Foster Mom: The First 72 Hours

By Melanie Wilson

Just to catch everyone up…. I decided to become a foster mother last year. I finally got a call one Friday morning in October at 8:30 am. I was still in bed being lazy. I jumped up, listened to the story about the kids, and immediately said yes.

Once I got off of the phone I panicked. I didn’t have two beds. I didn’t have anything a 9-month-old and an elementary kid needed. Honestly, I didn’t even have food in my house because I don’t cook and I eat out all the time.

What was I thinking? I can’t do this!

I needed to talk to my mom. I called several times with no answer. So I called my dad. He was super excited but I was still panicking. My mother finally called back and was so excited and said she’d be at my house the next day.

I also called my best friend and explained the situation. It was 9 am and the two boys would be here at 1 pm. We had four hours and I had no idea what I needed.

My friend and her husband came over we cleared out the room. We put together the one bed I had and then it was time to go to the store.

We loaded up two buggies. I needed food, diapers, bottles, a diaper genie, another bed, sheets, medicines, baby soap, and I have no idea what else was in those buggies. I know I looked like a deer in headlights because that is how I felt.

Funny side story: While we were checking out the buggy with the new bed flipped over sideways and everything fell out. We looked a hot mess in that check out line.

We made it back to my house about 12 pm. Another friend came to help. The beds were being put together and sheets and bottles were being washed. I realized I didn’t even know how to make a bottle.

It was a whirlwind of activity and I know I couldn’t have done it without my village (that I didn’t even know I had).

The boys didn’t show up till closer to 3pm. It’s strange when the case worker brings a child to you. I was so excited to have them and at first sight I was in love. I had to remember that these children were just taken from a tough situation and even though it was tough they still love their families. At that moment I knew I’d made the right decision.

That first evening was good. We played. We had a small melt down when the older one didn’t get his way. We ate dinner. We got through bath time. We put on a movie and watched it in our pjs.

Then it was time for bed. I could immediately tell they didn’t have a bed time routine. Remember I don’t have biological children so the only experience I have with bed time is babysitting or having a slumber party with my nieces. But I knew I had to decide on a routine quickly and go with it. The older kiddo went to bed with a few tears but fell asleep shortly. However the baby was another story. He cried bloody murder when he was put in his bed. I rocked him to sleep, but as soon as I laid him down he woke up and screamed. We slept on the couch. He slept on my chest and I didn’t sleep much.

The next day I took them to the walk-in-clinic for ear infections. This trip was a little rough. The baby slept through the exam but the older kid didn’t want to corporate. He tried to escape and he screamed. After a night of no sleep and this outburst, I was a wreck. I had to walk out into the hallway and I cried. I was overwhelmed, but I cried mostly because someone had treated this sweet baby so poorly that he had no idea how to behave or react.

We then went to my niece’s birthday party. The baby was still sleeping. He slept most of the first 72 hours. The party went well, so I thought we could conquer Walmart. It was fine but when it was time to go, things went downhill. The older kiddo laid out on the ground and then ran into the parking lot. It was such a scene management came to help me.

By the time we made it home my mom was there. I knew I needed help the second I got the call and it turned out I really needed it.

Sunday morning was going amazing! We got up, ate breakfast, and got ready for church and then all of the sudden life turned quickly.

Children aren’t taken from their families for small things. It has to be a substantial thing and in this case it was very substantial. The behavior the older kiddo displayed was because of the things that happened to him and it wasn’t his fault at all. He’s never seen healthy behavior.

That Sunday morning is the worse thing I have ever seen in my life. His reactions were plain scary. I’m crying as I write this and relive that morning. All I could think about was protecting the baby and this child. I had to make a tough decision. I called the case worker and it was decided that the boys needed to be in different homes. I know it’s awful to separate siblings but I promise it was the best thing for them.

People often label children in foster care as bad, messed up, broken, and many other negative words. The saddest part is it’s honestly not their fault at all. They don’t know how to talk through their emotions because most have never seen people talk through problems.

I share this tough experience because of the need for good foster homes. These children need homes and adults that demonstrate healthy behavior and reactions. These children also need adults that show them compassion and understanding.

Think about it this way: If someone hacked into your computer and gave it a virus your computer would start crashing in different ways. Most people would try to find information on how to fix the problem or call technical support. Our children are precious and priceless and we need to step up and help them become amazing adults.

There are two quotes that run through my head all of the time:

– “The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways.” Russel Barkley

– “It is easier to build strong children than to repair a broken man.” Frederick Douglas

Maybe if we kept these two quotes in the back of our heads when we deal with foster children or any children for that matter we could build a stronger and even more successful generation than our own.

DID YOU KNOW: If you suspect child abuse or neglect you can call DCFS Child Protection hotline at 1-855-4LA-KIDS (1-855-452-5437) toll-free 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

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