Our First Week As Foster Moms
Every story is different. Your first foster care placement may look nothing like ours but there are similarities for all. Your first placement in foster care will be exhausting! It will be exciting and terrifying. It will make you question your decision to become a foster parent. It will possibly end making you question to the system and the workers. You will wake up the next day and do it all over again because this is the reality of foster care and what being a foster parent is all about.
It began as an ordinary Monday. I got up, went to work, had lunch with a colleague and then the phone rang. Restricted…possibly a social worker. After 10 months since beginning our journey and 6 weeks after officially being licensed the call I had been anxiously awaiting was finally here.
“Hi. Ms. Nissel. This is insert name I can’t remember…I am looking for placement of a brother and sister….they…” I was so excited and nervous all at once. I frantically wrote down everything the social worker was saying as my excitement quickly turned to fear and anxiety.
Two kids…a girl, 4 years old and boy, 2 years old. All of a sudden we would go from no kids to 2! Are we ready for this? I teach 3-5 year olds. It will be fine…right!?
“I don’t have much information about the kids…but…parents arrested…meth…hospital. Wait what? It’s like I was hearing every other word. Suddenly all of the classes we had taken, the horror stories I had read about, the realities of foster care suddenly became my reality.
My mind was on information overload. I said yes to the placement, knowing that my wife and I had already agreed on what parameters we could say yes to without needing to consult one another first.
“Can you meet the social worker at the hospital?” Yes. We will be right there.
I called my wife and updated her with what I knew. I had very little information. I don’t think I even asked any questions. I was not prepared for this call. You can find my post about what questions to ask and get a free printable answer sheet/checklist here.
By the way…I said yes and we need to go to the hospital. I could here the concern in her voice. I told her the kids were fine. They just needed checked out because the parents were making meth in the basement, but the worker said the kids seem fine.
After the longest commute from work ever (I worked 45 minutes away), we arrived at the hospital. I thought about how odd it was that our first time meeting our new foster kids would be at a hospital. Most parents start their journey into parenthood in the hospital, but for us there were no it’s a boy and a girl balloons or a waiting room full of excited family members.
Instead, we got an overworked social worker. Sign here. Here’s a bag for tonight. You’ll get a call tomorrow. Bye.
We were left alone with a seemingly sweet 4 year old little girl. We will call her Lilly for the sake of privacy. And a 2 year old, we’ll call him Lucas. He clearly had physical and cognitive delays. What now?
The kids are cleared and we are given some instructions about a bath and washing clothes….again I listen while my head is spinning. We knew very little of the dangers of being in a house where drugs were being made.
We literally had a license to parent, but it felt more like a teenagers that were just handed the keys to the car. You say I’m ready to drive by myself, but am I really?
This is how our journey into motherhood began…in an er on Monday night that started out like any ordinary day but ended as anything but ordinary.
The next 24 hours were exhausting!
Not just because we were adjusting from having no kids to two young kids.
Not just because we both worked full time and were only given one outfit and pajamas and had to find time to shop with a clothing voucher we didn’t know how use. Luckily, our friends had given us some clothes during our licensing process and they fit! You can read more about preparing for a foster placement here.
Not just because we had a social worker visit, another doctors appointment that led to hours of waiting, blood work with 2 screaming kids and a referral for an MRI for a 2 year old we just met that has a large head.
Not just because I was asked so many questions I didn’t have answers to.
Not just because Lucas screamed and cried for what seemed like 48 hours straight and couldn’t sleep without being held and even then in only 2 hours blocks at the most.
Not just because the kids only ate fast food their whole lives and home cooked food was foreign to them and triggered ear piercing screams and food throwing from both children. Why is the four year old eating the banana peel? They don’t know what bananas are?
We were exhausted because of all of it…we were exhausted because this is what foster care really is!
It is a whirlwind of change with traumatized kids that have been through more than most adults ever will. It is making adjustments, forgetting about sleeping and eating healthy food for a few days. It is pizza for dinner because you just need them to eat something! It is turning your entire world upside down to give a child a safe home even if they hate it and possibly you.
We had a family team meeting. (What is a family team meeting? Did we cover this in class? Do I bring the kids?)
We met the grandparents. Grandma wouldn’t even look at us. Grandpa was quick to voice his opinion once he learned we were “lesbians trying to steal his grandbabies.”
Really!? We had many talks about how to handle something like this but I couldn’t belive he said that..in front of us. My reaction surprised me. I wasn’t furious inside because of the insult or his narrow minded sense of reality. I was furious that he allowed his “grandbabies to live in a drug house, eat fast food everyday, and have a tv for a parent!
Despite an uncomfortable beginning, our agency was very supportive and helped us navigate the meeting. We learned about the daily fast food meals the kids were used to and that the 2 year old slept with mom and not his own bed. It was easy to understand why are way of life was so foreign and difficult for them.
Day 3 Evening…Has it only been 3 days!
We left the meeting and headed to the emergency room once again because the grandparents insisted waiting until the doctors appointment scheduled for the next morning just wouldn’t do.
In your foster care classes you learn about how kids will control what they can in an uncontrollable situation. Well, we learned that refusing to poop in a strangers house is one form of control. So three hours, an enema and a very uncomfortable bathroom visit with a screaming four year old that didn’t want to be touched by me and must absolutely hate me later, we were headed home.
Easter is Sunday. We need dress clothes. Did we call Grandma and tell her to expect 2 more at dinner? Lucas will be 2 on Saturday. Should we have a party? Birthdays are a big deal in this house, but what does he even like? We need to buy clothes and use that voucher. We will just go shopping after work. What was I thinking? Screaming, running, screaming, running…let’s go home. I’ll shop by myself tomorrow.
Day 5, 9:30 a.m.
The phone rings. Restricted…must be a social worker again. The kids will be going to live with their grandparents. I can come pick them up now. Umm…I’m at work. We didn’t even have time to shop yet. Don’t worry about that, the grandparents will take care of it.
Lucas has an MRI scheduled for 11 this morning. My wife already took off of work to take him. Hmm…well I guess she should take him to that and I’ll pick them up after. How about 2?
Umm…Can we wait until after I get home from work so I can say goodbye and have time to pack up there things. No, I leave at 4 on Fridays and need to have this done before then. They shouldn’t have much stuff to pack.
This is the reality of foster care.
I learned in that moment that my needs and wants were at the bottom of a very large pile of wants and needs.
Day 5, 1:30 p.m.
I left work early…again…and arrive home just in time to say goodbye and help my wife pack the last few items.
Day 5, 6:00 p.m.
Silence. No screaming or food throwing at dinner. We went to bed easily and actually got a full night of sleep.
Once again I anxiously wait for the phone to ring. Hoping it gets easier…fearing that it may always be like this because this is just the reality of foster care.
What was your first placement like? I would love to know if yours was as crazy as our? Leave a comment below.