Growing up, it was common for an extra kid or two to be around my family’s house. When I was young, they were just brothers that stayed for a little while and then went away. When I got older, I learned that my parents were foster parents and that my seemingly transient brothers and sisters were children who had needed a safe home for a while, which my parents happily provided. I was inspired by their sacrifice and willingness to help out people in their hardest times and wanted to do that myself when I became an adult.
After I married and had a child of my own, I approached my husband and asked him if he would be comfortable with us opening our home to children as foster parents. After careful consideration and discussion, we decided that we were ready to explore the possibility. Being in our early 20’s and renting, we were sure that fostering wouldn’t be an option for us at that time, but to our surprise, we were eligible to become foster parents.
We worked through the rigorous training, background checking and inspections required by state law and became licensed foster care providers about six months after we initially reached out and asked for information. Within a few short weeks of becoming licensed, a social worker reached out to us and asked if we had room in our home for two little boys. We answered yes and were told that a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old would arrive within a few hours.
Having experienced pregnancy and childbirth, I can tell you that nine months to prep for a child’s arrival is a leisurely stroll in the park on a warm summer morning compared to the absolute pandemonium that was trying to gather together all of the essentials two toddler boys needed in just a couple of hours. Dinner plans were canceled, pizza was ordered, a massive Wal-Mart run was organized, and every favor was called in as we outfitted our spare bedroom as best we could on such short notice.
Two little boys, a blonde dressed in messy, mismatched pajamas, and a brunette in nothing but a wet diaper showed up on our doorstep with two small sacks filled with donated clothing. They were dirty with wide glassy eyes that seemed excited, scared, yet somehow haunted and detached at the same time. We were given first names, and promised that we would be given more information on Monday, as they were being dropped off long after office closing hours on a Friday night. That night, we were left alone with these two tiny people who had no idea who we were any more than we knew who they were.
After giving them some juice and new plush toys, we decided that the next logical step was bath time. I picked up the oldest boy who was curled around a filthy mickey mouse blanket, and carried him gently upstairs towards the bathroom to wash him up. When I reached the upstairs landing, he laid his little head against my shoulder and threw up all down my back. Strange as it was, we were irrevocably bonded in that moment as I gently sat him in the still filling bathtub and assured him that I wasn’t mad, after all, everything will come clean in the shower and the washer.
The next six weeks passed in a blur as I worked through the list of tasks every new foster child has when they enter the system for the first time. There were doctor and dentist appointments to care for their physical health, and mental health and educational assessments to help them begin healing from any trauma and get any additional help with any deficiency education wise. It was a chaotic time running here, there and everywhere while squeezing in weekly visits with their families and learning their little personalities.
We originally planned to just house the boys for a short time because reunification of the family is always the primary goal of foster care, and kinship placements are preferred and we were sure that one of those two things would happen shortly. Even with placement with family being the goal, we were asked if we would be willing to have the boys in our home for a bit longer, allowing them to stay together in our home where they were already comfortable. We agreed and hunkered in for the long hall adding court dates to our list of appointments.
In our home, the boys began to bloom and grow. We learned that the blonde boy thought of himself as the parent, looking after his little brother the way a mother would. Through weeks of gentle assurance, he was able to relax and be a big brother, letting me be ‘Mom’ and learning to trust that my husband and I would provide for his and his brother’s needs so he could just be a kid.
The youngest boy who was so quiet began to speak with articulation far beyond his age. We celebrated his second birthday just days after he came to our home and he was thrilled to be the center of attention like a normal boy his age. And, much like his older brother, he began to learn that his words were heard and his needs would be met by the grown-ups in the house. It was amazing to watch these two little people who had experienced far too much in their short years, learn and grow while also watching my husband, daughter and I grow in ways I never could have imagined along with them.
If you are interested in learning more about foster care in Utah, want to learn about becoming a foster parent, or want information about volunteer opportunities to help out kids in foster care, please visit utahfostercare.org, or youthvillage.org. They are always looking for supporters in the community so that they can provide these children in hard situations as much support, resources and care as they can.