birth parents who are currently in pain over their loss and fighting through a system that is failing them. The meme outraged and further hurt some of those people.

Outside of the context of how my husband and I foster, the meme would paint me as the enemy to struggling birth parents. They wouldn’t have the opportunity to know I am an advocate of reunification. Let alone how our method of fostering has created a loving village and refuge for both foster children and birth families.

The post I am talking about is Some truth in being a temporary parent and the meme is included right here.

Suddenly that meme has had many more views than I ever had intended. While it has brought people to our page wanting to share their story, to be heard in a way they thought they might not, it has also caused some unnecessary pain.

Could I have made the meme friendly for all, even those outside of a foster parent support group?

Should I have used the word “stolen”, as was said in one comment, instead of the word “borrowed”?

I write as a foster parent. I hurt as a foster parent. The point that I can sympathize and help birth parents with reunification does not change my own struggles or the fact that I am a foster parent.

To put all of the words/emotions I feel about the bittersweet moments of happiness and joy, as a foster parent into one meme is nigh unto impossible.

The meme was created with the picture of an art project one of our former fosters made. It was an art project that I scanned in so I could have a copy while I gave the original to the birth mother. The birth mother cried over the picture as she loved it. We cried together. We talked about borrowed moments, her words.

When I wrote the post mentioned above, the comment I made in reference to our relationship with my nephew and his family was:

 

“Because I feel as if our happiness comes at another’s expense.

We are living on borrowed joy.”

 

I used that phrase of “borrowed joy” because that wording has come up multiple times in our fostering journey.

My nephew’s own mother and I talk often about “borrowed joy” and how precious our relationship is to each other. That she enjoys sharing her children with us as any mother loves sharing her children with aunts and uncles. She thinks of us as siblings separated by space, time and birth. That we were brought together because God knew we needed each other. Even with all of this in mind, I still feel like I am taking moments away from her but she says it is not taking but rather borrowing something she wants to share.

Right now a high percentage of the birth parents we have worked with see our relationships and interactions as blessed. They have talked about the moments they have missed as their own fault; how they are grateful for what we have done for them. Moments are talked about as shared, as much as one can share them, even described as borrowed, but not stolen. I have been told by them to get over this thought of feeling like I am taking something away from them because they feel like I have given them so much more in return. Should I doubt their sincerity?

Should I have used the word “stolen”?

Not for a meme being shared on my Facebook fan page or in the privacy of what I thought was a (closed) support group for foster parents (it is an open community page support group because of government funding).

Does the wording make a difference?

Yes, obviously it makes a difference.

Even though I am someone who believes in working with birth families and reunification, I am also someone who sees a rainbow of foster parent personalities. Foster parents do not see themselves as thieves.

Those who are bad apples will never see themselves as anything bad.

There is a spectrum though. You have good, bad, and those that fall in-between. Sometimes circumstances can make you appear as more of a villain than a savior.

Most who choose to foster mainly (or only) to adopt a baby generally has their mind closed off to the idea of theft (“You can’t steal what someone else doesn’t want.” And yes I have heard that insensitive and inflammatory statement used before).

Those who are decent or good foster parents are doing so out of the goodness of their heart; because they feel they have a calling; and not for any of the income (even as small as it is).

To use the word “stolen” implies stealing/theft. Using that word would be like putting salt into an open wound as many good foster parents make daily sacrifices to be foster parents.

As in my case, one of the daily sacrifices I make is splitting myself and my time up, sometimes at the detriment of my own marriage and own self-care. Having a job, being a foster parent, staying involved in the lives of former foster children (and providing aid to their parents), being a care-giver to my mom… it all comes at a price and that price generally is I have less time for me or any kind of private time with my husband.

The truth is I wouldn’t share this meme on a birth parent support group page. I would share something inspiring to their plight. Words of encouragement like:

“Once a parent, always a parent”

“Birth parents are NOT the enemy”

“Never give up! Keep fighting until they are in your arms again”

Inciting the anger of birth parents and keeping that anger fueled is more destructive than helpful. I would rather empower them, inspire them, and raise them up so that they can complete their plan, get their children back and beat the system, not cause them pain or undue sadness on top of what they are already experiencing.

When I was very young, 3 or 4 or so, I started to have a recurring nightmare about being chased and caught by an extremely frightening bear with exaggerated fangs and angry red eyes.  After following a fairly basic pattern of running and hiding and near misses that paralyzed me with terror before the inevitable capture, the dream always ended with my parents swooping in and literally beating the stuffing out of the bear to save me.  I was quite small and had limited experience with bears of any kind, so my nightmares weren’t exactly spot-on realistic.

