A Scary “New Normal” for Foster Children
Have you ever thought about what life is like for a foster child? Here they have been taken from their parents, placed with perfect strangers, given a new bed to sleep in, and so much more. Putting your self in their shoes helps put things into perspective.
I think back to the very first night we had our sweet girl brought to us. She was brought to our home around 8:30 pm. I bathed her, rocked her and laid her down in the crib. She laid perfectly still, not a peep. I could see the look of fear all over her face. Even though she had come from a really bad situation, her home was “her normal”. She was in a safer home, yet, our home was NOT “her normal”. It was a scary “new normal”.
She lived in a home where her biological parents and a few other adults spoke Spanish. Her siblings were bilingual so she was exposed to Spanish and English. Although she was exposed, we do not believe she was spoken to very much because she was non-verbal at 19 months old. It didn’t take long for her to start saying some words.
Aside from the differences in language, our looks were far different than what she was used to. Up until that point, she was pretty much only around Hispanics. Her biological parents did not have transportation to take the children anywhere. The older children rode the bus to and from school but that was about it. So, she had not even been in public much to have seen Caucasian people. After I laid her down that night, I remember going into my room and crying. My heart was breaking because of what I knew she had been through the last 19 months of life. She had a bruise across her face which could have been something accidental but from everything I knew, it probably wasn’t. My heart was hurting for this precious, innocent child. It wasn’t until around 2 am that the tears I cried were for a completely different reason.
She had woken up crying. I went in to console her. When I did, she clung to me and would not let go anytime I went to lay her back into the crib. I finally brought her into our bedroom. My husband and I sat on the bed and I just held her. She sat straight up and just stared at us with the look of complete fear looking back and forth between us. She probably had no clue where she was, where her family was and was probably wondering why we looked different and talked differently! That is when the tears began to stream down my cheeks. I could not help but think about how scary all of this was to her. No child should have to face these fears!
For weeks, everything was different. She was terrified of my husband and any other men. She had different foods offered to her at every meal after she had been used to eggs and rice as the only two foods she had been given before. She went from sleeping with her siblings to sleeping in a crib all by herself. She even went from a dirty, cluttered home to a clean home. I know that doesn’t sound scary but when “your normal” is different… even if it was a good change, it can be very scary!
I was at the Toy Fair in NYC when I met a lady who owns a company called Maru and Friends. I had been walking up and down the aisles just looking at different products. I would pass by the ones that didn’t really spark my interest. This particular booth sparked my interest. I saw the book, “Maru and Friends, Forever Friends” along with plenty of beautiful dolls. I had to stop and chat with Maritza Gutierrez, the author of the book. She shared a little about the company and I shared about my daughter. She sent the book, “Forever Friends” home with me that day. I read it by myself first but then to my daughter. I have been able to use this book to not only share more about her own story of how she came to us and some of the fears she had but I also used it as a launching pad to be able to discuss what other foster children may feel like when they come into our home.
The book shares about a girl named Maru who moves to the United States. The scary part for her is that she had to move in with her aunt and uncle that she had never met and had to leave her parents. In the book, Maru talks about the difference in the food, feeling alone at school, and so many other fears. She anticipated that day when she would be back with her parents. It was a great book to read to open the discussion with our daughter about how other children who may come into our care may feel. We shared with her how important it is to be their friend and help them not feel so scared!
My desire is to be able to instill a desire in her to have a genuine love and compassion for others… especially other foster children. This book is not just geared towards foster care type of situations. It can be a great book for anyone to read to their children so that they can be aware of other children’s struggles.
Maru and Friends collector dolls are just precious! The dolls are all different ethnicities, encouraging friendships regardless of race. The 13″ Tanya doll is absolutely beautiful. She has dark brown glass eyes that sparkle in the light, long eyelashes, long auburn hair, and a sun-kissed body. She comes with two different hairstyles, one straight with bangs and the other is a crimpy curly style. Velcro is attached to her head which allows a change in hairstyles without the hair falling off. She may look porcelain but she is made from a smooth vinyl. Her head can be positioned and she can sit or stand very easily.
Her modern new look is matched by her new outfit, short hot blue jeans, pink sweat hoodie top and almost to the knees, leather style boots. Panties included.
Her outfits can be switched easily with the easy access velcro backings stitched onto each piece of clothing.
We don’t know when we will have another foster care placement but when we do, we have a very special doll and book that we are ready to pass on. As these children come and go from our home, we try to find ways to send something home with them that will remind them of the time they had at our home. The Tanya doll has brown hair and brown eyes like my daughter which would be a GREAT reminder to our next foster child to remember that they had a little friend who shared a room with them for however long and genuinely cared about them and their feelings! I hope that one day, our foster kids will tell stories to their own children about how the Smith family left an impression on their life. Maybe they will pass the Tanya doll and book on to their own daughter and teach them about compassion and kindness by using examples of how they were shown true love when they needed it most. Thank you, Maru and Friends. We can’t wait to pass on the legacy of love to our next foster girl!