I joined Children’s Corps this past year, so I’ve been on the job for a grand total of about seven and a half months. In that time, I’ve resisted blogging about it. Partially because I’m a notoriously inconsistent blogger (ask my mom about my Peace Corps blog) and partially because, at the end of the day, I don’t always want to relive my job. The concept of a work/life balance- so important for everyone, but especially in the field of human services- is something I continue to struggle with on an almost daily basis.
But yesterday, I finally decided that contributing to this blog is important. It’s not because I had one big epiphany that made me want to share my experiences with the world. It’s because I had a week full of small things, things that people who don’t work in child welfare usually will not see despite how very significant they are. And these small things are important for me to share with you, because they are important for my families. They are part of everyday life, which so often gets overlooked in foster care.
People who don’t know much about foster care see only the big, bad things. They see the news stories about fatalities, hear the stories about a broken system, and imagine the stereotype of bad kids in rough homes that may not be better than the places they were removed from. And yes, these things do happen. But so do many, many others.
Today I want to share some of the other things.
Last Friday, a thirteen-year-old I only recently met had dinner with me. She told me about her birthday plans, her family, and her school. She told me that she thinks I’m stylish (which, trust me, I am not). She asked me questions about my life, about high school and college and other opportunities she is looking forward to but about which she is nervous. Then, we went window-shopping. And we both had a great time!
On Monday, one of my teenagers had a doctor’s appointment. Her foster mother- who has never been a parent before and is still learning the ropes- came with the teenager even though she didn’t really have to. She had a second sick child with her and got him an appointment. Then she got him his prescription from the pharmacy and got everyone lunch. Finally, she traveled home to get yet another child and bring him back for a therapy appointment, despite the fact that she lives an hour away. I missed a phone call from her when I was in a training, but when I asked what was wrong the answer was, “Don’t worry, we sorted it out”. This might seem like a regular day for most parents, but for a person who all of a sudden found herself with three children ages four, seven, and sixteen, it’s a lot. I felt so happy to see those words from someone who has relied heavily on my assistance in the past.
Wednesday was a rough day. It was one of those days where there was too much to do and not enough time, and I was tense knowing that I had to supervise a visit which is usually very emotionally draining for the kids, the parent, and me. And honestly, it was. But at the end of the day, I got hugs and “I love you”s from two adorable children. I even got an unprompted apology for difficult behavior from a five-year-old. Anyone who has ever worked with kids knows how much that means!
At that same visit, the children’s grandmother gave me a mini portable radio and some batteries. She had it at her house and thought that I might like it at my desk when I’m working late at the office, “just because”. She’s expressed that she knows my job can be hard and that she’s grateful for what I am trying to do for her grandchildren.
Finally, on Thursday I had a birth parent who has been away for a year visit with her children for the first time. It may have started off a bit shaky, but it ended well. The foster parent, who is a family member, and the biological mom put their differences aside to ensure the kids felt safe and loved. The three-year-old gave me an Easter egg with candy in it because he was “coming to my house”. (He thinks I live at the agency.) He even let me keep the candy after taking it back once or twice. I ate it while writing this blog. I know you’re curious- it was Starburst.
These things may seem small. You may see them in your life, with your friends or your family, and think nothing of it. Genuine conversations, dinners, gifts, expressions of love, apologies, and managing crazy schedules happen all the time. Unfortunately, many people do not think of these things when they think of foster care.
I really wish they would.