Why I Foster
Why I Foster?
For me, it is all about the bedtime routine. It brings me to literal tears thinking about kids going to bed at night without anyone kissing their forehead, tucking them in a cozy, warm bed, checking under their bed for monsters, or wishing them a peaceful night full of sweet and pleasant dreams.
I remember getting the call to take our first placement as foster parents. I remember the parade of emotions that marched in and out as we waited for her to arrive. It was excitement that faded into anxiety; it was anxiety that faded into worry; it was worry that faded into fear; it was fear that faded into panic. Before the child even arrived on our doorstep, I had almost worked myself into an immobile state of distress.
Finally, the doorbell rang.
There she was, a frizzy-haired, wide eyed little doll who seemed to mirror my current emotional state. When she walked in, it was nothing short of awkward. The caseworker asked me to sign a few papers, put her belongings (two repurposed Pampers boxes held together with packing tape) in the room we had prepared for her, and then left.
We stood in the living room, unsure of even how to begin the bizarre relationship we had both just been thrown into…a pseudo mother-daughter-yet-strangers type of thing. It was her that made the first move. She walked over to the toddler slide we had out and began filling her afternoon by routinely climbing and sliding down. No smiles, just motions.
To be honest, I can’t even remember the rest of the afternoon or evening. I wish I could but it was all such a blur that I can’t even muster up a single image from my memory regarding the rest of her first day. However, I do remember the first night.
After we had put my son to bed, my husband and I sat on the couch watching this little stranger run around the house, gathering things that she would use to tuck her dolls into bed. She had obviously done this many times before and had a very carefully crafted routine that she went through with extreme delicacy. When she was done, she headed towards her bedroom and closed the door. When she didn’t reemerge from the bedroom, I walked in to see what she was up to. She had crawled into bed and was laying in the dark room, staring at the wall, just seemingly waiting for yet another night to go and another morning to come. Not knowing what exactly to do, I pulled the covers over her tiny little body, whispered, “goodnight”, and walked out of the room.
None of us slept well that night. Every 2-3 hours, my husband and I were abruptly woken up to the shrills of an ear-piercing cry coming from our new little girl’s room. When we entered the room, the scene was always the same. She would be sitting straight up in bed, drenched in sweat, eyes opened but obviously not coherent in the present moment. No matter how hard we tried, we could not seem to “wake her” from what we found out were night terrors. This happened night after night and I remember feeling so helplessly trapped.
I really don’t remember why, but one night after she had finished tucking all of her babies into bed, I felt as if God was letting me hear her mother’s prayer. “Please tuck my baby in for me.” I stopped her on her nightly trek back to the bedroom. I scooped her up in my arms and held her on the couch while my husband and I finished our television show. Just as I had seen her do with her dolls, I carried her gently back to her room, carefully smoothed out the blankets on top of her, crouched down beside her bed and kissed her forehead, and told her that there was nothing to be afraid of in our house. I stroked her hair for just a few moments before she fell asleep. I whispered, “sweet dreams”, and left the room. That was the first night she slept through the night.
I don’t really know what it was…perhaps guilt, perhaps release from the tension I had held inside me since the phone call from her worker for placement… but whatever it was, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Was being tucked into bed as tenderly as she tucked in her dolls all that this little girl needed to feel safe enough to have a good night’s rest? Was that the “missing ingredient”? I was instantly broken. She had been showing me what she needed but I had not been providing that for her.
Then my thoughts began to race. Who tucks foster kids into bed at night? Something that I took entirely for granted, these kids may rarely get to experience. Since that moment, my life has not been the same. With each child that has come into my home since then, I am humbled to be the person God has chosen to tuck them into bed.
When I brought home our next placement, again the evening was filled with chaos as we now had 3 children ages 2, 1, and 8 months. After completing our nightly routine with the “older” two, I sat on my couch with yet another stranger in my arms. As I stared at his chubby little face, streaked with salty tears and red from desperately trying to communicate to me that as hard as I tried, I was not going to be able to wholly console him that night, I began to weep. I sat, held him close, rocked him back and forth, and made a promise to his mother, wherever she was that night, that I would tuck her son in every night as if he was my own for as long as she needed me to.
More often than not, as I tuck in my 2 adopted children each evening, I ask God to bring comfort to the biological families of these sweet children who can’t be there to kiss their child’s forehead, who can’t be there to tuck them in to a cozy, warm bed, who can’t be there to check under their bed for monsters, and who can’t be there to wish them a peaceful night full of sweet and pleasant dreams.
And I vow to them, and to every other mother whose child comes into my home, that they will always have someone to tuck them in for as long (and even longer than) they need.
To be the answer to a mother’s prayer…That’s why I foster.