They placed her in my arms. I thought they had made a mistake and brought me the wrong baby. She was so big with beautiful dark curls framing her face. When she left to be with who we were told would be her adoptive mother she was a tiny three-month-old that had been with us over two months. I hardly recognized the six-month old I held in my arms. She cried and cried refusing to be set down even for a second. I understood. For the next several months she was either in my arms or my husbands. That summer her brother and sister came to live with us too. They were two and three years old. We had five children under six–seven of us in a two bedroom house owned by my grandparents.

Two things happened in my mid-twenties that made me convince my husband to be a shelter home for infants for The Department of Children and Families (DCF). The first was knowing my son was our last child. Since I was little, I  had dreamed of having a large family. When I was four, I told my Montessori teacher that I lived on a farm with lots of brothers and sisters. My desire to care for more children was strong. I loved being a mom.

The second thing that happened was a news program I watched on orphans overseas. It showed infants lying crying in beds with few people to care for them. My heart broke, and I wanted to do something. We couldn’t adopt because I had promised my husband we’d have only two children. But I knew I had to help in some way. We took foster parent classes agreeing to be a shelter home caring for infants until it was decided whether they would live with a relative, enter foster care or return to their birth parents. At twenty-eight I wasn’t fully prepared for all the emotions that came with caring for a child and letting go or all the people that questioned: “How could I do such a thing?” So many times I heard the words “I could never foster. It’d just be too hard.”

In my mind, the reply was how could I not help? How could I sit by and do nothing simply out of fear from being hurt? It’s not like I ever thought through what it would be like to say goodbye to someone I loved. Does anyone? I saw a need, and I acted. We had only one shelter home in our area. It was full. There were employees hired to take care of the many children. I knew that by taking in a child and loving him/her as my own, it was better for them. I tried not to think about the day I’d place them back in the counselor’s arms because as I found out with the very first newborn boy that I cared for for only three days, it hurts! I experienced twenty-four of those goodbyes over the course of four years and every time it didn’t matter how long the children stayed with us I felt the loss.

There was one time that the loss was multiplied by three. Our foster system is complicated. It didn’t take me long to understand that the children I cared for needed a voice. The counselors had many cases; foster parents would change their minds and kids would be moved, some birth parents wouldn’t always stay committed to their case plan to get their children back. Meanwhile innocent lives suffered. Our family took in the brother and sister of the little girl who was returned to us. They had been removed from their third or fourth foster home, and we didn’t want them separated or to be moved again until it was an adoptive home. We received special permission to have them with us since we had their sister.

What a summer it was! My husband and I became a team, especially at bath time! We had to work together to keep up with five children six and under. Whenever we went out, we had to take two cars. All the car seats wouldn’t fit in one. The three-year-old talked nonstop with great maturity. I loved her excitement and enthusiasm for life especially after all she had been through. Her two-year-old brother smiled all the time and loved to run. And their baby sister no longer wanted to be held. She wanted to play! Our house was loud with laughter, Blue Clues, and music.

When the counselor told me about the first adoptive family they had I was apprehensive. I wasn’t falling for it again. They talked about moving the kids. I said no. There would be no more let’s try it and see if it works out at the expense of three little lives. The couple backed out.

As the days passed, I secretly hoped I’d have the large family I’d always dreamed of. With a promise my husband and I made to each other that the three children wouldn’t leave our home until the best adoptive family in the world was found, I let myself believe that maybe they’d stay. Getting through the days with five children kept me busy enough that saying goodbye wasn’t in my thoughts. Then one-day DCF called and told us about a young couple who wanted to adopt siblings. When we met I knew…their hearts were kind, full of love, they wouldn’t change their minds and decide after three months that adoption wasn’t for them. I tried to pretend my heart wasn’t breaking. I reminded myself that I became a foster mom because I knew I would love every child I cared for. I’d do everything I could for them. I reminded myself that I was not an adoptive foster parent or even a foster parent I was a shelter home. It didn’t help.

The day at the park when I had to say goodbye was the most painful day of my life. I was confused. I had set out to do good, to help, yet saying goodbye didn’t feel like helping. It felt like abandonment, and my heart tore to pieces. So did my husbands and my children. I remember the quiet of driving home. I remember the quiet house. For days I’d walk into their bedroom feeling the sadness–where four slept now there were two. Emptiness was everywhere. It was a goodbye that still brings tears whenever I think of that day.

Luckily, their adoptive parents were open to allowing me to still be in their lives. Every year I received a Christmas card, and then when they were older, we became Facebook friends. I was invited to a wedding which meant the world to me and recently I had the opportunity to have dinner with the little girl I held in my arms seventeen years ago. She had rescued a kitten that I agreed to care for.

The morning of our dinner together I woke with a migraine. By the afternoon I was curled up in bed crying. Memories came flooding back. All the emotions I felt from having to say goodbye to having to be strong for everyone. Finally, I felt what I hadn’t allowed myself to feel. I held it together through our dinner and then cried again on the way home.

She and her siblings were doing great. I was so proud of all of them and feeling lucky that they allowed me to be part of their lives. My tears were of sadness from the goodbye long ago and of happiness from our reunion.

I look back at that twenty-eight-year-old who jumped into fostering with her eyes wide shut wanting to make a difference. What have I learned? I’ve learned it’s better to love than to withhold love out of fear of loss. Loving and losing hurts. But whether we’re in someone’s life for three months or thirty years that love we give is a gift. It’s the only gift we give where in giving it we know we’ll feel pain. That’s why it’s so precious. We love anyway.

 

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Comments to "When I Was A Foster Mom"

  1. Gina Piscitelli

    August 10, 2017

    I’d love to talk to you some more, maybe one day, about the ins and outs of fostering children. As a young adult, I’m starting with a slightly easier of a path with orphaned kittens…but still, like you said, I saw the need and acted upon it.

    Since starting to foster kittens, the “I could never foster, it’d be too hard” comments always astound me. I feel like it’s such a cowards way out. One day I’m certain I’ll have foster children, and my retort will likely be the same as it is now: “they needed me. How could I say no?”

    They’re worth it, no matter how hard it always is to say goodbye. Thanks for sharing! ❤️

    • kdrausin

      August 13, 2017

      Gina, before I became a foster parent, I volunteered with DCF. It’s a good way to see if you’re ready to foster or if you want to help out in other ways.You have a loving heart! Thank you for taking care of all those kittens. Feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to answer any questions.

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