Difficult Moments of a Foster Mom
I really do love being a foster mom. Sometimes, I have to convince myself how much I love it but those are typically in the hard moments that I face. Most would say that giving a child back is a hard moment. It is… but the day in and day out moments often are what hurts my heart most. One particular time that always seems to be the most heart wrenching.
The Initial Moments of Leaving Home
A child leaving their home can be very traumatic. As you can imagine, when the social worker comes into the child’s home to remove them, it is not under the best circumstances (or they wouldn’t have to remove them, to begin with). Imagine a child being ripped from their parent. Although their situations are not “normal”, it is still THEIR normal. So, taking them away from the parent who they are comfortable with is heart-wrenching to the child even if it is the best thing.
Typically, when they arrive at our home, they are in the “shock stage”. Scared, to say the least, but usually, it results in a child either being overly shy or off the wall hyper because they are nervous. They may not want to come near us or they may be attached to our hip. Each child is different. This next picture is an actual picture of my daughter the first night she was in our home. You can see the fear in her eyes!
Although they may respond differently, almost every single child we have had come into our care breaks down the same way at night. They are in a home that they are unfamiliar with. They have strangers as their new protectors, their caregivers, and their main support. Regardless if they are a baby or an older child, nighttime is hard. VERY hard. Every one of the children we have had in our home has had a rough “first night”. It breaks my heart to hear the cries and see the fear and uncertainty in their eyes. They haven’t begun to trust me by the first night’s sleep so they are often hard to console.
After the first night, nighttime gets easier but still is often the most difficult time for us. The moment when all is quiet and they are left with their emotions is a scary thing for them. The busyness of the day has now come to a halt and they are no longer distracted from the fears and the “what ifs”. If a child is going to break down, it is most likely going to be at night, right after you walk out of the bedroom. I have found five things that work best for nighttime.
Creating a routine.
We read a book, pray, tuck them in, and then finish off by giving extra hugs and kisses. A child knowing their bedtime routine and having set expectations helps them to wind down and be prepared for that moment that you walk out the door. Many of them have not had a routine so it can be a little scary at first. Eventually, they will crave a routine!
Turn on a nightlight.
Most children are terrified of the dark but even if they are not, going to bed in a strange room can be terrifying in itself. Having a nightlight as they fall asleep can help relieve some of the stress of falling asleep.
Give them a special stuffed animal.
We like to take our foster children to Build-A-Bear within the first few days of them coming into our home. They get to pick out their favorite stuffed animal which provides more of an attachment, In turn, that attachment helps them get through the night easier. We also have a favorite bear in our home called Sergeant SleepTight that “protects” while we sleep.
Providing a soft pillow and blankets
We have found that most of the children who come into our care have been used to sleeping with parents or siblings. The state has laws against allowing anyone to sleep with a foster child so they have to get used to sleeping on their own. That is very difficult when they are already scared but are also used to having the comfort and even the body heat from someone else and then no longer have that.
Our newest child that has been placed with us was having a hard time sleeping at night. That was when she was most fearful and lonely feeling. We had tried all the above tactics that we normally try and nothing seemed to be working. Finding her soft, comfortable blankets was key to a good night’s sleep for her. We had a ZZZ Sleep pillow but they have since gone out of business. We found that proper sleeping positions is the key to getting a good night’s rest which is why we loved the ZZZ Sleep pillow so much. It held her little body in place perfectly. It worked so well for her!
Life as a foster mom has some amazing rewards. I can’t even tell you how much it does my heart good to know that I am able to love these children through the toughest time of their lives. I get to work alongside their parents to help them to be the parents the child desperately needs. We have seen changed lives in both parents AND children. It is a blessing but it is not for the faint at heart!