My son Robert went through a lot of instability in his first year. My husband and I first met him when we brought him home from the hospital at just 2 days old. The plan was for Robert and his sister Katie, whom we were already fostering, to stay with us for a short time and to then be adopted by a relative. But after the kids left our care, there were some bumps in the road, and they ended up in separate foster homes.
When we let Robert and Katie go, we thought it would be best for both of them. We never intended for them to be shuffled through different homes. But the reality is that kids in foster care get moved often, and for many different reasons. There are good homes and not-so-good homes. Life happens, illness takes over, good intentions become regretted decisions, and these all have a huge impact on the child.
Robert’s new situation was heartbreaking. He wasn’t being cared for properly in his foster home — he was often left in his playpen or high chair and not bathed on a regular basis. The family was busy with jobs and obligations and Robert seemed like a side note, a paycheck placement.
My husband and I had never stopped loving Robert or his sister. When we learned that they were available for adoption, we began the process to make them part of our family.
We were incredibly thankful when Robert, then 1, and Katie, then 3, moved back into our home, joining our two biological daughters, Laura and Mia and our son Jabar, also once our foster child. But it wasn’t an easy transition. Robert now had attachment struggles — he hated to be touched, held, kissed or hugged, and would often refuse a meal simply because I asked that he take a bite.
From his experiences, Robert’s view of a mother was one that left him disappointed and angry. He needed to learn that I was not going to abandon him and this would take time.
I decided to focus my attention on providing for Robert’s basic needs. I changed his diapers, gave him food and simply offered my presence. After a while, and a handful of attachment therapy sessions, the boy who once screamed every time I touched him started to lean against me as I sat on the couch. Before long, Robert was holding my hand as we walked to the bus stop instead of cautiously walking a few feet away. I will never forget the morning I went to wake him up and as he stood in his crib, heard him eagerly say, “I love you.”
As foster parents, we are asked to not only care for the basic needs of a child, but also sit alongside them as they digest the hurt and damage they have undeservingly experienced. We need to remember that these kids — even the littlest ones — who come into our care are hurting and struggling to digest the interruptions in their lives.
The reality is, whether the abuse and neglect come from birth families or fellow foster families, the impact on the children will have lasting effects. I believe we need more loving families who are willing to become foster parents to raise the standard in which we place these precious children. And I want to encourage future foster parents to seek support for themselves, in order be an anchor for the children they welcome into their homes, their hearts. It is our job to show kids a new kind of love, a love that is strong when they can’t be.
This Mother’s Day I will enjoy my breakfast in bed with a smile. Not because life is easy, but because I am surrounded by my five beautiful kids, as they try to make their way under the covers and steal a bite of my waffles. Mother’s Day is more than a day off from chores around the house or being pampered with flowers. It is a day to be thankful for our children, because without them, there would be nothing to celebrate.
It is my prayer to spend the rest of my life showing Robert, and each of my kids, the kind of love they deserve from a mother. I hope to show them that we are more than our beginnings.