Many years ago I got a white sweatshirt for Chrismas with colorful words that read “Who are these children and why are they calling me mom?” For those of us who work with children during the most challenging years of their life, this is not un-natural. After all, we serve in the role of a mom. Waking children up, preparing meals, supervising them, helping with homework, bandaging a cut, listening to the relationship drama that comes with having a teen are just of a few of the memories made in a group home. More often than not, when children first come to know us, “mom” is not the preferred word. We’ve learned to answer to many things in an effort to make the connection a child needs when they come to live with us in crisis.
As time passes, those who remain a constant in life come to realize that the people who have been managing their misplaced anger have not left. Despite the tantrums and “I hope you die” language that is often projected onto adults from angry teens, many staff stay the course and remain invested. With every passing day the relationship grows stronger until inevitably a child comes to realize that the person who is there to help navigate the sea of emotions is the staff serving in the role of a mom.
For those who are casually dropping off clothing, making a pizza delivery, or a middle of the night pharmacy dropping off meds, they might drive away thinking “how many children does she have?!” On the trips to Walmart to load carts with food and a large group of children from all ethnic groups openly having inappropriate dialogue, adults listen cautiously wondering if the group was stolen and relocated to the woman driving the Ford Transit van. Just to be sure, maybe taking down the license plate number might be a good idea. But if you follow the van to our home, you will find a group of children that despite their tantrums and hostilty that they often wear much like a badge of honor you will find there are many people who work here to answer to the name “mom.”
If you are raising a child and making the investment to see them choose right over wrong, smile when you hear it. It is a sign of the utmost respect. If you happen to hear it when you’re here, don’t ask “who the baby daddy is”, just thank God that children have found someone who will help them navigate through the hardest years of their life. And on that note, please be patient with foster children. For they see each kind female who invests in them as a potential candidate to serve in the role of mom who is currently absent. Our job is to nurture that bond and let them know that you don’t have to be a birth mom to answer to “mom.” And that my friends is why we have the best job on earth.