Foster care is hard. Abuse and neglect hurt children. But foster parents make the difference in the lives of these children, and some of them make a difference not only in the life of the child, but the child’s biological family as well. As a foster care case licensing worker since 1997, I’ve seen thousands of vulnerable children who have been cared for by Miracle Hill foster families. I have many stories to share, but here are a few that stand out in my memory.
A Cry in the Middle of the Night
After a long week of work, my phone rang at 2 a.m. on Saturday morning. It was the Department of Social Service’s (DSS) on-call worker asking if we would take a two-month-old infant. My husband and I quickly agreed. The worker continued to tell the story of how this infant’s mother had been arrested on the side of the road. In her vehicle officers found liquid of an unknown substance in a gas can; it was assumed to be methamphetamine. The worker soon arrived at our home with the infant in a car seat and a diaper bag.
For the next few days, we cared for this little one as if she were our own. She quickly fell asleep on my chest. After putting her in the crib, we headed back to bed. She woke for her feedings throughout the night. On Monday morning, I met a DSS worker who took this little one, only to move her to another foster home since we were an emergency foster home. Within a few days, I found out that “our” child had to be moved yet once again because of the other foster family’s inability to care for her needs. She frequently cried and became hard to console. After being checked out by medical professionals, the infant tested at high levels of methamphetamine. Caring for a drug-addicted infant requires a lot of attention and patience as well as a willingness to learn how to meet the child’s needs. Although we may never know what happened to this little one, we do know that we were able to care for her at the moment she was in need.
Thinking back to some of my earlier days in working with foster parents reminds me of a family that caught the vision of working with biological parents who oftentimes have been traumatized as children or teenagers themselves. Mr. and Mrs. Burden saw the need to encourage young biological mothers to complete their treatment plan in order to get their children back. The Burdens even helped a family fix up their home in order to have a safe place for their children.
Mrs. Burden never saw herself as one in competition or trying to take the place of a child’s biological mother but one who could assist the child and family in caring for the child in a safe and nurturing manner on a temporary basis. All of the biological families and foster care workers who worked with the Burdens were grateful for the investment and concern given to them personally and to their children. Although two children were unable to return home to their family and were eventually adopted by the Burden family, they have kept in contact with the children’s biological family through the years, sending pictures of the children and texting from time to time.
Another foster family that had two biological children of their own became foster parents and welcomed two more middle school boys into their home. Although they knew little about the biological family situation at the time, the family met the boys’ biological father at various meetings at DSS and at a court hearing. The foster father invited the biological father to join him at their church’s Men’s Roundtable meeting. After the biological father found other men who were interested in him and his boys, he quickly worked to complete his court-ordered treatment plan. During the boys’ stay in the foster home, the foster father was able to help the biological father grow in his understanding of ways to successfully parent his children. The boys were returned to their father, and the family continued to attend the church and receive encouragement to move forward.
What it Takes To Foster
Foster parents are initially trained in a standard curriculum regarding foster care. However, learning about traumatized children is an on-going process. Parents need support from extended family members, friends and neighbors, community partners, and a local church. Ideally, we want to keep a foster child in one home to provide stability. Moving a foster children from home to home is not in the child’s best interest. So working with foster families to help them successfully meet the needs of traumatized children is part of the role of the foster care worker.
Additionally, we often need to work with medical professionals and counselors when foster families take in children who have been abused and neglected. The Upstate of South Carolina is blessed to have a large variety of services to help children and families in dealing with abuse and neglect. Foster families feel supported and learn much from professionals who help answer questions and give guidance in caring for these foster children. On-going education provided through these various agencies helps our community grow and helps these children become productive members of society who develop healthy relationships with others.
South Carolina’s foster care system continues to expand, with nearly 4700 children currently in care. Perhaps you and your family would be interested and feel the call to pursue foster care licensing in order to help a child in need. We encourage prospective foster parents to find a licensing agency which can not only license them but that cares about them, that is attentive and responsive, and most importantly that prays for them. Foster care is hard, but together, the foster family with their licensing agency, can make a difference. Go to Miracle Hill’s foster care information page to learn more about about our program.
Post submitted by Sharon Betts, Foster Care Licensing Supervisor for Miracle Hill Foster Care. Sharon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org