June 25, 2012

How to be a Foster Parn: Attempting Agape by Alex Japodaca & Emily Nichols

Attempting Agape

Alisa is a 32-year-old single foster mom from Michigan, who is the author of the blog Attempting Agape, which highlights her real-life journeys as a full-time foster parent. Much like the blog title implies (agape means “unconditional love” in Greek), Alisa feels that it is her calling to love her foster children unconditionally and as she writes, “with mercy, grace, and truth.”

She was licensed as a foster mother in 2010, and the goal of her blog is to inform people of what it’s like to be a foster parent and to help other foster parents realize why they make the sacrifices that they do. So far she has changed the lives of 16 foster children and has reached countless readers in the blogosphere.

Alisa currently shares her unconditional love with Buddy and Bug, who she writes are “two of the sweetest children in the world. They are 7 and 4 years old and have been with me for 7 months. Buddy loves all things superhero. Bug is the most thoughtful 4-year old I have ever met. She is tender and kind so much of the time. I am deeply enjoying spending every day with her. And Baby Girl, my littlest placement to date, she is under a year old and beautiful! She arrived mid-June and I am still getting to know her.”

We were lucky enough to get a quick Q&A in with Alisa on the joys and tribulations of being a single foster mom.

What first got you interested in foster care?

For about two years, I worked in the international adoption field, helping inform prospective parents on the process and recruiting for waiting children overseas. I’d look at these beautiful children’s faces every day and think, “I want to be their mom.” When I came to the point in my life when I weighed money over purpose, I choose purpose and signed up for a foster care information meeting. The rest is history.

What do you think would be the greatest gift you could give to a foster child?

Stability and a sense of normalcy. My kids come to me in chaos. Whether from their life at home or the move itself, their world is left reeling. Day in day out, I can help settle down the swirling by being consistent, letting them know what to expect and helping them understand they are not alone. It’s amazing when kids realize they are not the only ones in foster care and that many parents need to learn how to be better parents.

What’s been your most memorable experience while being a foster parent?

I think that has to be the first time my Pumpkin called me Mamma. The one thing everyone asks is, “How can do you do this emotionally? How can you let go?” And my answer always is that I have no idea, but I do. Even though I ache as Pumpkin has now moved on to an adoptive home (and away from me), we are both better from having had each other for that year. She changed me into a mother and I believe I helped her know how to be a daughter.

At the end of a hard day battling the system, what keeps you going?

When I tuck the kids in and they give me their huge hugs. It keeps me going to be able to tell them, “I will see in the morning.” Trite but true, the kids make it all worth it. Those who by love and consistency start to heal, love and trust again.

If your family were to be on the cover of your favorite newspaper or magazine in five years, what would the story be about?

Hopefully, the story would be the follow up of the children who have been through my home (16 so far) and where their lives are at. The prayer would be that these children are better off from knowing me and are now safely settled back in with their families or in an amazing adoptive home.

What’s one piece of wisdom or advice that you would like to share with people outside the foster community or prospective foster parents?

Educate, educate, educate.

For those already foster parenting, continue to learn and challenge your understandings. Many foster parents I have met are content to do what they have always done with kids and then we get the same results we have always gotten. I constantly challenge people to do better than we have in the past. When a placement of mine leaves, I am always asking myself, “What can I do better next time? What will serve the next child better?” I cannot claim perfection and thus always need to keep learning.

For those just looking into foster parenting, research the heck out of foster care in your area and then join a foster parent support group online or in person. Ask questions. Talk to adults who have been through the system. Research trauma, resiliency, attachment, and creative parenting techniques. Then, DO IT. It’s sad to me when people do all the work to be a foster parent and then get scared off. Instead, do the work, learn your stuff and jump in. Sure it’s scary, but aren’t all great things a little frightening at first?

To read more about foster parenting or other stories and volunteering opportunities to support these kids, visit https://www.togetherwerise.org/blog/

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