Celebrating May as Foster Care Month, we've asked mothers who have had foster care experiences to share their stories with you. Today's story comes from R.A. White who lives in Delaware.
My parents were foster parents before I was born, so you could almost say I'm not their first child. My earliest memories include a ten-year-old girl named Andy who used to roll up in the covers like a fruit roll-up so I didn't have any.
When I was four, my family, which included just my parents and a biological sister at the time, moved to Pennsylvania. There, my parents kept as many as six kids at once, mostly teenagers who doted on my sister and me. We built forts out of couch cushions, sledded down snow banks left by plows, and played all sorts of games. I still remember cramming into a Dodge Colt, piling on each other's laps with us littler ones perched on top. Back then it was perfectly legal, but boy were we excited when mom and dad came home with a mini-van.
During my childhood, my parents fostered close to three hundred kids, some of them for just a few days, some of them for years. Every story was different, from girls who needed a place to stay while pregnant, to boys who ran away and stole cars, to one three-year-old girl who was so devastated by sexual abuse that she eventually had to go to a facility to be cared for by professionals. Over the course of those years, my parents adopted seven children who had been living in the system.
At times, being a foster sister was less than fun. Some kids were annoying, or mean, or standoffish. Sometimes they messed up my stuff. Although I knew some of the reasons kids came to live with us, I didn't understand how their past experiences of neglect, abuse, or rejection shaped their behaviors and attitudes. Looking back, I really wish there had been some kind of 'bio-kid' counseling to help me understand that my foster and adopted siblings' unpleasant behavior stemmed from their pasts. It wasn't until studying for my own son's adoption that I really began to see how being separated from or mistreated by biological parents, no matter what the reason, affects a person's world view and therefore his or her behavior. It was then that I also began to see how growing up the way I did had helped to shape me into the person I am today. If I had grown up in a 'normal' household, I really don't think I would be so set on helping those who need it, or so quick to defend those who can't defend themselves.
Sometimes people assume that because I'm generally a happy person, I must have had a sheltered life. They couldn't be more wrong. I learned at an early age that some people are evil, and that something has to be done. Sure, most of my foster siblings' parents were merely unprepared or unable to care for them, not intentionally mean, but some of them…some of them were truly evil. I'm not happy because I'm naïve. I'm happy because although I've seen darkness in the world, I have also seen it brightened. Whether it be fostering, adopting, volunteering, giving, or being a mentor, all of us can be the difference in someone's life.
R.A. White lives in the state of Delaware where she's a full-time mom, is very active in her community, and writes whenever she can find the chance. To learn more about her family and writing, check out rawhitebooksandmore.weebly.com.