The Joys of Parenting Foster Youth
From the other room we heard our eldest son whisper, “I know this is scary. When I went to my first home I was scared too. But we are safe and we will feed you and we won’t hurt you at all. I’ll be your buddy.” For the next week, that little boy was never more than two feet away from our eldest son, he was his safe person through that difficult and confusing time.
It’s hard. And it’s heartbreaking. But the amount of empathy and compassion that pours from some of these kids will stop you in your tracks.
I’m Sara, I’m 26 years old, and a foster mom to many, and soon to be adoptive mom to my 12 year old and five year old sons!
I was 22 when we started the licensing process, and 23 when our youngest son who was a “weekend emergency placement” came to live with us. We, like the majority of foster parents, went into fostering thinking we would have babies placed with us. We bought cribs and car seats and I went a little overboard shopping for baby clothes. And we have had babies, but overall, we’ve had older kids placed with us, and I’m so glad.
I have learned a lot about the older kids in foster care over the last couple years. These are some of the more notable statistics:
- 67% of sex trafficked youth in Washington State are in foster care;
- There is a less than 3% chance that teens who have aged out of foster care will earn a college degree; and
- 7 in 10 girls who age out will be pregnant by 21.
We must not give up on our older kids and teens in foster care! There’s only a 13 year age difference between me and my oldest son. He doesn’t notice (or maybe he just doesn’t care.) I’m his mom. New foster parents tend to be nervous about taking in older kids, I wish I could tell them all that they don’t have to be.
After our boys’ adoption is finalized, we’re doing a house remodel to add on a few more bedrooms. We would love to eventually be a specialized foster home for either teen moms, sex-trafficked teens, or LGTBQI+ youth.
There are thousands, upon thousands, of incredible kids out there needing someone just like you. These kids don’t need perfect, they need someone to show up each day, provide stability and just try their best. We have messed up many times. We’ve said the wrong thing, or let our emotions show when we needed to be strong, but guess what? Our kids understand. They know we’re human and that our family is a team. Everyone in our home has lots of practice apologizing. We’re just trying to get through all of this together.
I love this life. It’s crazy and hard and heartbreaking and life-giving and absolutely wonderful.
People constantly say “They’re so lucky to have you!” which is laughable because we feel so truly, and deeply blessed to have met every kid who has come through our door. Fostering is hard, but it is also the most incredible thing I’ve ever done. I wake up every day knowing that I’m doing something incredibly worthwhile. These kids are awesome and it's a privilege to get to spend my days with them.