(Pictured above: me not enjoying a ride at The Happiest Place on Earth)
By Sometimes Mom
Follow her on Instagram @sometimes_mom
Foster care is a roller coaster. Ironically, I’m not a big fan of roller coasters due to my general aversion to danger and crippling motion sickness. In fact, I have to pop a Dramamine basically anytime I’m in a car where I’m not the driver. Not being in control of my movement can make me feel physically ill.
As a foster parent, I have very little control and my foster children have even less. Biological parents, I imagine, also feel powerless and even the Department of Children and Families itself, is often at the mercy of the courts. We’re all in motion, but who’s running the roller coaster?
There are times we were told our foster child would likely leave the next day, and they stayed for four more months. A case that looked to be moving towards adoption, reunified 3 months later. Transition plans which spanned the course of several months, had last minute date changes. We have been in situations where we never even met the biological parents until after the child left our home and alternately, spent months building a relationship with another parent, only to be cut off after reunification. I wish I could say I have learned to take these changes in stride, but after three years on the roller coaster, I’m still working on it.
What I’ve learned about foster care is that anything can happen, and I’ve accepted that I am not in control. This revelation does not ease the nausea I feel when preparing for a child to leave my home. It doesn’t stop the anger from bubbling up when a decision is made that I don’t agree with. But this realization has helped me focus on what I can control. I can be the very best temporary parent to a child that needs me, for however long that may be. I can provide a safe home, meet their needs, smother them with love and be their biggest cheerleader. I can advocate for them, model healthy relationships and provide them with new opportunities. I can always speak well of their parents, and when appropriate, love and support their parents too.
It’s nearly impossible to predict the twists and turns of foster care, but even if I knew the outcome, it would not affect how I parent. Just the other day I was thinking about how our current case had had no recent changes and consequently, life has been pretty calm. I didn’t dare share this thought with my husband who is more than “a little stitious”. I kept this observation to myself but of course, within a few days, we received information with the potential to throw the roller coaster back into overdrive.
Sometimes, there are pockets of tranquility when the ride is smooth and steady, where you may even forget you’re on a roller coaster until a sudden drop jolts you back to reality. But I’m learning to embrace these abrupt changes, I’m not ready to get off the roller coaster just yet.