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Feature Articles

Spilled Milk
Why We Say 'Yes'

By Carrie Dahlin

There is nothing quite like answering that phone call, asking you to take another child, knowing your life can change as fast as you say the word, “Yes.”

My husband and I were taking our five kids to a football game at our local high school. We were all dressed in team colors of course. Just as we were heading out the door, pompoms in hand, our phone rang. It was just hours after we put our name back on the call list, indicating that we were open to another child.

There was a 3-week-old baby girl who needed a home, it was the end of the day and we had only 20 minutes to pick her up before the office closed. After writing down the details involved, we said, “Yes!” Our kids squealed with joy and we loaded into the car. Just like that and we were back in baby land.

Here we are several months later and I glanced down at my now 5-month-old foster daughter as she played with her toys in her bouncer. The house was quiet and I was getting ready for the day, it was her visit day. I packed her diaper bag, wrote a note giving her dad an update, wondering if he would cancel yet again.

Knowing the case would move slow as they almost always do, I thought, “why was I willingly putting myself, and my family, in the way of possible heartache one more time?” I was curious about why I said yes to raising a child who would know me as her mother from such a young age, and accepting the risk of losing her, into my heart. There are days when I don’t want to share her and yet I have been down this road many times. I have said, “yes,” to that phone call again and again.  

And yet, I join foster parents in raising kids who rage for hours on end because their version of the world is one that left them feeling angry and alone. We parent kids with severe medical needs and commit to therapies that consume our schedule. We stay up all night rocking a sick baby against our chest, giving them breathing treatments, praying for healing. We sit in the hallway, leaning against the wall, listening to a young child unfold their trauma while keeping back the tears. Inside we ache from the horror we hear and dread letting them leave for visits knowing they will be so drained and confused when they come home. We live each day to the fullest knowing some day our time together may come to an end.

I think as foster parents we might ask ourselves why we said yes, especially after a string of difficult days from parenting kids who are hurting. Maybe we want a reminder of the love we hoped to show, the change we were eager to make. Maybe we need something to hold onto after navigating through the chaotic schedule and the uncertainty in our lives.

As I walk to the kitchen to make a bottle for my sweet little baby girl, I ponder the idea that we continue to say yes for not just one reason, but for thousands of reasons. We may have said yes that first time, out of hope for change and love. However, I think we say yes again and again, because during those midnight hours, we know that the baby against our chest is forming healthy attachments, which is so crucial. We say yes because we have seen a child who has fear of food, finally sit at the table without throwing their plate. Because after months of taking a child to physical therapy appointments we see them walk without braces on their legs. We say yes to wrapping our arms around kids who try to push us away because sometimes we get to see glimpses of hope when they suddenly ask to sit next to us on the couch during movie night. We say yes because there are so many children who need someone rooting for them, fighting for them at court hearings and encouraging them to thrive. We fill our homes to the limit and beyond so siblings don’t have to be separated after experiencing the worst night of their lives. When we say yes, we find another bed, another blanket and another spot on our lap, and in our heart.

So I encourage you to open your eyes to the reasons we say, “Yes.” Look around and find one more answer to that question, every single day. Because raising kids who have lived in the trenches means parenting them down in those trenches. Loving them there and knowing that sometimes they are not ready to get out. Hold onto those reasons why we say yes, so you can survive one more day, hunkered down with them in their pain.

I have been asked hundreds of times if I am going to take more kids. People are baffled that we are allowed to have such a handful of children and yet there is often a shortage of homes. As a foster parent we sacrifice our time, our belongings, our heart because even after all the hurt we have seen we know what miracles can happen after we say the word, “Yes.”


Author’s note: Join us in spreading awareness about foster parenting. Share on social media the reason why you say yes. #whyisayyes #fosteringfamiliestoday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carrie Dahlin is the author of a foster parenting memoir, “What Led Me to You: How a mother’s faith and family grew in ways she never expected.” She is also a contributing writer for the Portland Mom’s Blog, where she shares her heart through reflective articles. She has been married to her husband, who she has known since childhood, for more than 12 years. Together they are parenting six children through birth, adoption and foster care.

Feature Article Archive

May/June 2016
National Foster Care Month

March/April 2016
The Role of Foster
Parents in the Child
Welfare System

January/February 2016
It Takes a Village

November/December 2015
Advocating for Kids in Foster Care

September/October 2015
Permanency for Children in Foster Care

July/August 2015
Reunification/Birth Family Connection

May/June 2015
National Foster Care Month

March/April 2015
Working with Agencies

January/February 2015
Mental Health

November/December 2014
The Foster Parent Calling

September/October 2014
Attachment & Trauma

July/August 2014
Parenting Teens

May/June 2014
Celebrating National Foster Care Month
 

March/April 2014
Working within the System

January/February 2014
The Dynamics of Working with Birth Parents and Kinship Caregivers
 

November/December 2013
Navigating Behavioral Issues with Children
 

September/October 2013
Back to School Parenting Guide

July/August 2013
Traditional Versus Therapeutic Foster Care
 

May/June 2013
National Foster Care Month
 

March/April 2013
Teamwork

January/February 2013
Kinship Care

November/December 2012
Understanding the Impact of Trauma and Abuse

September/October 2012
Nurturing Identity

July/August 2012
Working with Birth Families 

May/June 2012
Celebrating National
Foster Care Month:
Finding Support 

March/April 2012
Parenting Teens 

January/February 2012
Grief, Loss & Anger in Foster Care

November/December 2011
Promoting Better Communication Among the Foster Care Team 

July/August 2011
Discipline Techniques for Foster Parenting

May/June 2011
Celebrating National Foster Care Month

September/October 2011
Allegations

March/April 2011
The Impact of Social Networking on Foster Care

January/February 2011
My Personal Foster Care Experience and What I've Learned

November/December 2010
Support Organizations Provide Assistance to Foster Families, Children

September/October 2010
The Importance of Keeping Siblings Connected in Foster Care

July/August 2010
Foster Care Health Care: Finding alternative therapies for healing 

May / June 2010
Celebrate National Foster Care Month and Foster Families Nationwide

March/April 2010
Kinship Care - The best interest for children or a foster care alternative?
  

January/February 2010
Emancipation or Family - Uncovering what's best for teens  

November/December 2009
Discovering What Foster Parents Really Need to Parent

July/August 2009
The Importance of Continuing Education for Foster Parents

May/June 2009
Celebrating National Foster Care Month
  

March/April 2009
Tips for Parenting Children into the Teen Years 

January/February 2009
Finding the Money Connection in Foster Care
 

November/December 2008
Looking Ahead at the Future of Foster Car
 

September/October 2008
Living the Daily Realities of Foster Care 

July/August 2008
Recognizing the Importance of Birth Parent Connection  

May/June 2008
Celebrate National Foster Care Month in May 

March/April 2008
Encouraging Foster Parents to Take Care of Themselves  

January/February 2008
Tips to Help Parents Tackle the Teenage Years

November/December 2007
Becoming the Best Parent for Children in Your Care
  

July/August 2007
Helping Children and Families Cope with Special Needs Issues
  

May / June 2007
The Power of Family
 

March / April 2007
Fostering Un
derstanding in Our Schools

January / February 2007
Finding Inner Peace in Parenting

November / December 2006
Are You My Family?

September / October 2006
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars

July / August 2006
Traditionally Speaking

May / June 2006
From Ward of the State to Defender of the Country

March / April 2006
Becoming Foster Parents

January / February 2006
Thank You, Foster Parents!

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