The takeaway from every single occurrence of that dream for me, apart from the fact that I apparently had the original idea for a Björk video more than a decade before it was filmed, was that my parents would always make sure I was safe.  Even if they had to fight big scary bears. In my young mind, the bears were just one more part of the parental job description, like reading bedtime stories or potty training.

Put a pin in that, it might be relevant later.

Earlier this week, I went to the juvenile courthouse and picked up the paperwork that names us official guardians for the boys.  Their parents still have custody and that’s not going to change, but we now have a court document signed by a judge that says whenever we run into something that needs approval from a parent or legal guardian, we can act as the “or”.  We had been talking with their parents over the last year or so about a power of attorney or something similar that would allow us to take care of some things when the kids are with us but their parents aren’t available.

After talking to some people we know around town, though, we’ve learned that there are some school systems that refuse to accept certain legal documents.  We happen to live in a part of the state where the department of education does that.  I’m not sure how that works exactly because there’s a lot of evidence across the country that shows what happens when people choose to ignore legal documents, but I digress.

On a practical level, this will eliminate a tremendous number of headaches when we take them to the doctor to help out, if they need something done for school.  They’ve certainly spent enough time visiting since they left the system that it will save time, and it takes a load off of my mind that I didn’t even know was there when I think about the times they’ve gone on vacation with us and the trips we might take in the future.  We never plan for things to go wrong, but if we had been in a situation where one of them had needed to see a doctor on a trip that could have involved more complications than we’d want to deal with when one of the kids needs attention.  “Are you his parents then?” Now we’ve got an answer with some legal weight to it that will head off the long list of things that they can’t do without parental consent.

Boom. Lawyered.

I’m a little bit proud of myself that I haven’t said that out loud in any of the situations where I’ve been called upon to present the paperwork. It has however been less than a week, so I’m not making any promises.  Interestingly, apart from requiring our signatures alongside the birth parents and sitting in an office for an hour or more discussing the situation while the forms were prepared there was very little else involved.  If we hadn’t all been in agreement, there would have been a hearing and potentially lawyers involved, but then if we hadn’t all agreed on the subject it’s not the sort of situation where we would have filed the paperwork in the first place.

Did you know that the same forms we filled out to make us legal guardians are used in cases of abuse and neglect to petition for custody? I can’t imagine that causing any confusion.

Beyond the logical reasons for establishing guardianship and their parents wanting to make arrangements for us to take care of the kids in case anything happens to them (except nothing’s allowed to happen to them, as I continually remind everyone involved), there’s something else at work that makes this kind of a big deal.

While the custodial parents can override the guardians when there’s a disagreement and can revoke guardianship which makes sense because they’re the parents, they’re putting it in writing that they trust us to take care of the most precious things in their lives. I have a certain level of appreciation for the significance of that statement.  Even as Rent-a-Dad, papa, Uncle B, someone who’s not biologically tied to them in any way I’m more than a little nervous about letting other people take care of the kids. I want to know that whoever it is will make them a priority and do everything possible to ensure that they don’t suffer so much as a hangnail.  If there’s a situation of any kind involving bears, will they fight if necessary?  These are the sorts of things I need to know before I’ll be entirely comfortable letting other people take care of those boys for even five minutes.  From the years of friendship and watching their children I can imagine that their actual parents feel the same way, only more so.  These people who didn’t know me at all five years ago have decided that, if it came to that, I would attack one or more bears to protect their children.

Point of clarification: given a choice, I prefer to be a bear-free guardian, or at least have a lot of time to prepare and fight dirty.  Preferred courses of action involve steering clear of both Jellystone Park and the sets of Björk videos just to be safe.

It’s humbling to have someone bestow that level of trust.  It’s not misplaced, and it’s not exactly a new thing because we’ve been a part of their lives for basically forever as far as the kids know, but in my head it still feels like a defining moment sort of thing to have it officially on paper and notarized.

The whole thing is little surreal when I think about it.  If someone had told me four years ago that I would have these little buddies running around and terrorizing me on a regular basis I would never have believed it.  If you’d told me two years ago that the oldest boy would ask me to come all of his baseball games to watch him win (he’s not in school yet, has never played, and I have no evidence that he fully understands the game) or that his brother would ask for a flat cap like the one I’ve been favoring lately and seek me out for cuddles and try to come to work with me, I’d’ve been equally incredulous.

I’m overwhelmed every day by how lucky I am to know these little guys and have them pester me for time and attention and call me papa and make me “be a horsie” until I want to collapse.  I even think I’m lucky when they’re driving me absolutely crazy because I remember a time that I thought I’d never have children in my life at all.  People keep saying that I’ll look back on even the most insane moments and miss them, so I want to be as present as possible in every second I can spend with them.

I guess what I’m saying is along the lines of: bring it on, bears.  Mess with my boys, and I will take you down.

