The Advantages and Disadvantages of being a Foster Parent
On about June 1997, I took in four foster children who also happened to be my nieces and nephews. What made it a somewhat easy decision was when all of the family was gathered together and the four were dropped off and picked up by completely different foster parents. The look on their faces when they saw the other was heart-wrenching and it was made even more unbearable when they had to part ways to leave with their assigned guardians after the gathering was over. I made a promise to myself that if it ever became an opportunity to not let that happen again I would take. Little did I know what that promise would cost in the end?
I was living with my significant other when that opportunity presented itself. I got a phone call from one of my other sisters and she informed me that the mother of these children had dropped them off at her house the night before and had not returned to get them. My sister explained that she could no longer watch them because she too had things that she needed to do. At the time I was working from home and I informed her to send them to me and I would watch them until their mother came. I watched those four kids walk, in a straight line, down the sidewalk to the home that we were occupying and was reminded of the promise that I had made to myself. Even though I did not prepare my significant other for what she would come home to, she did try to help make it work, only the work for her proved to be too much.
I found that the disadvantages were not knowing the full medical and physiological history of both parents and it was quite difficult to answer the questions of doctors and school officials. I was placed at a disadvantage because I did not know anything about these children and had to adopt an ever changing style of discipline because of it. There were certain “cut and dry” issues that had only one option to correct but there were several more intricate issues which required precise regulation and corrections which I had to attempt by trail and error with each child. I was at a disadvantage because the income which supported the children that already existed in our home was not enough to support the addition of four more. I was at a disadvantage because the time that it takes to insure that each child really did feel welcomed and “at home” took more time than I thought and even took away from the little work I was doing at my home office. I was at a disadvantage because of the appearance and re-appearance of their mother in and out of their lives leaving behind more issues that I would have to fix.
The disadvantages were multiplied when I took the step of controlling when and where this contact would take place. The children were placed in a situation where there would be no winners or losers just pain and confusion. These disadvantages seemed enormous and never-ending, coupled with the challenges of raising my own biological son and helping my significant other raise her biological daughter. I know that it was tough on me and I can only assume that it was tougher on her. We thought marriage would help ease some of the challenges facing us but we were wrong.
One of the greatest lessons that my mother had ever taught me was, if you start something finish it. It was a lesson learned much better while serving in the U.S. Marines from Sept 1980 till April 1991. It is one of my better traits and one that gives me the greatest joy so when given the choice of my marriage or the foster kids, I had to choose the kids. That choice brought me to the realization that not all things were as bad as I sometimes made them out to be. In other words, that choice made me begin to see the advantages to being a foster parent.
One advantage was having the facilities and agencies available for any need that I felt these children may need then and in the future. I had a support system unlike any I had ever had before from family and the State of Illinois. This support system was top-notch and it only paled in comparison to that of the military. Another advantage was now being able to see each and every child develop into themselves and to watch as they changed each and every day. I was advantaged by the accomplishments that they made because I could see the real effect of what stability, strength and love has on a child. Each matured in their own way and even though the teen-age years were most trying, I can honestly say that they still knew what was right and what was wrong. Many things they had to learn their way but none of those things were ever unexplained prior to them testing it. The advantage of seeing them now is a total blessing and even though I may not be happy with some of their choices, at least they made them and are living with them. Many say that I should be proud of my accomplishments when it comes to raising those children and even the judge thought I was a little crazy for taking on all four at once but what they don’t know is bringing in those kids done more for me than I could ever do for them. That is the best advantage of all.