I was at a small birthday celebration for a friend Friday night when I overheard one of the attendees talking about being a foster parent. I listened as best I could over the din of the bar. You should have heard this woman talk about some of the kids she had come through her house – she talked with joy, pride and sadness, sadness that some of them were now back in danger again. She’s also a teacher, elementary school I think, and that in itself should be considered a superhero, the foster parent doubly so.
I’m a product of Foster Care, I wasn’t really in any danger, but I was one of those kids that lacked proper supervision and was amok in most parts of my life. When I entered my foster home for the first time I tried to talk myself into running the first day – nothing bad had happened, but these people just didn’t understand me and couldn’t possibly keep up with me. My Ma had plenty of foster kids before me and was more than a match for my teenaged ideas of right and wrong.
My Ma and Pa held me responsible for my own actions – I had to wake up to my own alarm clock for school each day, I had chores, I received allowance, I had dinner every night at the table with the family (seemed stupid at the time, but it was something I came to look forward to each day and long for today). In my foster home I didn’t fear anyone coming home drunk in a rage to beat up anyone else, I didn’t worry about having food for dinner, I found peace. I wrote a poem about it a few years ago you can find here: (Foster Home) and I’ve pasted it here too
brown house now blue
gray hair then and now too
Ma in rocker knitting
Pa in recliner
fear crawls up my spine
my bags packed, all that is mine
social worker pressures shoulder
keeps me from running
dinner together, conversation and laughter
alien world, foreign notions – food a plenty
tears delay that first night,
though hard fought, buried deep
rules, responsibility, chores
wake up myself for school
wash dishes, mow lawns
allowance? what’s that?
foster brother and i
share smokes and stories
on the front patio
now enclosed, then exposed
three years teach me, show me love me
five years gone, back i come to make right
show them i’ve found the light
love unconditional, no exceptions
dc bound, to find my way
just call anytime
no questions asked
you can always come home
breast cancer scare,
stream down my cheeks
fear strikes deep and hard
twenty years later, college bound
ma and pa, rhonda and greg
come to see the sites,
to see me off, wish me well, show me love
the family i didn’t choose
forced upon me by action of youth
became the one that mattered most
showed me the truth of love itself
When my Pa died a few years ago it … it still brings tears to my eyes… I decided to change my name to honor him. That’s the kind of impact they had on me – I owe my life to them (to AA too, yes) and have had so much opportunity as a result of everything they gave me.
I’m not a foster parent, I’m not very patient with kids, but I urge you to be. I urge you to be the person that makes a difference in the life of a child, show them that not all parents are irresponsible, hurtful and mean. Show them a path that leads to a better life… and make sure you hug them, kids need hugs.
Here are some links about foster care, if you’re interested give them a read and help make a difference.