To Love the Babies ~ Fostering from a Teen’s Perspective
~ by Sydney Strong
My mom is the definition of a free spirit. She’s very spontaneous, funny, loving, and although I love her personality most of the time, some of her impromptu decisions have had dramatic effects on my family and my routine-oriented personality. One crisp, autumn day when I was in 7th grade, my mom announced we would begin doing interim foster care through a non-profit organization in our community called Lutheran Family and Child Services. This meant our family was responsible for taking newborn babies home from the hospital and caring for them until they were placed with their adoptive families. As a twelve year old girl, I was both shocked and skeptical. The idea of changing anything about my family of five really scared me. We were perfect just the way we were, or so I thought.
Our first baby, Jack, came into the picture later that year. Curiosity overwhelmed me as I tried to envision what it would be like to have a baby in our home, and I couldn’t control the anxiety I felt. Right away, I was in awe of the entire situation. My parents were so familiar with everything Jack wanted and needed, and that stunned me. However my parents weren’t the only ones who surprised me. My friends and other family members quickly began admiring the gentleness and compassion both my younger siblings and I showed as we interacted with Jack. These became traits that slowly opened my mind to the whole idea of interim foster care. I never knew how peaceful it would feel holding Jack for the first time. Yes, I had held babies before, but this was different because I was helping to care for him, and for the time being, he was a part of my family.
We expected to have Jack for a couple weeks which was the average time most interim foster families cared for a child. But, this wasn’t an average situation. Because of specific legal issues, my family ended up taking care of baby Jack for about five months. After having him as a part of our family for that long, his adoption ceremony was one of the most difficult experiences in my life thus far. My heart ached because it felt like I was losing a little brother. Jack had been there as a part my family for all those months and he seemed to fit into our household perfectly. While it was difficult, it put me at ease knowing Jack would be adopted by a couple who loved him more than I could even imagine. Our role in the course of his life was slowly beginning to make sense.
Since baby Jack, our family has cared for nine babies and a few toddlers. We haven’t had any others for anywhere close to five months, but that doesn’t mean seeing them begin their new chapter is not tough. As time has gone on, however, our role in each child’s life has become more and more clear. We are there to love the baby as much as we can until they can go to their new family. It may not seem like we are anything more than a babysitter at times, but after seeing the appreciation from both the birth parents and the adoptive parents for taking care of and loving their child, every mixed emotion I have felt is worth it. It is one of the best feelings in the world to experience making a difference in someone’s life that is so small and seeing the genuine appreciation of people I have never met.
The importance of interim foster care in my life is almost more than I can put into words. It has helped me become a mature, young woman, not only because I care for so many children, but also because of all the people and circumstances I have been introduced to. Before my family was a part of Lutheran Family and Child Services, I never understood the process of adoption. I didn’t realize how hard it truly was for a mother to place her own baby for adoption in order to give the child more than she can provide at that time in her life. It is such a selfless act, and I feel blessed to have met so many of these strong women and learned their stories. I have also been exposed to the struggle of so many couples trying to adopt who have been waiting for years, hoping to one day have a baby. Being a part of this organization has allowed me to experience so much, and it has also helped me realize something. Over time, I have begun to appreciate my mom more. Her enthusiasm to help children has allowed my family to connect with something that has shaped all of us for the better while also making me value change. As an eighteen year old, I would be lying if I said her spontaneity does not continue frustrate me at times, but I honestly can’t imagine what I would be like without it.