Before I was a foster parent, I had no idea what acronyms like TPR, FEM, or CASA* meant. No idea that a bio parent only had to be clean for a couple of months for reunification to be considered. Or that court proceedings regarding the life and future of a child I had raised as my own could happen without me being told about it until after. But that was life before.
Life before passed by without obsession over missed phone calls that could be from a social worker asking if I would take a placement. It passed without standing in the diaper aisle at Wal-Mart trying to remember if there were any sizes I didn't have stashed under my bed at home...just in case. And maybe I'll pick up these fleece sleepers on clearance while I'm at it because at any moment a baby might come to my home with nothing but the clothes on his back.
Life before did not include terms like "trauma-informed" or "attachment disorders." Life before was unaware there was a patch you could wear on your skin to monitor your drug use or that a follicle hair test could trace your drug use up to three months back. My life before did not see the vicious cycle people can be stuck in when they lose their driver's license but can't get a job without it but can't pay off their fines to get their license back without a job. Or the cycle of trying to get off meth by taking doctor-prescribed pills and then losing access to the pills and ending up back on meth to cope with withdrawals from the pills. None of that had touched my world...before.
Before I was a foster parent, my kids didn't know there were children out there being removed from their homes who would have nowhere to go if not for foster families. They had no idea babies could be abandoned while their parents dug through dumpsters looking for food, or that a traffic stop could result in an arrest that left a child sitting alone at a police station waiting for a social worker to pick her up and take her to a stranger's house.
But now they know. We know. And our world is bigger for it because it has to be.
Life before was less complicated. More sheltered. Easier. There was a lot I didn't know. And life before did not require me to open my heart to children and families who would break it to pieces.
That was before. But now? Now I'll only look ahead, because I can never go back to life before.
*Terminate Parental Rights, Family Engagement Meeting, Court Appointed Special Advocate