What if I had cut myself off from the idea of happiness? That is the question that began to float around my head last week. The beginnings of that question started to find itself a home in my head after I had published a few posts and caught up on some inspirational quotes.

Here I had been pondering what my next step should be once the munchkins were registered for school (see post on New Beginnings) when a Simple Reminders quote made me sit back and take stock.

“Everything comes to you at the right moment. Be patient.”

 For a woman with infertility, a quote like this can either be uplifting or (more likely) it just leaves you as drained and frustrated as the fertility process. For me it was a little of both. At first blush it made me smile. I am generally quite happy with my life as it is. It took some real patience to get here. Then I thought about my struggle and how if I had read this quote during my fertility treatments that I think something inside of me would have crumpled a bit.

Recently I heard someone say that the wrong kind of hope can be dangerous. I have to agree that it is. False hope is more dangerous than being without hope. If you (or rather me) are without hope in a situation than you are going to be inclined to pursue other avenues and even find hope in those pursuits. On the other hand, false hope builds you up for an inevitable fall- that fall can lead to hopelessness and despair, perhaps even depression.

Some people going through fertility treatments are up against pretty horrible odds. While their specialists are helping with treatments to combat those odds, it is helpful to research and potentially seek out other options from donated eggs or sperm to adoption. That is where we were in 2012.

Rent-a-Dad and I met with a fertility specialist. After testing we found out that our odds would be better if we each had a different partner. The doctor did not say that, but that was our emotional take-away. Rent-a-dad was a good candidate for fertility treatments while I had better odds at conceiving naturally. Sometimes science can not trump nature. Some scientific procedures are still too expensive for the common man.

Even with the odds stacked against us, we decided to try the fertility treatments our insurance would help cover. We were already realists so after our second failed attempt we decided to look into other possibilities like foster care. This was an avenue we had wanted to pursue for many years anyway.

Even being realists, the first two failed fertility treatments left us both a bit raw and without hope. After some heartfelt conversations it felt right to look into becoming foster parents. The simple act of registering for foster parent training classes began to renew our hope in one day becoming parents.

What if we hadn’t been realistic with our options? Would I then have literally put all my eggs in an inevitably hopeless basket? If I had done just that I am pretty sure it would have resulted in cutting me off from happiness.

In terms of just trusting that you are on the right path and being patient because everything comes to you at the right moment; well that is a hard thing to do. Especially when something you have wanted since you were a kid (like being a parent) doesn’t seem like it is ever going to happen.

After all of the sadness of infertility (keep in mind this goes back years before treatment and projects into the future as I remain infertile), I come back to that opening question. If we had given into our sadness, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We wouldn’t have become foster parents at the “right” moment that allowed two boys and one girl to come into our lives. Not to mention the sibling of those munchkins who have also touched our hearts. All of them have contributed to our combined happiness in ways I never could have imagined back in 2012 when we began our journey through fertility treatments.

I may be the worst person when it comes to patience but even I know that good things come to those who wait. We just can’t predict what those good things will be and how they will fit into the overall plan we have for ourselves.

Instead of telling someone to be patient because everything comes at the right moment, I think I would tell someone in a similar situation to not put all your eggs in one basket; seek out back up options; and throw yourself into another project that brings you joy. If you aren’t focusing on your lack of hope or how things are not happening right now, well then you won’t miss out on the happiness that is right around the corner. Forget patience; forget “what if”; don’t forget to live your life to the fullest!

Whether it is considered another “hoop” or “multiple steps”, the system has a way of making one feel as if there is always a “next step”. But what does this really mean? It can literally be getting a new placement and fulfilling all the needs of that new placement from doctor appointments to DCS paperwork. Or it could be seeing a successful reunification and waiting for the next placement. Each foster family feels different about what the next step for them means and where they feel their path may lead them.

For us we have had an idea of what we have wanted to accomplish as foster parents without rigidly sticking to one path. We have tried to remain flexible while holding to our own set of morals and ethics. So far we feel as if we have been able to accomplish those goals as foster parents and foster parenting mentors.

Almost four years, four children, and four mentees families in we have started to wonder “what is our own next step?”

We now over a year from the point when Stinkerbell, our last real placement, was successfully reunified with her mom. In that time we were able to take a well needed break; consider adopting two boys (about the age of our nephews); enjoy a multitude of family get-togethers; help with an emergency placement; deal with routine screenings; ailing loved ones; and keep up with DCS training.

For the first four or five months of that time I had baby fever but then got over it as I have helped with potty training three toddlers and dealt with their sassiness. Since September I have been driving one nephew twice a week to and from tutoring as he prepares for kindergarten and getting his speech up to the speed of his brain. In December, rent-a-dad and I sat with the mother of our former placement waiting at the hospital while Stinkerbell had pins placed in her elbow.

