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Vol. 9, No. 1• November 2004

My Journey as a Single Foster Mother

by Marianne Green

How could this be?! The only thing that I was ever truly certain that I wanted to be was a parent, and here I was 42 years old, separated from my husband and childless. This was not how life is supposed to be. Everyone gets to have children! In the spring of 1999, this was the state that I found myself in – living alone in a new city, facing the prospect of never being a parent. I knew that I had to take a long hard look at myself and decide what things or acts were most crucial for my happiness.

I had never really considered adoption but the idea of making a baby just to have a baby didn’t make moral sense to me. I had no idea where to turn but for some reason a contact that I had met some years back from Catholic Social Ministries came to mind. I can honestly say that the assistance of Sue Gilbertson changed my life in the best possible way. Together we looked at my options as a single, middle-aged, not rich, working woman. There was only one feasible option: becoming a foster parent.

Thus began the journey. Within a couple of months of my talk with Sue, I had taken MAPP class and had my first placement. That placement made me see the world in a very different way. I became a mother. Family, friends, and friends of friends came out to offer supplies, support and love. I truly had never felt as cherished as during that time. I met David, my “son,” when he was eight months old. He stayed with me full time for 14 months, we continued extended visits for a good while and now we see each other several times a year. I am a part of his family and he is a part of mine. His birth mother has graciously and unselfishly permitted him to have two mothers.

Since then my family has surely grown. I have had eleven other children: ages ranging from 0 to 17 years; male and female; black, white, Hispanic. They have stayed from a few days to many months. All will stay in my heart forever. Many people ask me how I have been able to love them and give them up, and adapt to a different family configuration on a weekly basis. The answer is, I don’t know. With David, I learned the realities of single motherhood: diapers, feedings, sleep deprivation, daycare, and vomit. Most importantly among those realities are the love and joy that come from seeing my child learn, love, trust, and grow.

I have loved and learned with lots of children. Toddlers have learned to crawl and walk. They have fought to overcome the damage of shaken baby syndrome. They have missed their mommies. Kids have laughed and cried and been strong for their younger siblings. Teenagers have run away, attempted suicide, holed up in their rooms, and fabricated excuses for not being where they were supposed to be. I probably have learned more than all of them put together because with each child I have been forced to ask myself what my role is and how can I best help him or her. As much as I hate to admit it, I have also learned that I am not superhuman.

When I started fostering six years ago I wanted a “house full.” I was eager to move from my townhouse to a house with a yard and more space so that I could fill it with the sounds of a healing family.

A lot has changed since then, however. On January 30, 2002 my daughter Sophie was born. After her birth I took some time off from fostering. When DSS called I wanted to help but knew that it would not be fair to Sophie, the foster child, or myself if I “bit off more than I could chew.”

Don’t get me wrong; I had other placements, a three-year-old and a later a twelve-year-old. But they were short-lived placements because I could not attend to these children as well as I wanted without taking away from the care of my daughter.

A nagging question began to form inside me: should I foster more children if I feel stretched so thin? After months of agonizing, I signed and mailed in the paperwork to end my days as a foster parent. All of my friends and family heaved a sigh of relief. Several social workers even graciously commended me on my decision because they knew that I did not make it lightly.

Since 1999 I have said that being a foster parent is the best, worst, and most important thing that I have ever done. I am sad to admit that for me, being human has meant making difficult choices, such as closing my home to more foster children. I know that I have chosen wisely, though, and I am so satisfied with all of the lessons and experiences that being a foster parent have given me.

Marianne Green is the proud mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old, a five-year-old, a 21-year-old, and grandmother of a two-and-a-half-year-old.

Copyright 2004 Jordan Institute for Families