Fostering a ‘new’ family

Editor’s note: the names of the people in this article have been changed in order to protect their identity.
In many ways, they’re a “typical” family. The children go to school during the day, come home and do homework or visit with friends, and spend Saturdays doing chores for a $10-a-week allowance.
And on holidays, they go on trips to Disney World, Canada’s Wonderland, and Valley Fair.
The difference is they’re not a biological family–they’re a foster family. And with that comes the awareness that their life together could come to a halt.
“You don’t know if it’s going to be short-term or long-term,” explained Laurie, who has been foster mother with Family and Children’s Services here since 1990.
“It always starts up short-term,” she continued, noting FACS wouldn’t be doing its job in trying to keep families together if it started out long-term.
But with two of her foster children, Sara and Jack, both 12, it has become long-term. Both children are “Crown wards,” which means FACS is their legal guardian.
After being in several different homes, they found a more permanent family with Laurie and her husband.
Jack, who moved in with Laurie more than five years ago, admitted that going into a new foster care home for the first time can be strange.
“You’re just getting to know them and you don’t know who will be there,” he explained, with this being his third foster-care home.
“And [I] don’t know how they might feel about me.”
“You don’t know where everything is,” added Sara, who had lived in about five different foster care homes before she moved in with Laurie.
Sara spends one week a month with her biological mother, and doesn’t have any answers as to why she was put in foster care. But she finds assurance in the thought that Laurie–who she also calls “mom”–has told them they could stay with her “forever.”
Jack sees his mother once a month.
“I have a good rapport with both mothers,” Laurie stressed, with both biological mothers knowing where their children are staying.
Despite a good relationship with the children’s mothers, Laurie admitted Jack feels torn loyalties when she and his biological mother are with him at the same time.
So now that’s a situation she avoids putting him in. And Jack noted “having two moms” was both the best and worst part of being in foster care.
“I’ve always told [the children] your mom is your mom forever,” said Laurie, but noted she treats her foster children like she would treat her own–even keeping “life books” for them to have mementos of their life.
“[You’re] probably more protective than with your own,” she smiled.