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Thoughts on "the right time" to start foster parenting

*I wrote this piece right after getting licensed for the first time, 4 years ago. It sat on my computer until I found it recently; a blast from the past! I'm so proud of 21-year old me, she was scared shitless but determined as hell. Check it out:

Dear young single woman who wants to be a foster parent,

I’m 21 years old, and a first year teacher. I live in a 2-bedroom duplex. I don’t have a ton of savings, or a retirement plan, or a loving partner who wants to do this with me. To most people, I have no business wanting to do this. I’m too young, too busy, too single, too inexperienced, too pretty to give up on finding that perfect guy, and young teachers should never have kids anyway because you won’t possibly be able to give the effort you need to give to your job if you have kids, right? In the eyes of almost the whole world, I’m too (insert judgement here) to be good at this, and have no business wanting to do it even if I was. People act as though I’m wasting something within myself by doing this.

I keep waiting for the day when the tide of negativity starts to effect me. I’ve peered into my heart for signs of wavering. After all, this is a commitment you make to a child forever, at least the way I see it it’s forever, no matter what the outcome may be. And yet, with every put down and click of a tongue, with every heavy sigh and disapproving glance, with every “You’ll sure have your hands full” and “Are you sure you can do this?”, my resolve only grows stronger. The thing is, I’m good at this. I have loved and been good at taking care of smaller, needing-of-nurturing beings since I was a little girl. It’s the only thing I’ve ever had any talent for. I heard these same discouraging messages when I decided to pursue a career in special education for children with intensive disabilities, and ignoring them was the best decision I ever made.

I may not have lots of extra money, but I have financial stability. I may not have years of experience but I have an open heart and a willingness to learn. I may not have long days to spend at home with my children but I have a desire to spend every possible minute with them. And when it comes to hard work, I welcome it! I truly can think of no greater use for my energy and time than to nurture growing humans. Maybe people are what matter and things are useless and time is the most precious thing we have, not “me time” but real time spent with the ones we love? Which can be anyone, really, because love is a choice.

I thought I wrote this for you, but I wrote it, in truth, for myself. I’ve been waiting for this message from others, and it’s not going to come. Last week, my social worker looked at my little duplex and said children could live here. Now, I’m a licensed foster mama. Soon, they will be welcomed into this home.

And I know I can do it. I do.

I just wanted someone to say “Hey, I know you’re scared. But you’re going to do a great job.” No one is going to say that to the crazy 21 year old foster mom. So, I’ll say it to myself and I’ll say it to you. I’ll say it for all the young foster moms, the new foster moms who are a little uncertain, a little scared, a little daunted deep in their hearts by the tide of “can’ts”, “shouldn’t”, and “don’ts”. Those people are all wrong.

I know you’re scared, and it’s okay to be scared. But you’re going to do a great job.


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