My name is Kaley, and I'm a single foster mom...I always imagined doing foster care later in life- when I was a little more “settled” and potentially married to someone who wanted to partner with me in that endeavor.
But then I graduated with my Masters in Social Work and started my career as a school social worker. That opened my eyes to just how significant the need was (and still is) for good foster parents, homes and programs. There were families in my community who needed a little extra support while they took steps to provide better care for their children, and there were kids who needed a home where they could feel safe, supported and loved- even just for a little while.
I realized there was something I could do about that- even without being married, or owning a home, or having parenting experience, or having every aspect of my life planned and figured out.
Being a single, twenty-six year old woman, I could think of a lot of reasons not to become a foster parent. But none of them- individually or combined- were as significant as the reason I decided to do it. (Or 31,000+ reasons in Texas and 400,000+ reasons in the United States*.) I had passion, a great support system, lots of love to give, and (enough) stability to fill this role in the lives of kids and families in my community, and that was enough. So I started the licensing process and- about 20 months ago- signed the final paperwork. Soon afterward, I received my first placement- a precious newborn boy who I am now in the process of adopting.
My main fear entering foster care was that I wouldn’t be able to handle it- especially on my own. I worried about kids with behavioral issues, babies who wouldn’t be able to sleep through night, and toddlers. (Just in general- they’re no joke.) But since I’ve actually started this adventure, I’ve realize that I’m not alone at all. I’m surrounded by friends and family who support me- even from a distance. I have resources through the placement agency and the support of their amazing team. I’ve connected with other foster families who- like me- don’t have all of the answers, but can certainly relate to the ups and downs of the journey. There’s no doubt that fostering has been challenging, but with such incredible support, it certainly hasn’t been impossible. And every day, the challenge has been so incredibly worth it.
In the past year and a half, I’ve spent many nights rocking Little Man to sleep and wondering about what makes me different from his biological mom. We’re the same age, we’d both be single moms, and we both care so deeply about our son- so why am I the one holding this sweet little boy instead of her? At the end of all the why’s, I’ve found one answer: because I was born into opportunity- economic, relational, and educational. She didn’t have that same start. Yes, I’ve made choices to get to where I am today, but some people don’t have the chance- or the support- to make those same choices. And I don’t know why that is, or how I can change it. But I know I want to be aware of it. And I want that awareness to give me empathy and motivate me- to serve families, make informed voting decisions, and advocate for ways to help struggling parents. Because every parent deserves the opportunity to create the best life possible for their child.
I want people to know the people involved with foster care- all aspects of it- are real, human beings, most of whom are just doing the best they can. And generally, they need empathy- not pity, judgement, or even glorification.
Biological families don’t need people to shame them; they need people to understand, encourage and support them. It is so discouraging when people say to me, “Don’t you just hate the parents??” or “I can’t believe some people would rather ____ than raise their own child.” I want people to understand that with 99% of biological families, the problem isn’t a lack of caring- it’s a lack of opportunity and resources.
I have never met a parent who is indifferent about the life he or she brought into the world, but I’ve met many parents who are facing obstacles I can hardly even imagine without the supports and resources I too often take for granted.
Most parents set out to do the best job they can with the resources, skills, and knowledge they have available, but many parents have very few- or no- resources to go on.
Foster parents, meanwhile, don’t need people to place them on a pedestal. I think I can speak on behalf of the majority of foster parents when I say: we are not superheroes or saints. We are not doing the impossible. (If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “I could never do that!”…)
Foster parenting is an important and challenging job, but if we treat it as some remarkable, inconceivably difficult, astounding thing that only exceptional people can do, people will continue thinking it’s something they could “never” do. And I can assure you- chances are good that you could do this. It might be hard, but you could do it.