The Inevitable Question in Foster Care: “Where am I going next?”

Halloween is one of the best holidays to experience as a mom. What is more fun than seeing little kids running around in adorable costumes, begging for candy through chocolate smeared smiles? Nothing. Nothing is more fun! The first year that I got to celebrate Halloween as a mom, I had not one, but three babies! We had welcomed our two oldest kiddos through foster care earlier in the year with plans to adopt them a few weeks later. I had also just given birth to our first biological baby.

I didn’t just get to dress up my kids; I got to dress my entire family in themed costumes! Cheesy, I know. But they’re only little once and I knew that my submissive three-year-old would probably be a very opinionated four-year-old by the next year. So, we went with themed costumes from our sweet girl’s favorite movie: The Wizard of Oz.

The cutest Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Lion you ever did see.

It was everything I had dreamed of, except for one tiny detail.

A little conversation over candy brought up a question neither my husband nor I was anticipating. I was telling my daughter that we could keep her Dorothy costume in her dress-up bucket so that she could play dress up with it as often as she wanted. This triggered a memory in her mind about playing dress up at her previous foster home. She shared the memory and we used it as an opportunity to talk about the events of her life like we always did, hoping to instill in her an understanding of her story little by little.

But this conversation took an interesting turn when she asked, “Where am I going next?”

There was no sadness, fear, or frustration in her tone. She had the biggest smile on her face after talking about costumes and asked it with a sweet curiosity. Nevertheless, it stopped us in our tracks. In her mind, it made perfect sense to wonder which house would be her next home. We immediately explained that she wouldn’t be going anywhere else, that she was here forever, and that she would always be our little girl. She smiled and moved right along without missing a beat. I, however, had a harder time moving on from that question.

Who knew candy and costumes could lead to such a big question?

You should know that our sweet girl only lived in two homes after she entered foster care. She had unprecedented stability, love, support, and care while in the system. Her first foster family was an incredible family who helped her grow leaps and bounds from the tiny, weak, and malnourished baby she was when she came into care.

She had been in one of the best foster situations that I’ve ever heard of (if any foster situation can be good). Knowing this about her, it was interesting to me that she would ask a question more profound than she even realized. That she would think she had to go somewhere else after only moving once (that she remembered). She still wondered. It was ingrained in her.

If my very happy, loved, stable, three-year-old daughter who experienced the best case scenario in the foster system wondered where she was going next, how much more does an older child (even a year older) from harsher lifestyles, who has bounced around from house to house, wonder this same thing?

Where am I going next?

How much more do these kids live every day only partially accepting where they are as “home”? How much fear and anxiety do they carry around every moment just waiting to hear where their next move may be or what their next hurdle is to jump? The possibility (and reality) of how massive this thought process can be for some of these kids is unimaginable.

There truly is no place like home.

So, as you cheer on your kids in baseball this fall, tuck them into bed, and celebrate holidays, I ask you to consider one simple question: “What can I do to help a child that asks the question, ‘Where am I going next?’” Maybe you will consider opening your home to foster or adopt. If you are unable to open your home because of other circumstances going on in your life, maybe you will seek out opportunities to be involved. Because whether these children are in the best foster situation or the worst, they all wonder: Where am I going next?

For more information on how you can serve foster children and families in the OKC Metro area, visit:

Oklahoma Department of Human Services

Lilyfield

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