Vol. 6, No. 1• November 2001

Tribute to foster parents
by Donna Foster and Joanne Scaturro (a.k.a. "SI

You know you are a foster parent when:

  • You tell the physician what medication your child needs.
  • You answer the question, "How many children do you have?" with, "I have x birth children, x foster children, and x adoptive children." And the other adult wishes she never asked.
  • Everytime you hear the phone ring, you start counting how many beds you have available.
  • You own an assortment of every known character Band-Aids.
  • You're the only one of your friends who knows every character from "Rug Rats" and "Telly Tubbies," AND you know the words to Barney's "I Love You, You Love Me."
  • Special time alone with your husband is a full night's sleep in your favorite baggy pajamas.
  • You know what the teenager's "slang words" mean and you catch yourself using them.
  • You get excited when there are more seats in your new mini-van.
  • You only buy in bulk at SAM's Club.
  • Your neighbors don't invite your family to barbecues anymore.
  • Teachers at your local school have nervous breakdowns when they see you coming.
  • You are surprised that your friends haven't seen the inside of the juvenile courtroom.
  • You're bringing the child's latest worker up-to-date on the child's case record.
  • Your kids ask questions about sex and you don't know the answers.
  • Your kids tell you the agency's policies and the changes to keep you informed.
  • Your pastor has to reserve a whole church pew for your family.
  • You go to school more than your child.
  • Your friends find drugs in their child's room and they ask you what it is.
  • The police stop you for speeding and don't give you a ticket because they know your kid.
  • You have to use all the fingers on both hands to count how many children you have.
  • You own stock in the Ritalin company.

Donna, retired foster parent:

Joanne and I had so much fun coming up with these funny "You know you are a foster parent" statements. I really believe I would not have lasted seventeen years as a foster parent if it wasn't for a strong sense of humor. If you are a seasoned foster parent you know this is true. If I didn't have a light heart at times, I would have cried endlessly at the injustices afflicting our communities' children. We see first hand the heartache of our children and of their families. We, who work as foster parents and front-line workers, are a different breed. We sign up to help suffering children and families. We sign up to be in the middle of a family's crisis. Neglect, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, physical/emotional abuse, and homelessness are only a few of the things we see firsthand. We don't read it in the newspaper or view it on the television. We hold the victims in our arms as we try to comfort them. And that is what we offer, safety and comfort.

So, how do you know you are a foster parent?

  • You open your homes and hearts 24 hours a day, every day, to children you haven't even met.
  • You know your family will grieve each and every time a child enters and leaves your home, but having the child in your lives makes it worth it.
  • Even though you realize you can't heal the child's pain, you strive to be a part of the healing.
  • You do not look to yourself for the absolute knowledge in caring for the children, but you look to others for support.
  • You volunteer all of your love even when sometimes children and their families can't accept it.
  • You give without expecting anything in return.
  • You see the strengths in children when others see their weaknesses.
  • You know others may not understand your choice to foster and may even avoid your family. The lost friendships are missed, but your decision to foster is worth it.
  • Your inner faith is enhanced as you see children grow and flourish. Even the slightest smile of a child is a victory. Their small steps are major successes.
  • You understand and aid a child returning home to a healthier family. You do what you can, even if you may not agree with the decision. You understand most of us want to be with our own families.
  • Material wealth isn't important to you. You chose to live with less to be able to give more. Wealth is in helping children find their way home, whether it be with their birth family, adoption, or being independent. You hear a child with different ears. You hear their cries of help behind their fits of anger, harsh words, or through their silence. Your patience is your strength. You don't take their fighting personally because you know they are struggling to find answers. You know their parents may be behaving in the same way as their children, for some of the same reasons.
  • You will make many mistakes, but you learn from them and keep on striving to do the best you can.
  • You give to each child in your care without sacrificing your own children.
  • You give your complete love and caring even if the child lives with you temporarily.
  • You are humble to the praises of others for what you are doing because you feel this is what we all should be doing. It is your normal way of life.
  • You record everything that is going on in your children's lives through Life Books, journals, and files because you know for confused children, you are the one to help them make sense of their lives. They can count on you. You are the "memory keeper."
  • Your arms never close to a child and your heart holds them forever.

I have only written a few of the attributes of foster parents. If you are a foster parent, I hope you see yourself. I urge you all to give to one other person, even if you feel you are tired and busy—that person is yourself!

You are worth all of the glories of this world. If your emotional and physical cup is empty then you won't have any more to give to others. So, stop and care for yourselves.

Oh, and don't forget to LAUGH!

Donna Foster and Joanne Scaturro are SIDEKICKS, a foster parent and a social worker comedy team that celebrates the human side of building positive partnerships. By combining skits, strategies, and audience involvement, SIDEKICKS' keynote addresses and workshops provide a unique learning experience for participants.

Copyright 2001 Jordan Institute for Families