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A Foster Mom’s Reflections on Mother’s Day

Posted Date: 05/12/2017
By:

Chantel Barber
Foster mom and former DCFS employee

The other night after our older two boys were in bed, I was in the rocking chair feeding my newborn while my husband was snuggled up on the bed with our two-year-old who wasn’t feeling well. He looked over at me and said, “Gosh, how did we get here?” I knew right away he was referring to us being parents of four children when it seemed like only yesterday we were a young, married couple with no children (and lots of free time).  My initial snarky reply was, “Do we need to discuss where babies come from?”  But seriously, I began thinking back on being a mom over the past five years. 

My “mom journey” has been anything but ordinary. We opened as a foster home in February 2012 and in a few months went from having zero children to three. Over the next four years, we welcomed 10 more foster children into our home. We ultimately said goodbye to 11 of those children. The first three moved to a more specialized foster home, some went back to their parents, some went to relatives and some were adopted. And the remaining two children officially became our sons when their adoption was finalized in 2015. I also became a mom in 2014 when our daughter was born, and again just a few weeks ago when our son was born. 

In sum, I have been mom to 15 children in five years’ time. The kids have ranged in age from newborn to 11 years. They have been boys and girls, black and white. Some stayed only a couple weeks while others stayed several months to more than a year. And, of course, four will be ours for a lifetime. Some were easy while others were extremely challenging. Some made great progress while living with us. Others had needs we were not equipped to handle. There are a few with whom I remain in contact and am joyful to know they continue to do well. However, I will likely never see or hear from the many of them again. And that’s ok. Being a foster mom means – as another foster parent coined it – being a “middle mom.” You are mom until they return to their biological parents, are placed with relatives or are adopted by a new family. One of my happiest moments as a foster mom was seeing one of my kiddos find her forever family. Another was seeing a biological dad gain custody of his daughter. In both of those cases, the children came to us in very poor health with extremely complex needs. Both left having made great progress! 

There is also a sad part to being a foster mom, and that is knowing that some children will never have a relationship with their biological mom again (or at least until they are grown and decide to seek out their bio family). Seven of the children we fostered no longer have a relationship with their biological parents, because of termination of parental rights (TPR). While four of those children were adopted, including two by us, it does not mean their trauma was erased or that having a new parent somehow erases their bio parent. I know that to be true from my experience with my adopted sons. While their mother was unable to care for them due to serious mental health issues, I still have compassion for her. I know she loved her boys. She was just not capable of keeping them safe or meeting their needs. 

Please note that every child enters foster care from a unique situation. Some may have experienced so much trauma with their bio family they never want to return home. I have seen this with a couple of my foster children, but most of the time, children do miss their parents. And every child loses a part of themselves and their story when TPR occurs.

So this Mother’s Day, while we celebrate moms (be they foster, adoptive or biological), let’s not forget the moms who have lost their children and for whom the day is not so joyous. And for those of us who have adopted, let’s be aware this may be a hard day for our children who have lost a mom even if they don’t verbalize it.

Editor's Note: The Division of Children and Family Services is responsible for safety of children and youth in Arkansas. The division provides for protection plans, foster care and adoption services for children. For more information, visit FosterArkansas.org. Chantel and her husband are pictured below with their two adopted sons and biological daughter. This photo was taken before the arrival of their newborn son.

 

Arkansas Department
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