Foster care isn’t easy, but it isn’t supposed to be. It’s hard, it’s emotionally draining, it's timeconsumingand it's a sacrifice.But it’s also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.We easily sacrifice for the ones we love, but these kids have no one to show them they care. To see the uncertainty in their eyes is heartbreaking. They are terrified of what the future might hold. To me, it’s worth the time and energy to show these kids that they aren’t just a statistic.
Before we finalized our adoption I was speaking with our caseworker very candidly about what our kids might have gone through if they hadn’t been taken into custody. It was heartbreaking to think of the horrors they might have witnessed. We knew some of the things our daughter had been around, but to think it could get worse was enough to make my stomach sour.
My daughter was terrified of guns and we had no idea. One afternoon we were flipping through the channels and landed on some TNT/TBS show that was an action thriller. It wasn’t intentional, we were distracted and didn’t realize it was even on. A scene briefly showed one of the characters being held at gunpoint. No one but my daughter was paying any attention to the television, but when she realized what was going on she became hysterical and inconsolable.
We knew without a doubt that she knew more than any2 ½-year-old should about what damage guns can cause when they are in the wrong hands. The fear that was in her eyes was horrible and I didn’t know how to fix it.
When people find out my husband and I adopted our children, they commend us and say how they could never do that. It’s awkward and uncomfortable because I don’t feel like I deserve that recognition. I simply saw a need and felt called to help. There are around 12,000 kids in foster care in the state of Oklahoma. That number is staggering. It's unacceptable. So I grin and bare it when people tell us how great it is we could take in kids we didn’t know and give them a better home.
To me, the late nights and worry were worth it because we were able to give our kids a chance at a better life. There are days when I wonder if we should re-open our home and take in additional kids out of the system, but then I worry if I would be doing the right thing for our family. We still deal with things from our kids' past that makes me think we would be doing them a disservice if we did it.
We have been lucky enough to build a strong support system around us. If people were judgmental or spouted off negativity at our decision to foster, I cut them off immediately. I lost one friend I had known since my first year of college because instead of asking questions, she made wrong assumptions. To be honest, the friendship was dying anyway, but her judgment gave me the opportunity to get rid of the toxic relationship. Our friends and family who did support us became involved and excited for the process. They wanted to help our kids just as much as we did.
Foster care isn’t easy, but like I said before, it isn’t meant to be. I accepted the challenge of opening my home and found one of the greatest rewards I never thought possible. My kids are amazing and I love them just as much as if they had come from my own body. I don’t think I saved those kids, I think they saved me.
Ariel is a stay-at-home mom of two who is blogging about her foster care and adoption experiences for MetroFamily. Learn more about her and our other bloggers here and check out all our foster care resources here.