What I want you to know about being a foster mother

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by "Mom." 


I sat on the witness stand in a dingy Hartford courtroom and tried to convey what it meant to love Destiny. How it felt to give my 19 month old child back to her biological parents. How it felt when they could not overcome their struggles and she came back to us. Tried to explain how it felt to hold her when the night terrors took over or what it does to a parent to put your screaming child into a car and make her go visit with people she is afraid of. What it means to say goodbye to your baby not knowing if you will ever see her again. How do you explain what it feels like to walk in the door after not seeing your baby for six months, not knowing what happened and not really even being sure you want to know. To think, "Who tucked her in? Who answered her cry? Did anyone know what she wanted? Did anyone care? Will she ever forgive me?" To see her, sleeping peacefully on your daughter's chest, and think, my miracle, my God, my second chance.

I am her foster mother. In legal terms, I mean nothing. But to Destiny, I am Momma. And to me, she is my baby.

In front of a judge who will never meet her but will decide her fate, without breaking down, without giving too much information so the "Other side" could twist my words, I looked at the woman who gave birth to her, the father who clearly loves her and said, "You cannot parent her." But knowing, all along, that I must reconcile that feeling, their anger, with the eventuality that she will need or want to know her life story, all of it, without my filter - that she is entitled to know it. I had her picture in my lap to remind me why I needed to be strong, because she cannot speak for herself, because I must do my best to speak for her. I hope I did not fail her.

Eventually, they will declare a "winner" to this case. It is not likely Destiny will legally belong to a family before she is five. For all of you who have had this same story unfold in the "child" welfare system (and there are many) for all of you who are challenged, changed or in any way touched by what you have now witnessed first hand (or read about here), please do not let it stop with this. I am surrounded by smart, loving, talented, and powerful friends. Use whatever means you have to change this. Suppport candidates who will fully fund child protective services. Lobby for laws that push for permancy for children and put the needs of children front and center in the system built to protect them. Support child advocates who make a difference. Don't know where to start? Donate to your State's Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.

When a child is placed in foster care, you, the residents of that state, are legally his or her parents. Do for the least of your children as you would for your others.

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