Looking back, I often wonder when and where the seed for fostering was planted in my heart. I grew up in a wonderful neighborhood with many loving families and kids all around. Several homes in my neighborhood welcomed foster children into their lives, and in turn many of these kids became my playmates. Some would stay and some only would be with these families for a short time, but it was my introduction to the gift of foster care.
Many years later I met my wonderful husband and we moved our lives to Milwaukee. On the surface, we moved here for education, but deep down there were bigger things taking root. We were here for about nine months when little moments snuck in to our lives bringing us messages of the great need for foster homes. I saw firsthand the need through my work at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, where often I had the privilege to work with these amazing kids! We saw billboards, commercials and watched movies all connected with the same messages of beautiful children in need of stable love and support. However, it wasn’t an instant decision.
Giving my fostering seed a chance to sprout
Doubt and concerns started to clutter our plans.
- How would we afford child care?
- How would we afford medical and dental care?
- How could we become first time parents to a child who may only be with us for a short time?
- How could I survive a relationship with parents who may hate me?
- How could I learn to love a child and then let him or her go?
- What would this do to my husband, my dogs, my house and my life?
My seed for fostering quickly became overrun with doubt. It no longer had a chance to flourish. That’s when I had the privilege of meeting some of the greatest gardeners in Milwaukee.
I found a message in my inbox at work advertising a lunch and learn opportunity about foster parenting. I listened to real stories, from real foster parents who lived, breathed, and most importantly, thrived as foster families. I asked difficult questions and started to clear out some of the barriers I let in. There would be assistance with child care, medical and dental, a thorough screening process, support systems and always someone to call when I need help. It was as if my seed finally received enough water and sunlight — that’s when it began to sprout.
Letting go of excuses
There always will be more reasons not to become a foster parent. How do we prune those fears to let real growth and beauty take root? It felt scary to let go of all excuses, but if I hadn’t, I never would have witnessed the immaculate garden that has become my family. There were days we felt like we were drying up or drowning from too much water, but each time we reached out for help, someone always was there to make sure we kept growing.
Despite the 101 reasons not to become a foster parent, the one inexcusable reason I became a foster parent was because there was a child who was counting on me to live. For reasons greater than myself. I took a risk on love because they deserved it.
We have been blessed with a son who will forever be with us, and I can’t wait to meet the others who we can help grow with the right mix of love and support, and a community who cares.