In 2019 we signed up to start the fostering course, and even though we knew what we had signed up for, we did not know what it would entail per se. We started our journey with one definition of fostering and each week that definition is challenged.
We are constantly learning just how challenging fostering really is and all the emotions that encompass it. If you dare to ask any foster carer to share their experiences, ready your couch, your coffee, and your soul for the onslaught of memories and emotions you will witness. It is truly a beautiful experience, perfectly juxtaposed with pain. That statement alone might make you wary of fostering but allow me to explain.
We are new to this world and foster carers who have been doing this for years will have more to add to the mix. However, I shall try to share our experiences of being foster carers for the past 10 months. In the beginning, we got faced with a lot of confusion from friends and family. They could not understand why we would opt to foster knowing full well that one day, the child we care for might be reunited with their family.
It is a question that is not easily explained and is to this day, a constant internal struggle. Our brains tell us “this is the purpose of fostering”, and our hearts tell us “I am about to break in ways you never knew possible” – and mind you, they are both right, both brain and heart. This is the struggle I speak of.
Ten months ago, our home was filled with the giggles and mumbles of a toddler and our lives moulded to adapt to this new purpose. Since this happened in the thick of the pandemic, we were pretty much left to our devices for the first two months. Our social worker checked in on a weekly basis and kept us up to speed, but it was pretty much just the three of us for two months. We morphed into a family unit and we did catch ourselves thinking, “we could get used to this”. And we did. Normally the child would have visits with the family on a weekly basis. However, due to COVID-19, the Directorate for Alternative Care suspended supervised access visits (SAVs) during the lockdown. This was why we were able to get into a routine and began to think that fostering is not all that challenging. We were wrong.
Fostering is incredibly challenging for the sole reason that your family unit becomes welded with another family unit, entirely different from your own. So different that your brain starts trying to figure out what happened in the course of their lives to affect their fate so differently from your own.
As hard as it is, it is also beautiful, you are stepping in to help in taking care of their most prized possession while they take the necessary steps to get their lives back on track. We did not reach this conclusion straight away. In fact, it took us months of experiences to come to terms with the fact that we needed to take a step back and see it from different points of view.
We listened to our social worker, and we listened to other foster carers who shared their experiences with us. We embraced this challenge and changed our approach, making ourselves completely available for the child and their family. We came to terms with the fact that their family was heeding the agencies advice and following their recommendations to regain custody of their child.
This is what fostering is all about. Stepping in to take care of a ward of the state for the required duration, which may in some cases lead to permanent placement within the foster family or it might lead to re-integration. For too long, we looked at re-integration as the worst possible outcome. And it was, for our hearts and our emotional wellbeing; but this is not what fostering is.
Fostering is putting all your emotions aside and hoping for the best, the best for this child, whatever that may be and whether you agree with it or not. We often caught ourselves thinking, “this child is better off with us for we can offer more”, perhaps that is so, but no child should ever wonder why their family did not fight for them.
Each child is deserved of all the love in this world, care, safety and overall wellbeing. It is not our decision to state who can secure a better future for this child. However, it is our duty to step in and care for them while their parents take a step back, a deep breath and start their journey at parenting afresh.
Lovin Malta is open to external contributions that are well written and thought-provoking. If you would like your commentary to be featured as a guest post, please write to [email protected], add Guest Post in the subject line and attach a profile photo for us to use near your byline. Contributions are subject to editing and do not necessarily represent Lovin Malta’s views.