Becoming Foster Parents: The Alternative

In Mind, Body & Spirit, Pushing Forward by Jamie Kendall

It is hard to know exactly when my maternal instinct and desire to have a child began, because I knew I always wanted to be a mother. The tiny obstacle I faced is that biologically, this is not in the cards for me this lifetime due to my disability. My husband also shares my disability, Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), and between the two of our genetics, coupled with my body structure which includes small stature and severe scoliosis, we knew we wouldn’t biologically have children (some people with less severe OI do in fact have their own biological children).

After a period of time of allowing myself to grieve over the fact that I’d never biologically have children due to the nature of my OI, I started to get pragmatic and look at other options for having children in my life. My husband and I have a strong marriage, and we have a lot of love to provide to a child – I knew we could be parents in some way. Knowing how badly I wanted children, my husband and I continued what became a two year conversation about how to reconcile my strong desires for a child and his trepidation about managing our health, full time jobs and already full lifestyle. What we settled upon was enrolling in foster parent training class in the city of Alexandria.

I came out of the course feeling a bit more anxious about any parenthood, including foster parenthood, and Tim came out feeling more empowered and ready to tackle this new role – so you could say we met in the middle. The bottom line: we were excited, nervous, and open to this new experience that we knew would be life changing.

Tim and I wondered how our disabilities would impact the process of becoming certified foster parents. Thankfully, the social workers whom we worked with focused on our assets – not our deficits. Our philosophy has always been – hey – we are small, and we use wheelchairs rather than our legs to get around, but we are able to fully provide for a child. We have emotional and financial resources to love and nurture each other and a family. And we’ll get so much back in return. We have not been wrong.

Our first foster daughter, Claudia, arrived at our home on November 23rd, 2004.

From the moment she walked through the door I was in love with this seven year old. Both of our hearts are completely filled with love for this young girl. She has changed our lives, indeed.

What before was filled with time for my husband and I to do things alone or with friends is now filled with bath times, homework, coloring, Jui Jit Tzu, swimming lessons and other child activities. We’ve had to re prioritize tasks in order to accommodate having a child, like all parents do, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Foster parenting is very different from adoption, as the goal of foster care is to provide a loving and nurturing environment for children until they can return to their biological families. Although Claudia has been with us for several months now and it is hard to imagine life without her –at some point she’ll probably move on to a relative or return to her biological parents, and we are prepared for that to happen.

I am reminded that she isn’t my “real” daughter when I am mailing some pictures to her Dad, or speaking with her about her birth mom or past experiences. Some children are adopted out of the foster care system, and we will perhaps go that route through our journey as foster parents at one point.

We live day to day not knowing how long Claudia will be with us. That is probably one of the hardest things for these children – the uncertainty of things. We remind Claudia often how much we love her and how glad we are that she is with us, and that we hope we will always stay in touch, no matter what comes to pass. Regardless of the future, we hope that the love and life lessons we have encountered together will always be a part of who all three of us are.

And right now? Right now, we are loving Claudia and enjoying every day with her – one day at a time.

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