Amazing GrownUp Foster Kid!
What’s it like as a foster kid? I am so inspired and encouraged by this interview, I know you will be too.
It’s a Wonderful Foster Friday with Liz who writes at Food Your Body Will Thank You For
We are having a conversation and I’m just in awe of this Mom extraordinaire! Thought I’d share and encourage all you Foster Moms and Foster Kids out there!…And maybe inspire a few others to become…
MANDY: How old were you when you entered the Foster System?
LIZ:12 and a half years old.
MANDY: How long were you in the Foster System.
LIZ: I was only in foster care from 12-1/2 Yrs old to just before 14, about 1½ years.
MANDY: What was your best memory in Foster Care?
LIZ: The summer I turned 13, my foster mom let us redecorate our room. We did most of the work ourselves and we got to choose all of the decorations, furniture, colors, and contact paper for the walls. It was messy, difficult, full of errors, and laughter. We had the BEST time! It was the first time in many years I was asked what I’d wanted and allowed to have freedom of choice. This was especially important for me as a teenager coming from a world where I had no power. AS a teacher and a parent, providing children with choices is a major tenet of my nurturing philosophy.
MANDY: Wow! That was a fun thing! How cool that it transferred forward to the way you teach.
MANDY: Did you get adopted or age out (not adopted by 18)?
LIZ: I was fortunate enough to be placed with my paternal grandmother. My foster-sister had been in our current placement over a year and knew she was going to age-out in the system. It was a difficult prospect to come to terms with, assuming adult responsibilities at 18, but doing it without the safety net of a family was terrifying. It is definitely capable to harden one’s heart. I on the other hand knew I had a place to be—it was just a matter of getting through red tape.
MANDY. That’s so good that you had a place to go. Terrifying is the exact word I felt for the children who do not get adopted. I long for the day where every child can receive a good home. This is the reason we want to improve the system!
MANDY: Did you get to see your Dad/Mom more regularly because of the placement with your Grandmother?
LIZ: As often as their own lives would allow. Both my parents battle psychological obstacles that have plagued them since before I was born.
MANDY: So how did that work?
LIZ: Living with my grandmother allowed me to see my father, from whom my mother was estranged. Between the ages of 7 and 12, I was prevented from having any contact with that side of the family. If I am to see a silver lining in the circumstances that resulted in my needing foster care, it reunited me with the other side of my family—the side I am still closer with today. This reunion was not without a great cost. I was removed from the home I shared with my two younger brothers. This action prevented me from having a normal sibling relationship. It has been over 20 years, and my brothers and I are still trying to meet the challenge of “getting to know each other.”
MANDY: Liz, that is a whole new perspective I did not think of. We always want siblings to keep them together, but when there is divorce and half-siblings it really makes it more difficult for the grandparents.
MANDY: What did you wish for as a child?
LIZ: To be honest, I didn’t wish for too much. Before you go feeling sorry for me, that’s not meant to be a sad sentiment. I think of it as a positive thing. My young life was so perfect and I felt extremely safe and loved. In reality, I didn’t want for anything. I had no idea how poor we were because everyone in our social circle struggled just as much. But, more than anything in the world, I wanted to buy a house for my Grandma.
MANDY. Your empowerment is inspiring!
MANDY: Who in your childhood impacted you the most?
LIZ: My grandmother, whom I ultimately lived with. She was my mother for much of my life. My own mother was a teenager and worked hard to support me as a single parent. However, that left a lot of time when I was in the care of my grandmother and aunts and uncle. It was a wonderful setting for me. I’ve often bragged about how wonderful my early childhood was—in all honesty, it was this foundation that would allow me to survive an abusive childhood.
MANDY: How did your Grandmother influence you?
Liz: My grandmother was ALWAYS (99% of the time!) working with food. Sizzling lids atop boiling pots, the frying of meat or potatoes in her cast iron pan, the sound of chopping ingredients for fresh salsas—this was the soundtrack of my childhood. She taught me about flavors, nutrition, gardening, a strong work ethic, and the importance of self-respect. She always said there is no room for regret. If you are faced with a decision and you are struggling to decide, once you HAVE made a decision don’t look back. If you made a mistake, you can only move forward. Regrets are a waste of time. She is such an amazing woman!
MANDY. What an incredible Grandmother. I love the phrase, “soundtrack of my childhood”! So it was really a blessing that your Grandmother was stable.
LIZ: Absolutely! I don’t know what any of us (my dad, aunts, uncles, and cousins on that side of the family) would have done without her.
MANDY: What foster family made you feel the most comfortable and why?
LIZ: I was placed in an emergency foster care situation for about a week before being transferred to my second, more permanent situation. Both families were incredibly kind and I was fortunate to have had such positive experiences in an unfortunate situation.
MANDY. It is so affirming to hear you speak this way. Unfortunately, the media seems to highlight bad Foster Parents and thus many families are afraid to get involved!
MANDY: Do you have the desire to foster children?
LIZ: I did, prior to having my own children. I am an emotional person. I ultimately decided against it because I didn’t think I would be strong enough to let a child go, especially if it was back into a bad situation (prioritizing reunification is a joke in my opinion—there may be instances where it does benefit the child, but there are many cases where it should not be the goal of the court!). Instead of pursuing clinical psychology, I opted for teaching—more proactive and I was allowed to be nurturing!
MANDY. That is a super smart idea on teaching. You know, that reason is the single biggest reason I hear why parents do not want to foster. It is hard to lose, but we chose to keep in touch via phone because we didn’t want the child to ever feel like we abandoned them. This has helped us mitigate the loss. Because we had a dedicated phone line for the biological parents of our foster children, we were able to keep up when the child returned to their birth parent. It was still hard, but we feel we made a positive imprint for each child…and continue to do so.
MANDY: Also, the reunification is the point I would like to talk about more later.
MANDY: If you were to foster, what would be 3 things you would ensure as a Mom?
- That the child is going to leave my house knowing how to cook/prepare a few dishes. When I was growing up, after I’d been separated from my grandmother, I was the cook in the house by 10 years old.
- Making farmer’s markets visits will be as sacred as school!
- That they can always reach out to me, even after they are back home or placed in another home.
MANDY: Wow, these are equipping! All important. The reaching out is super important issue for us. Because we shared phones, we were able to do that.
MANDY: Liz, you have such a special message to share with other Moms, foster parents, and foster kids out there! What are your words of wisdom and greatest pearls?
- No matter how wonderful you (as a foster parent) are or how miserable (or even dangerous!) the home life the child is leaving, it IS their family. They will miss it!…Whether it’s the familiarity of the their room, their siblings/other family members, or even the abusive person/parent in the household. In a heartbeat everything familiar is ripped away. It is a feeling of exposure, loneliness, and loss that is unfathomable for most people.
- Ask the child if they want a hug. Have a huggable pet they can rely on, a cozy blanket, good smells (aromatherapy), and soothing food (soup, tea, hot chocolate) ready.
- Don’t talk too much.
- Have movies/outings planned if they are up for it—anything that gets the child out of his or her head.
MANDY: Perfect! Just perfect, Liz. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to have an interview conversation again!
Stay tuned for more Foster Fridays and be inspired by these fostering stories of triumph!
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