The Written Word and Our Blog

In the past couple of weeks I learned the hard way that you can not easily write for both foster parents and birth parents. I never intended to write for both audiences. When Rent-a-Dad and I made the final decision to blog it was after months, even years, of consideration. The process included conversations with mentors, other foster parents, our case-worker, other DCS employees (there were and are still privacy rules), friends, family, and at least one of the birth families we worked with.

Our Blog

Balancing Life’s Lemons was created to tell our journey. We face infertility, and are foster parents; we are parents to some and children to others; we struggle with caring for ailing parents and sacrifice; we don’t always know when we need to replenish yet we know it is needed; we have hobbies that we don’t always get to indulge in; we have a journey that is all ours. The blog is to document that journey to inspire others but also to reach out beyond to those who wish to know us deeper (our loved ones) and share family moments that may otherwise get lost to the annals of time. The story is from our point of view.

Whenever the conversation of writing a post about fostering comes up, the intention is always to share something about our own journey through foster care. While we hope our posts are inspirational they are also meant to help other foster parents, and those interested in fostering, to better understanding the fostering process through our experiences and interpretation. Even with a system that gets classified as “broken” or as “stealing children”, there is still a need for foster parents, ones that believe in the process of reunification, and want to stay involved in the lives of their former fosters as long as their families need/want that connection.

 

My Take

Even though I believe in reunification and want to break down this wall in-between birth and foster families, I do not believe our blog can be easily read by birth families, especially not while they are going through the reunification process. When I write about breaking down the barriers it is in terms of reaching out to those who only paint birth families in negative hues and getting them to see birth families not as an enemy to fight but as someone going through a difficult time who needs your help.

Our blog is about our journey; our opinions; our struggles.

So far I have not been a birth mother who lost her child to the system. I am someone who has helped friends facing CPS workers, and the system, better understand what they need to do not to loose their children. At one point I was that child who had been threatened that CPS could be called at any point and I could be taken away from my parents. Those are pieces of my journey that I yet to write about. They are pieces of my journey that I struggle with.

 

Our Facebook Page

On our Facebook page I do share posts from other blogs as I think they may fit a train of thought I have recently been exploring, a new idea or outlook on something, even a point I feel others in similar circumstance should be aware of. In the future that may include sharing additional view points from birth parents to help others become more aware of their struggles with the same system. That said, this blog is still our journey.

 

Our Future with the Written Word

Even before recent events I have been trying to think about how to dig more deeply into our journey. Currently I am facing my mother’s health crisis, helping with our nephews’ education, facing job re-entry, and personal health struggles that seem so trivial in comparison to everything else.

Right now I do not have a clear path as to where my writing will take me. My journey with the written word is a bit hazy at the moment.

What I do know is how I try to be positive and encouraging with the posts I share. Perhaps I sugar coat things a bit much. How can I change that?  For about a month, I have been working on a series of posts to un-sugar coat a few things. Let’s see if I can do that without letting the pendulum swing too far in the other direction.

 

Closing Thought

At one point a couple of weeks back, I was cautioned that I need to be careful with my words as they are hurtful to birth parents. No one can please everyone all of the time. I am not writing to please others all of the time. While I try to remain compassionate and respectful to all, I am many things, including a foster parent, who documenting her journey for herself/her family, for those interested in our journey, for others dealing with similar issues and feelings.

Last week while sitting on a PATH Panel (see notes below for an explanation), I realized that I had never shared the reason why I wanted to be a resource (foster) parent with anyone except my immediate family and the original PATH class that Branden and I took. I am sure most of my extended family and even close friends think that the reason we are foster parents is tied to our infertility or feel it is such a personal question that they don’t want to intrude. Although our infertility is the reason we are fostering at this moment it is not why we wanted to become foster parents. The want, or really the dream, to become foster parents has been a very long journey.

When I was a just beginning to walk and talk, I asked a TON of questions. My mom said she had learned from raising my brother to have periodicals nearby so she could always answer us or say “When we get home let’s look that up.”

So one summer day when we were over at my grandparents’ house, I was paying attention to the family living to right of them. They lived in what looked to me at the time like a nice old farmhouse. It was different from all the cookie cutter houses in the neighborhood so I liked to sit and imagine what the owners were like and what took place there. This summer day I saw a whole bunch of the residents out in the backyard having a family gathering. There was a male and female adult, both were Caucasian as was one of the girls, the rest of the children (about three or four) were different age groups and different colors. When I listened closely to what those kids had to say I was really baffled. All of the children called the adults “mommy” and “daddy”. While I did not know all about the “birds and the bees”, I felt confident, even at that age, that something was not typical about this family.

I immediately went to my mom and asked “Mommy, why are all the kids next door calling the adults mommy and daddy?”

I am sure my mom was busy but she stopped what she was doing to reply “Because they are all their children.”

