Giving away a piece of my heart to foster care

My student loan debt makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. Since graduating, I have been working really hard to put as much money as possible toward my debt to get it paid off as soon as possible.

Last September, I decided I could spend my nights and weekends babysitting for extra money. Being the oldest of five, I’ve always been around kids, so babysitting is fun, feels natural and is easy extra money for me.

The Ad That Changed My Life

I responded to an ad on Care.com for a local individual looking for extra help three nights a week. Little did I know finding that ad and deciding to respond would forever change my life.

I met Laura for the first time at a cozy coffee shop. I didn’t know it when I responded to the ad, but Laura is a foster mom. Her first baby had just landed, and she needed someone reliable to handle daycare pickups in the evening while she worked 12-hour shifts.

I quickly agreed to everything Laura needed help with. I was then thrust into a whole new world of parent visits, daycare pickups and court dates.

I had figured that babysitting for a foster child surely couldn’t be much different than babysitting for anyone else. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

I’ll cut right to the chase. Foster care is hard. It is beautiful and wonderful, but so very challenging and difficult, as well.

Embracing the challenges

The hardest thing is saying goodbye.

Typically with babysitting or nannying, the kiddos grow older and slowly lose the need for extra care. This parting seems natural. Often, you might even stay in touch and continue to watch those kiddos grow older.

However, with foster care, the end of the assignment truly means saying goodbye. Often, social workers can provide foster families with occasional updates – but it’s an abrupt change when you go from caring for a kiddo daily to hearing occasional updates.

Though there were challenges, I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. For a short while, I got to make a difference in the life of a precious little boy.

One of my favorite memories was my attempt to make handprint ornaments for Christmas. In theory, I thought it seemed super simple and easy.

In reality, there was salt dough all over the kitchen and my sweet foster babe kept grabbing the dough every time I tried to gently press his hand to make a print. At the end of the night, we had salt dough in his hair and in my hair and no Christmas ornaments in sight.

Rather than being frustrated by that moment, I saw it as an opportunity to provide just a little bit of normalcy into this kiddo’s crazy life.

Laura recently was placed with her second foster child. This situation brings a whole new, unique set of beautiful challenges. I am blessed to be involved with this kiddo, as well.

Forever Altered

Opening my heart to a foster child changed me in ways that I never could have imagined.

I was exposed to, and learned about the foster care system. I learned to give away a piece of my heart to a kiddo that truly needed it.

I learned to accept change and face goodbyes. I learned to focus on the moments and memories. I learned that I am capable of doing hard things.
I so clearly remember sipping that cup of caramel apple cider and looking into the eyes of the first foster child to change my life.  Forever my life will be altered by a neighbor who became a friend and a foster kiddo who became one of my own.