Well, Thomas and I made it through our first 48 hours as foster parents. I should revise that statement: Thomas and I made it through the first 48 hours as foster parents thanks in large part to my sister, Rita.
Because this was a transition situation and not a traditional foster placement, we had a week to prepare. The upside is, we had time to prepare. The downside is I had a week to work myself into a panic, which is exactly what I did.
By the time Friday rolled around, I was pretty much a ticking time bomb.
The First Night as Foster Parents
Honestly, compared to other people, I think our first night as foster parents was easier than normal. H* had met us the week before so it wasn’t like he was being dropped off with complete strangers. Also, the foster fam he was living with are awesome and hyped us up all week so he was excited. They also provided us with notes on H’s likes and dislikes, so we kind of knew what to expect.
I think normally you’d get a crying, scared little kid and you just have to trial and error stuff to figure it out. We didn’t have to.
Plus, I’ve been reading all these books about fostering and toddlers and how routine is basically the most important thing. Ever. Period. So, armed with this knowledge and the notes, I felt prepared.
I was not.
The Importance of Routine (and How I Failed in the First 48 Hours)
I thought I followed the routine to a “T” but the second I walked out of his room, he started sobbing. I probably could have held it together but then he started begging for his mom. I literally stood outside of the door and cried while my sister hugged me.
I tried to recall what the book said. The only thing I could remember was “Establish routines. Stick to your guns”.
After the longest 5 minutes of my life he stopped crying and fell asleep.
The next morning I talked to the previous foster parents and they said they rub his back for a few minutes before leaving his room and then he doesn’t cry.
I tried that the next night and it worked.
Wrong. This knowledge only makes me feel worse. Because had I just gone in the room and comforted him instead of “trying to stick to the routine” he wouldn’t have cried himself to sleep.
And I can’t take that back or change it. His first night as a foster kid in our home he cried himself to sleep because of me. I know I tried to do the right thing. I know my heart was in the right place. I know that I couldn’t have guessed this so I shouldn’t blame myself.
I also know anyone who is already a mother (including my own mom) probably is reading this and thinking “how did she not instinctively know this?”
Honestly, I doubt he even remembers, considering he’s 4 and cries about lots of things every day: green beans on his plate, brushing his teeth, picking up toys, when TV time ends.
But I remember. And it feels horrible.
Privacy & Protection for Foster Children
*It is the policy of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) that foster parents do not share personal information, like children’s names, for safety reasons, which is why we refer to the foster kiddo in our care as “H”.