Answering Phone Calls From Jail

Twice a week, I receive a phone call from jail.

There is a sentence that I never thought I would write. Twice a week, when an 866 number pops up on my phone, I do everything in my power to answer on the first ring. Twice a week, I press “one” to connect to the mother of my foster daughter, who is waiting on the other end of the line.

I knew when we decided to foster that we would be meeting the difficult needs of a child. I prepared for this. I read the books, I prayed the prayers. What I never considered, was that her biological mother might have needs as well. Even so, I will never forget the first time I met her. I looked into her broken eyes and I knew – this was a woman who needed me too.

People often ask me how I could open myself up to someone who is in her situation. I don’t blame them, it is an honest question. However, my answer is always the same.

I do it for our daughter.

She is her mother, and I am her mother. My job is not to judge another human being, my job is to help build a bridge for a family in need.

I don’t have to understand her past actions to feel the ache in her soul. She is still a mother who gave birth to my greatest treasure. Her daughter filled the empty hole that was once in my own heart.

However, if I am completely honest, sometimes the weight of our situation can almost be too much to handle. The uncertainty of what will happen next is draining. I often cry. I lose a lot of sleep, and I worry constantly. 

Our phone conversations vary depending on the day. Sometimes they are light and fun. We will discuss a book she is reading, or talk about our favorite movies. Often they are strained, we both sit in silence not knowing what to say to the woman on the other end of the line.

I know that this is just a season, and she will not always be behind bars. She will not always have to call me collect, and I won’t have to press “one” to accept. But that day isn’t coming anytime soon, and until then I will be preparing for my next call from jail. 

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