Names are changed for confidentiality reasons. Let’s call my friend Pat. Pat did foster care in years past. I observed the care of ‘her’ kids. She had raised a brood of her own; now she raised the children of others.
Pat was the perfect blend of dote and discipline—Love and structure. Something I never seemed to find. She was and isa Humpy-Dumpty- type lady. Not rotund, but round and smiling with a gleam of humor always resting in her eyes—soft auburn hair framing her face.
Pat’s abode looked like a camp. A building built on a hill overlooking a gentle cove laced with trees and Nature. The entrance brings you into a mudroom piled with children’s overcoats, raincoats, and boots. I seem to remember a fireplace somewhere, but that could be an illusion in my mind representing the warmth I saw there. The mudroom opened on to a dining area with a great table around which I often saw busy, smiling children. The scene was often chaotic with happy noise accentuated by childish demands for milk and food.
Taking care of children was a career for Pat. She was always happily at their beck and call. She often filled up with the limit of six lost children of mothers who could not care for them. I best remember Ted, Tom, and Tracy—siblings. Perhaps because they were fixtures—with Pat and her husband, Billy, finally adopting two of them.
Ted, a baby when he first arrived, was sickly. I overheard that his formula had probably been diluted with water so that Mom could use her funds for cigarettes and drugs. He was tiny for his age. Pat labored over getting him to gain weight, rising whenever he cried to feed him. Tommy was a hyperactive toddler. Tracy came a year later at the age of two weeks. Child Services had deemed the mom totally unfit after Ted. They didn’t take a chance with Tracy and placed her right with Marge.
Pat received $600 a month per child. Out of those funds, food and clothing had to be bought. She received a $50 stipend per baby every three months to buy diapers. Her $16 per day pay had to come out of the $600. Do the math. Pat never got paid.
I could barely catch Pat at home for coffee and a visit. She was always trudging off to yard sales and doctors’ appointments. She was just so damned busy. The monthly amount did not cover what was needed, and with the kids flourishing and constantly outgrowing clothes, yard sales were the best bet. Pat found many treasures at them. She bought a cargo van to transport the kids and often took the older ones with her.
Pat suspected Tracy was autistic as she grew. She would flap her arms, chirp like a bird and remain distant. Much later she was diagnosed with Asperger’s. Pat managed to connect with her anyway, and they have a loving relationship.
Not all foster-care providers are so diligent. There was a little girl of about five in my neighborhood that always appeared ill cared for. She roamed the area by herself. One cold autumn day I noticed her at the playground in shorts and a T. I asked her where her coat was and she grunted something at me. This foster-care provider obviously took her pay, leaving the child out in the cold.
For a period, I employed a foster-care provider as a babysitter. I thought she was sweet. My youngest was still in diapers. I worked all day and went to school at night, and the woman charged me a pittance. Night school ended and cusped a three-day weekend. I noticed what I thought was fecal matter driven just above my son’s hinny, tried to get it off, and vowed to address it the next day after fatigue told me I would not be successful. The next morning I realized my son has a wide ridge of bruises that could not have been caused by anything other than some kind of beating.
I wanted to report the woman but realized it could be turned on me. Back then, there was a stigma to being a single mother regardless of the circumstance. The stink could not be washed off. I simply called the woman and told her I would not be using her services anymore. I moved on in my life but always regretted being too afraid to tell.
But when it comes to foster care, I will always remember magnanimous Pat—larger than life. Kind, loving, and full of life. A woman who took care of nobodys’ children—children who were mistakes of nature, but still here. Bless her soul.
Times have changed, but not that much.
Providers now get:
As a foster parent in Massachusetts Dare offices, you will receive $50.00 (tax-free) a day for taking a child into your home. Foster children receive the following benefits: Quarterly clothing allowances, as follows: age 13 and up: $282.00; age 6 to 12:$188.75; and 0 to 5: $185.00.
Foster parents need to be at least 18 and:
- Attend an orientation.
- Complete 20 to 30 hours of foster parent training.
- Have a child abuse and criminal background check.
- Participate in a home inspection.
- Participate in a home study to review your readiness for fostering.
Copyright 2017 Joyce Bowen
About the Author: Joyce Bowen is a freelance writer and public speaker. Inquiries can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sobre el autor: Joyce Bowen es un escritor independiente y orador público. Las consultas pueden hacerse en email@example.com