I’m a foster parent. Here’s what I’ve learned.

By Monica Baudendistel

My name is Monica Baudendistel, I am a foster/adopt parent. You kind of expect an applause after saying something like that. No, I am not crazy, not masochistic, into extreme drama or extreme parenting. My husband, Marvin, and I have ten children between us and seven (soon to be eight) grandchildren. We have a very strong friendship between us and have watched our children grow up, move out, have children of their own.

When we started our goal was to adopt one child and then stop fostering. However, we were told that the number one goal of foster care is reunification with the parents or other members of the children’s family, not adoption. It didn’t seem to matter .Something in both of us kept pushing. We received our first placement of a three-year-old boy - blond, hazel eyes, 26 pounds of pure energy. At the time, he was the smallest three-year-old either of us had ever seen. He had been malnourished, physically abused and extremely neglected. Fourteen months to the day, we adopted him.

We thought we would stop after one, but nine and a half years later we’ve had 32 different foster placements and have adopted two more. And, there will be more children to come. You can make your personal plan but somehow, if you are anything like us, you can’t help but help.

Over the years of doing foster care, we have come across some true life experiences, things that no one would expect. Never take a new respite child who  is deaf to a McDonald’s play land and expect him to come when you sign “time to go” to him. He won’t come. You have to wait until he decides and that takes a couple of hours of constant ASL, patience, some panic and a touch of finesse (ice cream briberies work in both the deaf and hearing communities). Never, and I mean never, run to the closest store to buy clothes for a five month old that you are expected to get before you get him. You might find out that it wasn’t a typo, he really does weigh 27 pounds and there is not an ounce of fat on this baby.

Never assume that just because the room is filled with caseworkers during a family unity meeting that everything is running smoothly. I did once, and a mother thought that I was going to steal her child from her. She flew across two tables to get in my face and scream obscenities at me. It petrified me to the point that before I would walk out the door with the baby, I had to check both ways. I later became very good friends with this mother. She would travel from Fort Collins to Loveland by bus, arrive two hours early for her supervised visit in 100 degree weather and wait outside for me to arrive.  We wound up sponsoring her and helping her get her baby boy back. She set the standard extremely high, and I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t judge a person, period. Everyone has a story, some more adventurous than others.

During our time as foster parents, we have laughed when a child that is extremely trauma impacted runs to you and hugs you for the first time. We have cried when it’s time to say goodbye. We have been comforted watching a child grow and develop and overcome the many obstacles and challenges that brought them to live with us in the first place.

I have found that no two cases are the same.  Each case comes with its own set of trauma drama. Kids always love their parents no matter what has happened to them, and you can’t take a parent’s place. Still, some children have gone through more than any human being should ever face, yet they can bounce back from it so fast.

We have encountered so many changing factors in our nine and a half years as foster parents and accumulated a vast array of knowledge, much more so than raising our own biological children. We know about road blocks that can cause a person to give up their certification and walk away without ever looking back. We’ve seen it happen and several times we have thought about how much simpler life could be if we threw in the towel. Then, we look at a child in need of a safe and secure home and a regular schedule, where things are predictable, and we muster through.

We’ve seen what foster parents can do for kids. Those positives counterbalance the negative. They make those midnight runs to the emergency room, the picky eater, the child who won’t talk, the child that doesn’t want contact of any kind or the little baby that shakes and screams from addiction worth it. Those challenges disappear with time, patience and love, helping to unwrap a child’s problems and woes.

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