After experiencing some infertility issues, my husband and I felt drawn to the foster care system. We had high hopes of swooping in and helping young kids in need, with the desire to hopefully adopt a child from the system. We kept this journey to ourselves as we navigated home visits, fingerprinting, and the classes required. It was quite the journey just getting all the paperwork completed and getting our home ready for a child.
“I could never do that. It would break my heart having to give that child back.”
The number one comment we received once we started talking about our newest adventure. I was nervous, yet very anxious to get our first placement. We had a strict “under two-year-old” requirement as we already had a child at home. We wanted any potential foster care child to be younger than our own after carefully considering her role in this journey.
We got a call shortly after completing all the necessary paperwork and classes.
It was for a baby that was suspected to be a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) baby. We went straight to NICU that evening to meet this sweet baby. She was so tiny, but her scream could bust eardrums. She would shake and tremble; a NICU nurse informed us that is a withdrawal symptom and that it should subside in the coming weeks. We were foster parents to that child for a week before she was able to find placement in a family member’s home.
The second child that was placed in our care was a three-month-old baby. This child had spent her first three months in the care of her mother, even after suspected NAS symptoms. After talking with a case worker, this child had “fallen through the cracks” and was not supposed to be in the care of her mother. When the baby was brought to us, she came with one diaper, a dirty car seat and a plastic bag of random clothing that smelled of smoke. She had the worst diaper rash I have ever seen. She refused to be snuggled; she was the most content in her car seat. We would hold her to feed her, but she would fight and scream and stretch to get out of your arms. Once she was put down in a baby seat, she would stop screaming.
This child could barely make a two-hour stretch at night and would scream bloody murder immediately after waking up. There was one time that her blood curdling scream had me sprinting across my house because it sounded as though she was injured. I was panicked, but she was fine; just hungry. During one visitation, the mother informed me that the child used to sleep through the night. I was doubtful that was even remotely true and made me question if she was neglected through the night and that was the result of her screaming so intensely.
During the time we had this child, the mother accused me of not taking care of her child because she had a rash from drooling and a runny nose during allergy season. The mother came to visits every other week, calling in sick during the visits she missed. It was heartbreaking to walk this journey, to know that this child would be going back to her mother. In my heart, I knew I could care for this child properly, but as long as the mother hit her requirements set by the state, she would be taking that child back.
I won’t sugar coat it; fostering is hard.
The number of calls we received during our time as foster parents was shocking. The stories of what these children had gone through, living situations, and the trauma these kids endured was jaw-dropping. The doctor visits, home visits, parent visits at the DCS office were time-consuming. The sleepless nights, the screaming, and the fact I couldn’t protect this innocent child weighed heavily on me. I struggled. I struggled every single day. I questioned if this situation was fair to my child, who had to sit in the car for hours with me over the course of the six months as we waited during these visits. I questioned if it was worth giving 99% of my attention to the foster child while my child sat and played alone.
I was a foster care drop out.
After six months, I knew I could not physically, emotionally, or mentally handle any more of it. That child was placed back with her mother and we recently found out that she later entered the system again and was adopted by that foster family. I think of her from time to time and while I wasn’t able to give her what she needed forever, I know I gave her what she needed at that time. She will never know her impact on me, but I will never forget her.