Words From A Single Foster Mom

Written by Shea Balajadia

Written by Shea Balajadia

I had a hard abusive childhood and it was really dark and difficult to navigate by myself. As I grew up, I became committed to not letting others sit in that same kind of darkness by themselves. This is why I started fostering, because I wanted to help families become whole, healthy, and healed. I’m Shea, I am a life coach for people who have been touched by trauma, as well as a foster mom, a biological mom, and I am also a single parent. My biological daughter is thirteen years old and I have long-term placement of a 5 month old baby boy. I received my foster license in January 2018 and have had 10 kids in my home since then.

I started this journey believing the foster care system is a child centric system but now I’m experiencing how it is just a very basic and broken system that does not truly advocate for children. It’s up to the individuals in the system (social workers, foster parents, therapists, mentors, advocates) to speak up louder for the children because they will get lost in the chaos.  I now know there needs to be a large reform in child protection and the need for an entire system that truly wraps around the whole family.

Reunification is hard…

Reunification is what you hope for, but when the time comes… it is so hard. In April the two boys that were in my home for a year reunified with their parents. When they were placed with me they were 2 months and 1.5 years old… It was really hard to see a case close that I’d been supporting for so many months. After they went home I spent a lot of time in quiet and in the outdoors, trying to prep myself for the next season. I am well versed in the grief process so I made sure that with each wave of grief that came, I acknowledged it and experienced it. At first I felt dumb for feeling sad about them going home. I knew from the beginning it wasn’t going to be forever, I didn’t want it to be forever….but I learned that it’s okay to grieve reunification as a foster parent. I had to accept that it was okay for me to feel these feelings of loss for children that I never planned on keeping, grief is just so sneaky. For the first couple of weeks following their reunification I’d call mom and ask if I could swing by to hug them. I found myself hearing phantom cries around nap time because I was so used to this for the last 364 days. The hardest part about saying goodbye was losing the whole rhythm of life we’d created and having to figure out how I did life before them. I had to establish my own routine without them, which was hard because my entire life revolved around them…so finding a new cadence was crucial to feeling stable.

“How do you do it?”.

I am regularly asked, “how do you do it?”. I have the best community support around me.  I live about 2.5 hours away from any family, so I lean a lot on my friends and church community.  As a single parent, I think anything that gives me time back to myself is the most useful and healthy help. My love language is acts of service, so the most helpful things people have done for me are: meal drop offs, servicing my car, grocery shopping, transportation to visits, babysitting once a week, making me get out of the house and being the only adult I speak to in a couple of days…..haha. There was a two month period where I had five kids; a 14 year old girl, my bio was 11, a 6 year old boy, a 1.5 year old, and a newborn. That season was saved by the friends who offered to watch the kids on Wednesday nights so I could go run errands solo.  There are SO many ways that you can support a single foster parent that can range from small to huge things in their lives. I have just gotten so much support from the people who continually and consistently show up for me… it has been the greatest blessing of my life.

I’ve been mentoring single parents over this last year, helping those who are getting ready to foster. The most important piece of advice I give is to go into this believing you are coming alongside the biological parent, not that you are replacing them. These families have had many, many layers of trauma and hurt for generations, and a lot of the neglect and abuse are cycles that are being repeated. The whole family needs love and guidance, not just the child. If you see the case from the lens of the parent you will have an easier time giving them grace. Grace is the only necessary trait as a foster parent, because everything will flow from there. We have to remember that there’s more to this family’s story than what is on a placement request paper and these are people worthy of love and redemption.

Follow along with Shea on Instagram here!

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