Foster parenting necessitates a huge heart. The truth is that few people would ever volunteer to care after other people’s children. Those who do, however, make a significant difference in the lives of terrified youngsters who worry what their days will be like each time they are forced to move from one location to another.
Grace Kriegel, a foster mother, shared the following tale with us. She talked about what it takes to become a foster parent and how the children who come into their lives change everything.
It’s available to read below.
“That sums up our lives in a nutshell. When strangers inquire about what it’s like to be a foster family, we are rarely questioned further. However, when they glance down the line of children by my side, the questions are there in their eyes.
As they dismissively comment, ‘Well, I could never do that,’ before shifting their attention back to their own life, the judgement is all on their features. ‘I’d never be able to accomplish that.’ So, stranger, allow me to respond to some of the questions you’ve been afraid to ask. Please take a seat. Make yourself at home. Allow me to extend an invitation…”
“‘Hey, Grace,” says the narrator. A tiny girl was left behind. She’s been admitted to the hospital. She’s not even given a name. We need to place her in a foster family, and it won’t be for long. Is it possible for you to fetch her up in an hour?’
“I took the phone call while we were standing in Target, trying to buy jeans for the 12-year-old who was already in our care.” My husband and I exchanged glances. We didn’t even have to talk about it. ‘Yes.’ We got a few garments and a box of diapers, swung by the house to get a car seat, and 45 minutes later, we were holding the most beautiful little Pakistani princess. What is her legal name? Surrender (to our county) in safety.”
“Let’s fast forward four months.
“‘Hey, Grace,” says the narrator. A referral to the local children’s hospital has been made by the pediatrician. It appears that Safe (we were not permitted to alter her name) was not inspected at birth, and there may be more going on than we originally assumed. Is it possible for you to curtail your vacation short in order to get her to this appointment?’
“We scheduled the meeting. ‘Safe Surrender?’ they said over the intercom, referring to her legal name. As we approached the nurse at the door, I felt the glances of strangers. No one said it, but everyone believed it. ‘Who gives their child that name?’ There were numerous tests performed on the heart, kidneys, and spine. A diagnosis of a few congenital abnormalities requiring many procedures and a period of time with a colostomy bag. There were additional tests, appointments, and explanations to uninformed medical personnel as to why this small baby’s name was so unique.
“‘Hey, Grace,” says the narrator. I’ve just received your message. Those are very serious medical requirements. Do you believe you’ll be able to handle it? If necessary, we can move her to a level 2 house.’
“We took care of it.” As she awoke from her surgery, we sat by her bedside. We hugged her while she sobbed inconsolably.
We discovered how to look after a colostomy bag. We placed an order for materials and paid for them ourselves. We needed new garments to make room for her colostomy bag, so we went shopping. We stood by and watched her recover.
We watched as she began to put her faith in us. We adored her, and she grew as a result. She had surgery to reverse her colostomy at the age of ten months, and she never looked back.”
“‘Hey, Grace,” says the narrator. For the unknown father, we published in the newspaper. We have yet to receive a response. It appears that this case will be put up for adoption. ‘Are you open to adopting Safe?’
“I’d want to take a break from my story right now.” Because, at the end of the day, our fostering journey boils down to one thing: hope. The act of waiting with bated breath for anything to happen. It’s not simple, and it certainly doesn’t turn us into saints. However, it leads us to hope that there is more, and better, for broken families and wounded children out there.
“So, let’s talk about some of the unstated questions you’ve undoubtedly brought up:
“‘How do you love so many children and then send them back to their parents?’
“Hope. I sincerely hope that their families have learned to cope with stress more effectively. I’m hoping that we’ve developed deep, meaningful bonds with our biological family. I’m hoping to see them again, but this time under much better circumstances.
“‘How do you put up with such heinous conduct?’
“Hope. Because grief can resemble wrath at times. And if we can get through the wrath, I think we’ll be able to get to the grief. And I believe that if we can address the grieving, we will be able to address the healing.
“‘How do you even deal with the constant chaos in your house?’
“Hope. I am an adult who can cope with sudden, unexpected change in a sensible manner. The kids who come to our house aren’t like that. Even though the unexpected upheaval is upsetting, I have optimism that we can be a safe refuge amid a storm for lost and bewildered tiny souls. I’m hopeful that we’ll all settle into a new normal and find comfort in it.
“‘I’d be depressed all of the time.’ ‘How are you supposed to listen to their tales?’
“Hope. Children’s cries for help wake me up several times a night. I sit in a glider for hours, clutching sobbing little bodies until they eventually recover their breath. I document injuries, issue prescriptions, observe intense in-home therapy, and write out many evaluation forms requesting physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. I witness a preteen battle with mental health while listening to a toddler recount experiences of domestic violence. I repeatedly open the refrigerator to demonstrate to children that there is always food. I participate in IEP sessions and advocate for children. But did you know there’s anything else I do? I’m in tears. At the end of some days, I fall into my husband’s arms and beg him to just put this work down because it’s heavy. But, as he points out, hope helps to lighten the strain. We take a big breath, lean into hope, and do it all over again every day.”
“Which leads me back to the beginning of our story.
“‘Hey. Grace! Congratulations! It appears that we’ve set a date for your adoption ceremony in March! You are free to invite whomever you like. Several social professionals will also be present. They want to see this matter to its conclusion.’
“I took the stand at ten o’clock on March 14, 2018.” I took the oath of office. I gazed into the eyes of our 75 friends and family members who had taken time out of their day to come celebrate with us. I turned to face my husband, who was seated there with that wonderful young child who had been a part of our family for the last 14 months. Safe Surrender was the name of a tiny girl whose name told the circumstances of her birth. A tiny girl who had suffered so much loss, yet for whom we had high hopes. After that, I answered a few questions…
“‘Grace, what name has your family chosen for her?”
“I shifted my gaze to my daughter. As I replied, she gave me the largest grin.
‘Her name is Arya,’ says the narrator. ‘Arya Hope,’ she says.
“She’s three years old now, and she’s completely funny!” We recently marked the two-year anniversary of her adoption.
We’ve kept fostering, and Arya now has an older foster sister, an older foster brother, and a younger foster brother.”