Supporting family members who are foster or adoptive parents
I started out foster parenting as a single 21-year old on a teacher salary, so I am NO STRANGER to people making rude comments about my life as a parent, my capabilities, my kids etc. I've been very, very lucky to have some really incredible friends and family (Hiiiiiiii framily <3 ) who have supported me and my boys (ALL of my boys) since day 1.
I've also had some friends, families, acquaintances and straight up strangers be assholes to me and my kids (Hiiiiiii haters, this one is for YOU <3). I thought I'd share some of the things that have been an amazing support to our fam, and also some of things that were fucking rude :)
Things People Said/Did That Were Shitty:
Not acknowledging my kids as new members of our family. For example (yes, I have petty, specific examples!) I've had multiple relatives make comments about my parents or grandparents being FIRST TIME GRANDPARENTS OR GREAT-GRANDPARENTS when a biological child joins the family. Ahem, guys? My kids through foster care or adoption are definitely their grandkids/great-grandkids, too. But thanks a lot for totally invalidating their place in our family, way to be.
Saying I wasn't allowed to call myself a single mom on social media. I had an acquaintance reach out over text, offended that I had posted about "single mom struggles". They said that I shouldn't say that because as a foster mom, I had unlimited babysitting, extra money, and didn't have to worry about shouldering all the responsibility by myself. And all of the single foster moms laughed and laughed. Here's the thing: There is no free babysitting available to foster parents where we live in Ohio, that's not a thing. Maybe the occasional parent's night out or whatever, but daycare/nannies/before and after care is not paid for by the state. Yes, you do get money to use for caring for the child. HOWEVER, I know plenty of single mamas who receive public assistance or child support to help them meet their children's financial needs, and I would never @ them, because these little shits are expensive as hell. As far as shouldering responsibility alone? Single foster mamas have their fair share of that for sure. Throw in extra needs, trauma behaviors, and a whole other family who's in crisis and man, it's a wild ride for one woman to navigate alone. Single moms, please leave the mean comments where they belong: directed at those goddamn married ladies who are constantly talking about "single parenting" while their husbands are away for work.
Acting like I'm a pretend mom who can just drop my kids off at the local animal shelter on a tough day. "If it's so hard, just give them back! You signed up for this, so I honestly don't know why you're complaining. Honestly just take them back to that office where you got them, you shouldn't do this anymore, it's too hard. When you have your real/own/actual kids and you're a REAL mom, things won't be like this." Just, quit with this shit. Looking at you dad/grandma/aunt/BFF of a foster parent. STOP SAYING THIS SHIT! If you wouldn't say it to the parent of your newborn biological relative, don't say it to the foster parent in your life. Kids in foster care are not leased cars or rescue animals. They are here to stay as long as they need to. And their parents are ALLOWED to have hard days where they need to bitch on the phone to you about it. Just like any parent ever.
Not celebrating new arrivals/adoptions. This was haaaaarrrrddddd ya'll. There are so many people in our lives who have always been excited to greet new kiddos and overjoyed to celebrate adoptions and those people are so great (see second list). But there have been some friends and family who don't acknowledge those special life changing times at all and that has always been hard and sad.
Trying not to include children in foster care when other little ones in the family are being included. There are child-free events and there are child-friendly events. There isn't any such thing as foster-child-free events, that's just called being an asshole.
Things People Said/Did That Were Awesome:
Celebrating kiddos and embracing them as part of the family. I can't even write this one without almost crying. When I became a foster parent, my incredible bestie threw me a baby shower. When my first two boys showed up, my mom and her boyfriend showed up too, driving two hours to drop off presents and meet the boys and communicate how excited they were to be grandparents! When my cousins have had weddings, my kids have always been included and invited along with everyone else's. When my first two boys went home, many family members and friends showed up to their "going home" party, loving on them, giving them gifts, wishing them well and just holding me up emotionally during that tough time. When my youngest was adopted, my aunts and grandmother sent him the most AMAZING monogrammed bag with his new initials on it. My mom, always the involved grandma, sent us Christmas ornaments this year with both boys' adoption dates on them. Mama, my boyfriend's mom, always asks me when I see her "And how are my grandsons? What are they up to?" Way to show up, guys. We love you!
Supporting me as a single mama. When I was parenting alone, I hadn't adopted yet, and was navigating foster care by myself. It always meant so much to me when people in my life validated and supported me in my motherhood. For example, I have coworkers who used to text me every year while I was single wishing me a Happy Mother's Day, because they know I might not have had anyone else to say that to me during that time in my life. My BFF's who watched my kids for me so that I could get alone time without going broke paying for babysitting, or who stepped up in emergencies when I had no co-parent to fall back on, were truly my lifelines during that time. Even just work or mom friends who included me in parenting conversations were so encouraging during that time of being alone in parenthood.
Truly getting to know our kids. There are some very special people in our lives (you know who you are) who know all of our kids REALLY well. Some have been roommates with us for a season, some are family members, some are past babysitters, some are family friends. There's something very special about a loved one who gets in the shit with you. Who gets down on the floor and learns how to change the diaper. Who learns how to work the feeding tube. Who comes over to laugh with you as you ride out the trauma tantrum. Who gets to know the little oddities that make your autistic child so special, and appreciates those unique traits. You guys know who you are. Now that my first two are gone, there's nothing quite so special as having a conversation with these loved ones about those kiddos, who are gone but not forgotten. You guys bring those moments back for me, and I'm so grateful to have people to remember with! And for the kids we have now, it's amazing as a Mama to have people in our lives who really SEE them.
Loving and supporting my kids' first parents. Listen, I know this one is hard to understand for people who haven't been involved with foster care or adoption. Honestly, it's a hard one for some people who ARE in the foster care or adoption worlds. But the parents who gave my kids life are always going to have a special place in my heart. They all LOVE their kids, even though some of them had life paths that prevented them from being able to parent. Not a one of them woke up one day and decided to abuse or neglect their children just for the hell of it. The only people allowed to express negative opinions or judgement of those parents are my kids, because they are entitled to their feelings about their stories. However, that doesn't stop many people from trash talking them. So it's really special when family members or friends tell me they're hoping good things for my kid's first families. My mom bought gifts for my first sons' mom a couple of times, and it meant so much to me!
Listening. Just listening. This last one goes out to all the BFF's who've listened to me talk myself in circles about court case outcomes for hours and hours on the phone. This one goes out to our family social worker who has let me vent and cry to her so many times on bad days, and only ever responded with encouraging affirmations and words of hope. This one is for my mom who listened to me cry on the phone almost every night for the last two months before my first two boys went home, never getting impatient with me as I sat on the concrete floor in the unfinished basement of our apartment and just screamed and cried while I processed saying goodbye to them. This is for each and every one of you who kept picking up the phone and taking the call and letting me get a little bit of our story off of my chest. Ya'll always listened, never judged, and you kept our story to yourselves, always. Thank you so, so much you guys, for that.
These two long-ass lists are honestly abbreviated versions. If you have a foster or adoptive parent in your life, I hope you take all of it, the good and the bad, to heart!