My name is Jamie Sandefer, and I am a foster, adoptive, and biological Mom. My lifelong dream was to be a Mom, but I had no idea that my dream would lead me to mothering children that weren't biologically my own.
One day my eyes were opened to children around me that needed a temporary Mom. The idea of giving children a safe & loving home while walking alongside their parents to help them reunify became a new dream that I wanted to live out, but I was afraid. I didn’t know if I was equipped to do this. I didn’t see myself as a perfect parent to my own biological children, so how could I take on the responsibility of parenting other people’s children? What I learned though is that the most vital trait needed to be a foster parent is the capacity to love unconditionally. That may seem ethereal and romanticized, but it’s true. Unconditional love can get you through the toughest situations. It can change your perspective when dealing with challenging behaviors, it can supply patience when you normally would have run out, and it can change the life of the tiny human that has entered your home.
The Book Soon after we were licensed, we welcomed a little girl into our home. She showed up at our door scared, shy, and unkempt. She was three years old, and we were her fifth move. On top of that, she was coming from an abusive foster home. I wanted to find a way to reassure her that we would be different and that she would be safe in our home.
I took to Facebook with the hope that one of my friends would have an encouraging word for me. Many friends and family provided new ideas to try, books to read, and encouraging words. One friend said, “Find a book that states how you feel. One that says you will love her for always. Read it to her lots of times. Write her name and your name in it. In fact let all of your family sign it. Give it to her to keep with her. She needs to be reassured over and over.”
So began my journey to find this perfect book. I looked everywhere and found the sweetest books on fostering, but none of them said what I wanted to say to our little girl. When I couldn’t find it, I knew that I needed to write the book that I was searching for.
I wrote “Love You From Right Here: A Keepsake Book for Children in Foster Care” to give her the comfort and stability I was desperate to give and she was desperate to receive. It’s a simple book from the foster parent’s perspective directed to the foster child. It’s a story that can be read quickly every day to a child who is experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. It doesn’t highlight the negative associations with the child’s previous placements but rather provides a picture of unconditional love woven through every word and illustration.
At the end of the book, there is a special keepsake section for the foster parent to recount the child’s time in their home. Foster children move an average of seven times in their lives. They are potentially losing a lot of memories and milestones because of so many moves. With this book, my hope and prayer is that it will encourage foster families to document the child’s time
with them. I want them to journal about their favorite foods, first words, favorite places to go, etc. I’ve created a space to encourage families to put photos of the child. If the child leaves the home, he or she will have a piece of their history to take with them.
This book has served as a love letter from us to our foster children. We’ve been able to use it when we don’t have all the right words, and we’ve seen it offer comfort to those children in our care.
What Being A Foster Mom Has Taught Me Being a foster mom has taught me a lot about myself. Before fostering, I would look at situations with a limited perspective. Now that I’ve seen what trauma does to children, I have a greater understanding for the impact patience and kindness can have on a child. Seeing what biological family members go through when they are separated from their children has taught me the impact of supporting them in their fight to be reunified with their children.
Another thing I’ve learned through fostering is that there are a lot of stereotypes that go along with it. Many people say that they couldn’t foster, because they’d get too attached. That may be true, but we need to reevaluate how we approach that stereotype. Yes, you get attached, but that's the point. These children need us to get attached. They need that unconditional love and support that only someone willing to be attached can offer. If I could give one piece of advice to a new foster parent, I’d say, “Get too attached.” In other words, go into foster care with unconditional love. Prepare yourself to experience heart break all the while knowing that the love and safety you can provide will make every heart ache worth it.
When we became foster parents, I wasn't prepared for any of this. In all honesty, I think these topics were covered in our trainings, but I didn't understand them until I went through them first hand. I learned my lesson, though. After being devastated by loving and losing a child, I was more prepared for the next child that came. I was able to keep my focus on the facts of the case instead of the “what ifs.” It freed my heart and mind up to love the child even more in a way that kept me grounded and kept me rooting for the home team (biological family) when appropriate.
Wherever you are in this journey, you can handle these difficult things. They will not break you, and these children will leave your home a little less wounded than when they arrived.
You are seen and you are loved...from right here.
Want to know more about starting a foster parenting journey?
Visit here to get all the info.