Many people wonder, “Do I have to be married to foster or adopt?” The answer is no. Some of our resource parents are married, some are in domestic partnerships, and others are single.
We recently shared Samantha’s adoption story as a single mom and teacher. She was kind enough to sit down with us and answer some questions, shedding light on what it’s like to be a single foster and adoptive parent.
Why did you start fostering?
For several years I felt a deep calling to become a foster parent. I always had a burning desire to adopt a child, but I was never in a relationship where we shared that desire. Eventually, I was single, in my late 30’s and didn’t know if it was ever going to happen. I thought I had missed my moment. But, that desire never went away and I would find myself thinking about it in the quiet moments.
Sometimes when I would envision starting this journey, doubt and fear would creep in, and other times it was hope. It wasn’t until a volunteer in my classroom mentioned he and his wife were fostering teenagers that I took the first step. I asked what agency they were connected with and that was the first time I had heard of Koinonia. Something compelled me to write the name down and look them up.
The following week I was sitting in the orientation class…the one thing I was certain of was my desire to make a difference in the lives of children.
What was it like to get your first call for a child? Did you feel prepared?
When I received my first call – really my only call – it was exciting and nerve-racking. I felt anxious and uncertain if I could really do this, especially being single and a full-time teacher. But the timing worked out well because it was right around my Christmas break and I was able to provide Clyde with all the time he deserved.
I did feel somewhat prepared. The bedroom and playroom had already been set up nine months prior to receiving placement. My age range was 0-6, so there were some last-minute items I had to pick up before meeting him. I grabbed some snacks, pull-ups, juice, and Ovaltine. My niece told me to get some Ovaltine because that always made her feel better.
What was your life like prior to and post-adoption?
Prior to adoption life was busy and hectic. Like I said, being a single mom working full-time as a teacher is busy enough. Add a very active four-year-old into the mix, and it gets even busier. Staying on top of all the documentation, paperwork, visitations, phone calls, training, and appointments keeps things busy as well.
With the help of my Koinonia social worker, I took advantage of additional training that helped me overcome some of the issues Clyde was struggling with. Although I am a teacher with years of experience, there are many things about kiddos from hard places that you need to adjust to and perhaps get more training in.
Each month brought unique challenges. I felt like my love for and attachment with Clyde was being tested daily. There are times that your best will not be enough and you can’t take it personally. These kiddos are struggling with emotions they don’t even understand, and many times we are on the receiving end. But when you get a breakthrough moment, trust me, it is worth the challenging times.
Post-adoption has only been a couple of months, but I feel like we are in a good place. Clyde has a sense of belonging, security, and unconditional love. We had his adoption day celebration in October and it was wonderful to see him surrounded by his new family members who have embraced him with open arms and endless love. It’s like he was the missing piece in our family all along. I am still in awe that I get to be his forever mommy! He is a true blessing to all of us.
Was adoption your goal?
When I first started going through the process of being approved, adoption was my goal. At that time, the California foster care system was going through an overhaul. We were told that we would likely have to foster several times before we found our forever child. I remember hearing that and my heart sank because I didn’t know if I could go through fostering multiple times and take a placement that I may never see again. Faced with the unknown, I decided it was worth whatever lay ahead; if that meant fostering multiple times, then I was going to take that chance.
What challenges do you face as a single mom?
There are many challenges that you face as a single parent. For one, you rarely get a break. Although I do have some wonderful support people in place, it still all rests upon my shoulders. Especially during the pandemic, it has been very challenging. My stress level, like so many, can run very high and I don’t have a partner to cushion the fall. But ultimately it makes you a stronger person, a stronger woman, and a stronger mother.
There is no doubt that fostering/adopting with a partner is the best way, but it’s not impossible to do it as a single parent. There are benefits to being a single parent. Perhaps you want to parent a certain way, but if your partner is contradicting the way you are parenting it could be very confusing for the child. Also, with the stress of the pandemic, many couples are fighting and causing discord in their home; but as a single parent, I have no one to fight with!
There are positives and negatives to being a single parent, but ultimately it’s worth it. As long as you have a support system in place, anything is possible.
What advice would you give to other single parents who are thinking about becoming resource parents?
Well, the first thing I would say is that you want to be as prepared as possible. I mean every detail, as much as possible, be prepared. It took me nine months to get approved, and even with my meticulous planning there were things I was not aware of or forgot.
In preparation for placement, I researched the local schools and childcare centers in my neighborhood. I actually created a binder with information about each center, and made sure they accepted Child Action. As a working single parent, it was very important to me to find high quality childcare with empathetic teachers.
Make sure you have enough sick leave and time off, especially in the beginning; you will want to take 5 – 10 days off to help your child transition. You also want to have your support system in place with family members or friends that can step in and help out.
Being a single foster/adoptive parent is completely possible and one of the most rewarding experiences in life. My life has so much more value now than it ever did before. Being a mother to this child gives my life purpose and I get to see the joy, growth, and amazing progress he has made in the last two years. I also get to witness the love and joy that he brings to my family members, who are now his family members.
My final piece of advice is this: never hold back doing what you are called to do because of fear.