As we neared the end of the licensing process, we still hadn’t told anyone we were considering becoming foster parents (other than a few close friends and family members who served as our references during our home study). In fact, my sister in law did not find out we were becoming foster parents until she got our reference form in the mail. In typical fashion, my husband had neglected to tell her before the forms were mailed out by our agency. Poor woman texted me a photo of the questionnaire with the message, “Is this for real?” Little brothers really are the worst.
So anyway…as we got closer and closer to becoming licensed, the clock was ticking. We wanted to give our family and friends time to get used to the idea before we showed up to Thanksgiving with a kid in toe.
I told my BFGF (“big fat Greek family”) via mass e-mail. I wanted to tell them all at the same time. I also wanted to give them time to freak out among themselves without me present. Because I know from being on the receiving end that it’s sometimes hard to react appropriately to big news when you’re just shocked. And I wouldn’t blame anyone for being shocked. My husband and I never discussed having children with our families. And none of my family members ever asked. They are amazing and progressive like that. So I guess what I am trying to say is that I wanted to tell them in a way that would allow them to react by saying: “What the actual fuck!?” without feeling bad about it later.
If my family reacted poorly behind my back, I wouldn’t know. To my face, they were all amazing about the whole thing – and that’s what matters. They called and texted with nothing but messages of love and support.
- “You can’t just leave children alone! Are you going to quit your job?” (Yep. In the year 2017, a person actually asked me this. So far, neither one of us has had to quit work.)
- “The children are damaged. You won’t be able to shape them into what you want them to be.” (So that goes for biological children as well as foster children. We’re all damaged and we’re all going to be our own people.)
- “You don’t know what your getting into.” (Eye roll…)
- “I know this person who fostered a teenage boy and he told her he wanted to kill their cat.” (And countless other foster child horror stories.)
The more surprising reaction we received when we told people we were fostering, is what I will refer to as the, “who does she think she is?” reaction. It was super-weird and sometimes came from very unexpected places. A few folks that we told were incredulous. It was as if we were on stage during the interview portion of Miss America telling the judges all we really wanted was world peace.
I’m not going to sugar coat this. There are a few people who literally bounced out of our lives. I realize that sounds weird and completely unbelievable, but it’s true. And in certain circumstances, it was a little painful. But the important people are the ones who stuck around. And some even stepped it up a notch and tried to help and support us in every possible way. The truth is, you don’t have to be a foster parent to help foster children. You could simply be a supportive friend to a foster parent. Some of my most supportive friends became the honorary aunts and uncles to our current foster son and make me a better mom to him every day.
The fact is, I’m sure it can be scary and emotional to accept a foster or adoptive child into your extended family. One family in our Foster Parenting Class had already accepted placement of a sibling group of five children. All five children were under the age of 8. Their biological daughter was 9 years old. They told us that their 9 year old daughter’s grandmother kept telling them that, while her 9 year old biological grandchild was welcome at her home, the other children were not. It’s easy to vilify grandma in this situation – but I think we are doing ourselves and society a disservice by doing so. It’s easy to point fingers until you are faced with the reality of expending time and resources and emotional energy on children that you may never see again if they are reunited with their biological families. In addition, in this circumstance, Grandma wanted to spend special time with her 9 year old grandchild to support her during the difficult road that her family was traveling. The other foster families in our class encouraged the couple to set firm boundaries that, while the 9 year old could have a few special visits every now and then (particularly during this difficult time), all the children must be recognized as members of the family and should get their own special grandma time.
Ultimately, after telling close friends and family, we decided to announce our decision on social media. This decision was two-fold: First, we wanted to celebrate this big decision in our lives. Second, we didn’t want to have awkward conversations when we showed up someplace with a child/children.
The announcement was met with joy and excitement. At least to our faces and that’s all that matters.