Since Stinkerbell had a successful reunification with her mom last year we have been nothing but busy. Our lives are full. The question remains should we continue to have a home open to major placements or consider just doing emergency placements and respite care?

Right this minute we are leaving that as an open ended question. We are still thinking over how rich our life has become and what we want to see happen in the next year. If it is it is possible to become a home for emergency placements and respite care that is what we would like to do because we don’t feel as if our journey with foster care it truly done. It is important to us that we remain true to who we are and the level of care we wish to provide to the children in our care, which for us can even include our former placements.

A couple of months back I read two different posts talking about re-imagining the foster system. One post talked about how the system would be a much better place if each able bodied couple (or single person) considered fostering just one child or child grouping in their lifetime. That the focus would be one that kid(s) not just at that point but even when they were reunified with their family or found another permanent placement.

The second post I read was about a foster mother who believed in fostering one child/child group at a time, which for her meant until their family could fully handle the reunification. To her this meant until the family no longer wished to use her as a resource.

I can admire both concepts and look forward to seeing more people interested in fostering in this manner. For those who find these concepts interesting, this could be your next step.

We all have some truths that feel more like monsters in the closet. The truth behind words buried deep within us can be bewildering and frustrating while also astounding and humbling. So many times over that is my experience as a foster parent, a temporary parent, and a co-parent.

My truth:

My nephew came to us only three weeks old. He returned home at almost nine months old. The time in between, and honestly ever since, has been heart wrenching and magical.

When he returned home it felt as if we had lost him forever. I couldn’t get my heart to listen that things take time and I needed to give his parents space. My heart felt let down. As time went on we started visiting more and more. A hole in my heart began to heal as I was no longer living without my “son” but rather I had gained a “nephew”.

As the years have progressed, I feel blessed by the relationship we have with his parents and the time we are allowed to have with him.

Sometimes I am still concerned that I will wake up and this will all have been a dream. While I am not seeking out something bad to strike, I fear as if the joy of having our nephew present in our lives is tenuous.

Why?

Because I feel as if our happiness comes at another’s expense. We are living on borrowed joy. Every time my nephew learns something new while he is visiting I feel as if I have robbed his parents of this experience with him.

When my nephew returns home I am a bag of mixed emotions. I am glad he is building loving relationships with his parents yet I am terrified I will never see him again. That doesn’t even bring up all the things I worry about when he is away.

If you ask his parents they seem quite happy that we are around. They admit to being sad that he is not with them 24/7 but also admit that they are unsure of what they would do if we were not in their lives. To them co-parenting is the only answer that makes sense. While I honestly never thought of being a co-parent, I could not imagine doing anything else.

We are so very blessed that our nephew is still so active in our lives. He is more than our nephew, he is also our son.

One truth from fostering in the system:

As a foster parent, when you receive a child that is between the infant and toddler age it is important to make sure that child bonds with at least one person in the house. This is especially important when the length of that child’s stay will be longer than the time they have been alive. One form of quick bonding is simply referring to you and your spouse as that child’s parents.

This is something we hear all the time from speakers at foster care classes to DCS caseworkers. Some people take naturally to this as it is a fact that you want what is best for the child in your care. Others struggle with this as they feel like they are robbing the birth parents of their “birth” right.

Truth is that child needs your bond. They need to feel safe and loved by you. For the time spent in your home you are that baby’s mom and dad.

Uncertainty of sharing this truth:

If you are concerned about how the birth parents will react, I know I was, ask for help from your caseworker. Tell the birth parents you don’t want this baby to feel different from other children and you want this child to be able to be confident. That forming bonds with others helps build that confidence. Remind them that they are still mom and dad and that your family is just a place holder for when they are ready to step in and take over.

Some birth parents listen and others don’t. Honestly you will have an idea of whether they will understand or not based on how they treat you over the first couple of months. If you feel they won’t understand then don’t bring the subject up.

Example: our foster daughter lived in our house for almost two tears and had attended daycare where she learned the power of having a mommy and daddy. She proudly claimed us to her classmates at pickup time. When the topic came up with her parents, we just reminded them that love is powerful and she feels extra loved by having more than one set of parents. We also provided another reminder that they would always be her parents while one day soon enough she would begin to call us by other names.

Emotional truths:

A very common thread through most foster care and adoption blogs is a Jody Landers quote:

Children born to another woman call me “Mom.” The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me

These are truly beautiful words that I think almost any foster and adoptive mom can relate to. Each of our stories may be different but we can all agree that being called mom is a privilege and to be called mom by another woman’s child can leave one with mixed emotions.

I for one am always in awe of what children do even if I see it a thousand times. Each child is a new interpretation. I always feel blessed to witness new beginnings but sad at the same time as their birth family is missing the same magical moments.