My First Few Months as a Foster Parent

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When we told our families that we were going to become foster parents they had concerns. For starters, Milo wasn’t even a year old when we started the process. We knew it would take at least a few months for us to become licensed, so as soon as we felt ready we dove right in.

Milo was a little over one when we actually took in our first placement and now he’s 18 months old and we’re on our third. I’ve learned a few things along the way, but I’m constantly amazed at how much my family continues to learn and grow together. 

It’s as hard as they say it is

We almost threw in the towel that first week. I’m not even kidding. Y’all, it was rough with a capital “r”.

Our first two placements we’re particularly difficult for individual reasons. They took a lot out of us emotionally. I’ll admit that after each kiddo we took a short break. Not because we doubted what we were doing or because the kids themselves were terrible, but because we wanted to be our best, rested selves for the next one.

Burn out is real and it can happen fast. You will face things you never in your wildest dreams imagined you ‘d face. So be sure you and your partner are taking time to adjust to your new roles. We are still adjusting to our roles as foster parents, it takes time. Give yourself grace and don’t feel guilty if you need to step back for a second. 

But it’s as rewarding too

You will also be shocked at how quickly you bond to these kids. Even the difficult ones. Even on the long days when you’ve only slept four hours because your foster child was up and down all night. They will smile at you, or hold your hand, or wrap their arms around you and you will melt. Our current kiddo can get me right to the point of exhaustion and then come over and wrap her arms around me, bat her eyelashes and whisper “I lub you” and I’m seriously a puddle.

You will be their safe place and they will open up to you so much, the good and the bad. You’ll have the privilege of getting to see them grow and flourish right in front of you. 

Be a squeaky wheel

Anyone who’s had to deal with me in a professional setting will tell you… I’m a squeaky wheel. It’s probably one of my more annoying characteristics. There is a delicate balance between being squeaky and being obnoxious/rude… and I tip toe around that line OFTEN.

Advocate for your kids, advocate for yourself, be proactive, don’t wait around for others… or you might never get the help/answers you need. Follow up when needed and make sure you’re getting the support that you and your family need. 

Allow yourself to bend, but don’t break

I can’t stress the importance of being flexible. Especially the first night. Really, the whole first week. More realistically though… forever.

No two children will be the same. No two stories will be the same either. What works with one kiddo might not work with any other. Remember that these are children coming to you with a whole lifetime worth of experiences that you know VERY little about. Even the kids coming from the best case scenarios are going to have experienced trauma.

It’ll wreck you. Know what you can handle it. Establish boundaries and rules, but know when to bend your expectations while still staying true to who you are.

Remember that it’s your job to be here for a little while

This is a hard one, but a big one. Its important to remember you are only supposed to be a small piece of their story. You are (hopefully) temporary. Reunification should always be your goal. The system works when parents get the assistance and support they need and the children are able to be reunified with them.

Do we get attached? Heck yes. Is it hard when they leave? Of course. But are they ours to keep? In most situations… no. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, but it’s so important. 

As foster parents we get praised a lot for what we do, but any of you who’ve spent time with us know that we are one hot mess express. Most of the time we’re  just getting by from day to day. We are not special. We are just people who opened our home and our hearts to some kids in need.

I truly believe that so many families don’t give themselves enough credit when it comes to their abilities to be foster parents.  If you’ve ever thought about fostering I highly encourage you to attend an informational meeting. Here are some links to get you started:

Maybe you want to help, but fostering isn’t in the cards for you right now. There are so many ways you can support local foster youth and foster families without having to foster yourself. If you’re looking for ways to support local foster families find a local Foster Care Closet. Richland and Lexington counties have several. They are always looking for volunteers and donations. 

Are you a foster parent? What would you add to the list?

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Originally from Indiana, Carey moved to South Carolina in 2009. She and her husband, Brett, met during college at USC and now reside in Forest Acres. She is an elementary school teacher turned stay-at-home mom to two wonderful boys. After struggling with infertility for years, their son, Milo, joined their family in November of 2017 through domestic adoption. In March of 2020 baby River joined the family via embryo adoption. In addition to being a SAHM, Carey works in Social Media Management, is a babywearing educator, and a postpartum doula. She enjoys writing, iced coffee, road trips, and connecting with other mamas online. Her passions include adoption ethics and education, infertility, mental health advocacy, plus size life, and social justice issues. You can follow Carey’s motherhood journey and more on Instagram at MessyAsAMother.

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