Carl and I have worked as foster parents for the past 13 years. At first, my husband and I were afraid we would not understand or relate to women who had their children taken away. Boy, were we in for an education.
But for the grace of God, this could happen to any one of us. Things happen that are beyond our control. Death, desertion, loss of a job or health issues (mental and physical) can turn someone’s world around in seconds.
A man in the house
We were surprised to learn many mothers did not like having a man interacting with their kids. As a result, the mothers did not connect with my husband. Furthermore, each child made sure their mom knew a man was living in the house and telling them what to do. This was a problem Carl and I had not considered at all.
The children could not understand that Carl had equal status. He was there every day. He helped cook and clean, and even knew how to give good hugs. At first the children reported everything he did to me to make sure it was approved by me. The kids’ mothers took special care to get detailed information on the duties “this man” had in our house.
Each mother is unique in her own way
Some mothers are very young. They find raising children difficult and were unprepared. Some did not think they needed a job, a place to live, an education or a man of good character. Now they are out there alone with no support systems. What do they do?
My role as a foster parent includes helping the mother grow and learn so she can be the best mother possible. She needs to understand the growth and development of her children. She also needs to know how to take care of herself. Sometimes they get a little ahead of themselves. We must help each mother face their life as it is, and succeed. There are still good choices to be made and goals they can meet.
As a rule, you love your mother unconditionally
In foster care it is no different. We must be very careful to respect a child’s greatest gift — their mother. When she feels her children are safe with you and that you are not the enemy, good things get done. She is your best source of information relating to the child’s emotional and medical history. You can help her stay focused, listen and be willing to learn.
She needs to know you are not the enemy. She should understand your job is to keep her children safe until she proves willing and able to take care of her children. Let her know she can contact her children at reasonable times and don’t be afraid to set guidelines. She wants a good relationship with you as long as she doesn’t feel like a competitor.
We cannot want it for her more than she wants it for herself.
- Carlene Keys, licensed foster parent