Today marks exactly one year that our precious foster daughter has been with us. 365 days. She is 18 months old. That means she has lived with us twice as long as she ever lived with her parents. I am overwhelmed at the thought of it. My emotions range from sentimental to nothing short of outraged.
I’ll start with the sentimental. My love for Sweet M began the day we met and has deepened each day. For 365 days. Yes, she is all toddler and can throw-you the tantrums to prove it, but I can’t imagine being stuck in quarantine with an easier one year old. Caring for a toddler isn’t easy (their needs being relentless, their energy being endless) yet I feel such joy and am humbled by the opportunity to care for her, play with her, experience new things with her each day, and love her oh so deeply.
Sweet M is extremely intelligent, fun, curious, and has outstanding intuition and verbal comprehension. She is speaking new words and using more sign language each week. While time spent with our friends and family has been extremely limited and remains outdoor only during this pandemic, everyone makes the same comment about M: she is such an easy-going child. I have so much respect and admiration for parents (birth parents, foster parents, grandparents, and caregivers) who are caring for a challenging child, especially through this pandemic. Add them to the list of society’s heroes!
Like most toddlers, Sweet M fights fiercely but never wins the battle to hold my smartphone or the *real* TV remote (how does she know the old VCR remote without batteries isn’t the real one?). She poops in the tub. Often. She throws food she doesn’t want to eat and has rarely ever swallowed a fresh veggie (thanks to Gerber for whatever they put in their vegetable purees because she still scarfs that stuff down). She drinks tons of water and loves sausage and french fries. She’ll eat any salty snack.
At 90th percentile for height, she can reach onto our kitchen counters and open every door. She carefully studies baby gates and drawer locks and is sure to figure out how to open them any day now. She will hug your leg immediately after hitting it. She is scared of loud noises but loves moving fast. That means she loves to chase bubbles but is scared of the sound her bubble lawnmower makes. (Her fear of loud noises gives me an excuse to run the vacuum less often, ironically since I need to run it daily with a toddler and snacking tweens in the house.)
Sweet M’s favorite songs are Itsy Bitsy Spider, Patty Cake and Baby Shark (sigh). She loves when I sign the ABCs in American Sign Language, and she moves her fingers in various positions trying to do it herself. She asks me to sing Bushel and a Peck each night as I rock her before bed. She loves to play peek-a-boo, blow kisses and put her hands to her chest when you ask if she loves you with all her heart. She thinks it’s funny to give someone a coy sideways glance, and the sound of her laugh could very well be the sweetest sound in the entire world. She lived with us for more than six months before we ever heard that spontaneous laugh.
Enough sentimentality … let me explain an ugly side of fostering: court delays and extremely slow progress in a child’s case. In the past year, the only court hearing held for Sweet M was the Probable Cause hearing held within the first few days of her removal from the home. Just when we were pushing hard and hoping to get on the court’s docket, the pandemic hit and courts closed. (Judges have continued signing emergency removals and approving agreements already in place, however those conditions don’t apply to this case.)
What does that mean for kids in care? It means during the four months of pandemic, progress is not being made in the court system to move their cases forward. To get them closer to their forever homes, whether that is reunification with their parents or extended family, or placement into an adoptive home. Kinship home studies are taking *exponentially* more time to complete.
These kids! These precious, innocent heart-broken victims! These poor kids’ lives are hanging in limbo, and older children know it. New trauma caused by the delays is being compounded on top of whatever trauma they experienced in their past. My heart aches for these children who deserve progress in their cases, movement toward healing and resolutions and the beginning of the rest of their lives. They deserve answers and they need face-to-face therapies, not via video chat. Adults talk constantly about all that COVID has stolen from us, but it’s nothing compared to the impact the pandemic is having on these kids in care, as well as their parents.
So here we sit at the one-year mark for Sweet M, and I’m overwhelmed with emotions ranging from sentimental for my overwhelming love for this child, to outraged over the fact that she remains in care with (seemingly) zero progress in her case.
If you are considering becoming a foster parent, now is the time. These precious children need you now more than ever. Please don’t use this pandemic as an excuse to wait, because new kids are coming into care every single day in South Carolina. A child enters care every two minutes in the United States! Need more information before you take that leap of faith? Reach out today to ask questions, find answers, talk with a current foster parent and make sure they tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly so you feel prepared for all of it.
If not you, then who? If not now, then when? Let the open arms of the foster care community welcome you into our ranks! These kids need you — you’ve got this!
Our staff at Care2Foster in addition to our #SHAREfostering Ambassadors (like Sara) would be thrilled to talk with you more about what it may look like to take your first step in learning about becoming a foster parent today. No guilt, no pressure! Contact Care2Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (864) 202-6839
Not quite ready to take that step into full time fostering yet? That’s okay too! Learn more about respite and other ways that you can support foster families and/or advocate for children in care. Everyone has a role to play!