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Foster Swell: Three Simple Truths

Foster Swell: Three Simple Truths

Foster Love. Foster Kindness. Foster Swell.

Three Simple Truths by Melinda Rubinstein

Melinda and her husband reside in San Francisco, CA. They started their foster care journey in 2014 and had their very first placement in early 2015. Both parents work full-time and hold Master's degrees. They are open to the idea of building their family through foster care adoption. You can follow her story on Instagram.

I thought I knew about foster care. I had the training, I volunteered, I'm on the Board of Directors for a foster care agency. The reality is that I had a vague idea of how the system works and I could observe it from the outside. Now I'm reflecting on my first placement, my daughter. She's a little human being that this system sucked in. I'm the human being that cared for and loved her. Whatever I thought I knew became something different when it became personal. These are the top three truths that took on so much more meaning when I came face to face with the system and my daughter.

1. Foster care starts with a loss.

In one of the more profound experiences of my life, our foster baby was placed in my arms by her birth mother. I knew from our training that the foster care journey for the child begins when the family relation is broken. But at the moment I held our darling girl, and walked out the doors, it took hold in my heart that this journey was born out of a deep and profound loss for her and her mother. Her mother made a knowing choice, a brave choice and a very hard choice. It was a choice no mother should have to make. 

2. Foster care focuses on reunification.

I didn't expect to believe this wholeheartedly. In fact, I expected to feel friction against this at best and more than likely feel chafed. Signing up for fost-adopt, we are in the delicate position of supporting family reunification, all the while opening our homes to children forever if that’s what they need. It’s a dichotomy of the heart and mind. 

When I saw our girl's face light up when she saw her mama across the visitation room, and when I saw the mama caring for her babe, I also saw the importance of their bond. That bond needed nurturing, a safe haven to root and grow. I realized my role in that was to help create the safe space for that to happen. And that change in perspective, changes everything.

3. Foster care is really about the expansion of family.

Whether a child stays in our home for a while or forever, you inherit a family. We are so lucky to have grown our family to include our little girl's Aunt, Uncle, cousins, and bull dog. First, our hearts opened to our daughter. From there, it flowed as we saw the other people who loved her, we shared a bond, deeply rooted in our love of that little girl. It's not easy, it's not comfortable, but then again, when is extended family ever that way? At the end of the day, I can proudly say that this girl has a lot of family she can count on and that's worth it all to me.

I know there will be more to learn. I know these lessons will deepen with future placements. For now, I'm thankful - to my daughter, her mother, her family, our family. These bittersweet moments and tough life lessons have birthed a new perspective and a fresh appreciation for the power of love.  

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