Alison Nicole and her husband are foster parents. On the popular blogging site Love What Matters, they recounted the frantic late night phone call they received.
“I called 47 homes today,” the CPS agent explained with desperation in the voice. “It feels like I called everyone. Please, can you take her in? Even for a few days. She’s been sleeping in the conference room for awhile. We have nowhere to place her.'”
Allie and her husband agreed to take the girl in, because of the pure desperation in the CPS agents voice. There was no way they could let a young girl continue to sleep in an office conference room.
“I opened the door and M was at my doorstep. I kept thinking to myself how beautiful she was. M looked exhausted, had a book bag and two small plastic bags in her hands filled with her belongings,” Allie explained.
For anonymity, Allie calls the girl M. When she opened the door, M carried the entirety of her belongings in two small plastic bags. After M was at their home for a week, they found out she had a three-month-old son who was also in foster care. Allie and her husband fought for custody over the three-month-old, called Bubbles for anonymity. After four months, the family won the case, and Bubbles was back with his mom.
“A week later I found out M was a mom. She had a son. Three months old at the time. He was in a different foster home. I hate sibling separations… I fought for M and bubbles. The foster family he was with was hesitant and put up a fight. It was four months before I got bubbles into my home. I was super happy M could be with her son. I didn’t want M to be another number. When bubbles got here, M didn’t know to parent.”
Living with M and Bubbles was not easy for Allie and her husband. When she first arrived, she was difficult. She was failing out of school, out of the house until late, and partaking in negative activities. She was in and out of school, as she was routinely suspended. She left the full job of mothering Bubbles to Allie.
“M was very difficult. She was failing school, hanging out late, doing things she wasn’t supposed to be doing. While she expected me and others to care for her son. She often had angry outbursts and cursed at me. She broke my doors and often I had to track her down. She got suspended from school constantly,” Allie wrote.
“Fostering teens is different. They choose you. They choose to love you. They choose to stay. They’ve been let down many times before. They have to open the door to let you in. You have to be accepted by them. Nothing can be forced. I was waiting at M’s door. Waiting for her to let me in. It felt like M’s door would never be open to me.”
Allie expressed her desire to love M. She understood the doubt from M, as foster teens are constantly kicked out of homes, and ignored by foster families. She knew what M was going through, and simply waited for her to be ready to talk to her.
“M was still difficult. It was a long, slow, and steady process. My heart that was once hard started turning soft. We went to therapy together. Therapy that hasn’t happened in over a year for M. I wanted to support her. I wanted to let her know we were there. It was hard. I hate foster care. In order for me to get a child something bad has to happen to them before they show up to you. M’s past is sad,” Allie wrote.
Allie continued to work on her relationship with M. They attended therapy sessions together, which was something M had not attended in years. Allie continued to support M, even though the girl showed no signs of a breakthrough.
“A few times M told DH and I we were too ‘nice’ to her. She questioned why we kept her. She wanted to know something bad about us. She asked why I didn’t get rid of her. She thinks she’s damaged and unworthy. I told her she’s not. She’s a somebody with a future. Her views on families and relationships are distorted. She often asks why I’m only married to one guy or if my husband and I had different kids by different people. She thought she had to have different kids by different people because that’s how she grew up. She had to learn how to love herself. She had to heal from her own past. She’s still learning she is worthy. I tear up at M. Tear up because she eventually stole our hearts. I tear up because I almost said no to her and disrupted her.”
Despite Allie’s hard work to breakthrough with M, she told her foster parents that they were too nice to her. She was used to foster parents who had short tempers, low patience, and no desire to get to know her. Her idea of normality was so skewed because of the way she grew up. She even questioned why Allie and her husband did not have extramarital affairs, or kids with other people because that is what she grew up with.
Slowly but surely breakthrough happened between M and Allie.
“The child that came to me a year behind is now a year ahead. The child that everyone thought would fail and be a bad mom isn’t. The child who had so much anger now deals with it in an appropriate way. The child who said she hated me now tells me she loves me. The child who cursed at me now calls me mom and says funny, sweet things to me.”
Not only did M start opening up to Allie, but she now tells her she loves her. The girl who once hated her with a burning passion now calls her mom.
“I was standing outside M’s door for a while. Waiting for her to open it. Slowly one by one the locks came off. Then the locks went back on. M was terrified of opening her door and taking off the locks. When two locks came off another one was put back on. Slowly the locks came off and I was waiting for her to open her door. Very slowly she did. Now her door is open and she doesn’t want me to leave.”
When M arrived at Allies home she had multiple locks on her door. She slowly took them off, and then put them back on. Eventually, she got to a point where she took the locks off and wanted Allie to be in the room.
“I remember when you first came and both of us were strangers. How scared I was. How unprepared I was. I was afraid. You probably were too. Both of us had to build a relationship. I want you to know that every day spent with you makes me happy. Each day with you is a gift. I cherish each moment that I have with you. You had a difficult start. I want you to know that life can sometimes be hard…sometimes really hard, but it’s so beautiful in so many ways. You taught us so many things. You made me a better foster mom. You’re a beautiful girl inside and out. I’m happy that I uncovered the real you, the one you had hidden. We love you.”
Below is a heartbreaking letter that M wrote to Allie and her husband. Even though she grew to love Allie and her husband, M still felt immense guilt for anything she did.
Anyone who has been a foster parent or knows one personally know how difficult the process is. In the United States, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care every day. Not only is the number staggering, but children in foster care, on average, remain in state care for two years.
What’s even more heartbreaking is the number of young people who are aged out of foster care each year lands at around 20,000. Many of those children do not have forever families and end up becoming homeless, unemployed, or worse, incarcerated, as adults.
Allie ended her piece expressing how much gratitude she had for her daughter. Being a foster parent is not an easy job, and Allie will be the first to say so. But she also expresses that the pain and difficult times are worth the outcome. You get to build a lifelong relationship with a child who might even eventually call you “Mom.”