Can you imagine how hard Mother’s Day is for women whose children are in foster care?
In just a few days, many people will be celebrating Mother’s Day. In my experience getting to know many of the women whose children have been in our care, I’ve learned that the weight of shame and hopelessness is utterly debilitating. Adding a holiday—especially a holiday meant to celebrate their role as a mother—to that despair is brutally crushing for many women.
In our foster parent training, we were not encouraged to do much for the women whose children are in our care. Beyond perhaps maintaining a visitation journal in the diaper bag, I don’t recall any suggestions for supporting our foster children’s mothers.
In my years as a foster parent, however, I have had occasion to get to know several of our kids’ moms. I have also gotten to hear mothers of foster youth speak in various settings, and now I am passionate about encouraging foster parents to do more to encourage and support the women whose children are in our care.
Here are a few ways you could support your foster child’s mom, especially on Mother’s Day:
Write her a card. If your foster child’s mom is diligently working toward reunification—showing up for visits, attending rehab or other programs mandated by her reunification plan, dropping her UAs, etc.—you might write something like this:
I just wanted to take a moment to write and express my support for you. I cannot imagine how hard this journey has been for you, and how especially hard it will be this weekend as Mother’s Day rolls around. I want you to know how impressed we are by how hard you’re working to get ___ back. I’m sure what you’re doing often feels like an uphill battle, but you’re doing it! Keep it up. We are with you and for you. ____ loves you very much. We are with you and for you and for your reunification.
If your foster child’s mom is out of touch, not making progress, not showing up for visits, etc., you can still make an effort to encourage her with something like this:
I wanted to reach out and let you know we are thinking of you as Mother’s Day approaches. I can only imagine how hard this season has been for you. While we haven’t been in touch in a while, I wanted to tell you we are with you and for you and pulling for your recovery. You have some amazing kids, and we long to see you reconnect with them! They are doing well here, but I know they miss you. You are in our prayers.
Writing a letter to honor her as their mother, to express your support, and to try to protect her dignity is one way to support a woman whose children are in your care.
Have the children make her a gift. If your foster child sees his or her mom for visits, encourage them to make a gift for her for Mother’s Day. This reminds them that, even if they are not living with her, she is still their mother and they can still do something special for her. Some ideas are coloring a picture, painting a picture frame (and putting his own photo in the frame), a scented candle or vase of flowers.
If a mother is not in touch or is not showing up for visits, encourage the child to write a letter or draw a picture for her. Perhaps you can give this to the case manager with the promise that she will pass it along when she sees their mom.
When a woman’s child is in foster care, she feels isolated and alone. Those around her celebrating Mother’s Day adds insult to injury. Help her children honor her with a gift—even if she gets it after the fact. Even months later, knowing her children (and you!) were thinking of her will mean something.
Arrange a phonecall or video chat on Mother’s Day. Again, this would only be appropriate if she is making regular visits with her child and remains in her life. If the mother has been absent from the child’s life for any length of time, I would not suggest making Mother’s Day an occasion for a phonecall. That said, if visitation is happening, make sure they get to connect, at least by phone, on Mother’s Day.
These are just a few ideas for simple, low-touch ways to support your foster child’s mom on Mother’s Day. These actions do not require awkward interactions or any real engagement (though I do encourage foster parents to engage with their foster children’s parents if possible!)