Still confused and sure my mom had missed the point, I pressed on “But they aren’t all white. How can that be?”

To which my busy mom stopped what she was doing to look at me a little baffled before replying “Are you sure?”

I won’t bore you with the whole conversation but I was pretty sure they weren’t all white and pretty sure they were all calling the two adults “mommy and daddy” or “mom and dad.” Now here is where my memory gets a little hazy. I don’t recall if my mom went to the window, stepped out on my grandparents back porch or if my grandmother saved her. What I do remember is being told that the “mommy and daddy” in question were Foster Parents. Like any child at that tender age, I had no idea what that meant so I asked. And my mom being the devout researcher that she has always been, she not only gave me an explanation of what being a Foster Parent meant she gave me the definition for the word “foster”.

Because the system is not a perfect one and has had a rocky past, many people today have issue with the term “foster parent” linking it with negative connotations. So the new more PC term is “resource parent”. For me the meaning behind the word “foster” is connected with love so I never had the same negative feelings that others have. The reason is because my mom took the time to read the definition to me and that definition has stuck with me a lifetime.

Foster [faw-ster, fos-ter]

verb (used with object)

1. to promote the growth or development of; further; encourage: to foster new ideas.

2. to bring up, raise, or rear, as a foster child.

3. to care for or cherish.

Synonyms (similar words)

1. favor, forward, advance; foment, instigate. 2. nurse, nourish, sustain, support, maintain. 3. See cherish.

Antonyms (opposite)

1. discourage.

You see to me, being a foster parent means to love, cherish, protect and raise a child that is not your own. Taking that meaning, having my mom help me with the explanation of what being a foster parent meant and watching my grandparents’ neighbors gave me a sense of “home” in a whole new light. Sure I had people in my family that we called aunt, uncle or grandma that were no blood relation to us, so I understood the concept, but these people had no prior attachment to these children in their home. At the time I am sure I romanticized the relationship between the adults and children living next door but as I grew older I developed a larger sense of what fostering meant.

When I was somewhere between the age of 4 and 5, I went to visit one of my aunts. As soon as I walked through her door she shoved a baby into my arms. You have to imagine I was a very tiny kid (until I hit puberty) and so when she put a 6 month old child that was big for its age into my arms… well it bowed my back. I had a hard time walking from the front door into her family room. At the time I thought nothing of it. Whenever I went to that aunt’s house she always had babies around. I just assumed that because she loved children she babysat a lot for families in the neighborhood or even for her church. While she did do that, I was informed that day that this was her foster baby. Again this term “foster” came up.

Later I would ask my mom if that meant my aunt was like my grandparents’ neighbors. The answer was “yes”. I thought good and long about that. Sometime in the next month or two, while asking my mom a lot of questions, I made a very firm statement. I told my mom that one day I wanted to be a foster parent. I know at the time she probably shrugged off the statement but she said I would go on to make that statement several more times in various ways. When one day she asked me why I said something to the effect of:

“Because it feels right, when there are kids out the in the world without anyone, there should be someone there to protect and love them. And anyway, who says I will be able to have kids of my own. So it’s only right that I love and protect children who need it.”

When my mom probed me further about my statement asking if I wanted to adopt like several friends and family members had, I evidently told her that I planned on doing that as well.

Fast forward 13 years and that is when I met Branden. In the first six months of us dating I shared with him my concerns of dating and not leading anyone on. I wanted to make sure that my future husband was all right with the fact that I may never be able to biologically have children (due to my family history) and also be ok with the fact that I wanted to foster children and possibly adopt regardless of whether I could bear children or not. Well I didn’t scare Branden off with that revelation. In fact he has a story of his own on that account and I hope he shares it one day.

My point here is that [the idea of] fostering and adopting has never left me. Being a foster parent felt right, like how some members of the clergy say they “just knew” and others explain it as a “calling”. Never once have I considered a career as a Social Worker. I just knew that aspect was not my path. I have had a long journey to get me where I am but with the children that have already touched our lives I will tell you that I would never change one thing, not even one of my hardest of struggles or deepest heartaches.

I am proud that I am a foster parent. Not because I want people to pat me on the back or say what good works I do. No I am a proud foster parent because of the smiles, heartaches and journeys these children are sharing with us. I am honored to be a part of their lives. And while not every day is sunshine and rainbows, I am happy to provide a place these kids can call “home” if even for a short time, a place to receive love and encouragement.

Notes: So if you are curious about what PATH means, here is the explanation. Parents As Tender Healers. So when you want to become a Resource or Kinship Parent in the state of Tennessee you need to take PATH classes.

Now Kinship is a whole different ball game but I will tell you briefly that Kinship is pretty much what it sounds like. A child is placed with someone who is kin (biological or family friend).

For more information about fostering please Google for your state’s website. Information does vary from state to state so I am leery about sharing just one page. You can also foster through private agencies and that too is a whole different ball game.