I’ve always wanted to be a foster mom. But when my husband and I got married, I brought it up, and he said absolutely not. My husband normally does not tell me no under any circumstances, so I left it alone. Then we started having babies.
Once we went to donate food at the animal shelter with our girls, who were five, six, and seven. We ended up going home with foster kittens. Then we got another set of foster kittens, and my father made the joke, “Next thing you know, you’ll be bringing home other people’s kids.” I told my husband, jokingly, but he looked at me and said, “You know, I really think that we could do that.”
I teach at-risk pre-K students, and I have between 18 and 24 kids in my class. At that point, we had done so much for certain kids in my class; I think he saw that it was so easy to like them and care for them.
Now, I have seven kids, ranging in ages from six to 12. I don’t have baby pictures of any of my four adopted children. No baby books, just birth certificates.
My oldest daughter, whom we adopted, remembers drug use in front of her and finding things in her mom’s purse. When she learns about drugs in school and health class, she’s putting all the things she saw together—what her mom was doing, what it meant to have aluminum foil balled up in different areas.
I have four kids on mood stabilizers, and in the mornings, one of the boys is extremely silly and wild, and another one is cranky and easily offended. The two of them share a room right now because one has night terrors due to his past trauma and abuse. He can’t even tell you what he’s scared of; he’s only six. We do a lot of different things to make sure he’s not by himself or in the dark.
I wonder how much of my children’s behavioral issues can be attributed to the drugs they were exposed to. The trauma, abuse, neglect—they’re battling a whole bowlful of issues all the time.
Some of our adopted kids attach too easily to strangers because they feel like they need to feel safe. With some, they don’t know how to make friends because they don’t know how to be their authentic selves. Processing feelings, processing emotion, it’s a constant struggle.
My oldest daughter is just a miracle. She’s so resilient. She was helping raise all of her younger biological siblings, but she had one person that would sneak her food and take her places. It just shows you that’s all a child needs: One person to feed them, keep them safe, hug them, love them, tell them they’re great. It’s made a world of difference in her. My other adopted kids didn’t have that.
My foster agency has support groups that we go to every other month, and I cannot believe the number of babies that are there. When we started fostering, we were told, “If you’re here for a baby, we don’t get them unless it’s a horrific situation of abuse.” But now that type of warning that you give to new foster parents is no longer the case. At one of the agencies, the main supervisor said to me, “Don’t you want a baby now? It’s a possibility. It’s so sad, but we’re getting babies.”
With my kids, I feel like I’ve taken on all of their traumas, all of their experiences, just to try to make life easier for them. If I have to have a couple years, or many years, of being uncomfortable, stressed, out of my comfort zone, and inconvenienced, I’m cool with that. These kids have suffered so greatly their whole lives. I can’t imagine not fighting every step of the way.
Being from a small country town, it was very obvious when I became a foster mom. Everyone is aware. I’ve brought lots of new kids to school with me, and if I have any other kids with me, people still ask, “Is that a new one?” like it’s a trophy. I didn’t get a new pair of shoes or a new handbag. This is a child.
I think people talk like that because there just are not very many foster parents out here. It’s not popular, but I wish it was. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.
M is a foster mom in Virginia, taking care of seven children: three biological and four adopted from foster care. Her children were put into foster care partly due to their parents’ past drug use, and they continue to be affected by the opioid crisis.
In January 2018, the American Psychological Association reported that for several years, the number of children entering the foster care system due to a parent’s opioid use had increased, a trend that can be seen in a number of states across the country.