Recognizing area foster moms on Mother’s Day
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Mother’s Day can be a challenging time for families separated by the courts, and foster mothers are called to take on the demanding role of a parent for children in need.
Dionne Cox of St. Clairsville has been a foster parent since 2011 along with husband Anthony. They have fostered three children, one of whom they adopted. They took a hiatus from fostering while raising their new son and are now providing a home for a little girl.
Cox said they felt an early called to foster.
“My husband and I, even before we were dating … we talked about fostering and adopting, and I think that was laid on our hearts because we’re Christians, and we think of God as our Father. We’re obviously loved and adopted by Him, so we wanted to make sure we would live that out in our daily lives with kids who need love and just need a place where they can be safe until they can go back to their families,” she said.
“We went into it knowing that the possibility of adoption was there, but you weren’t necessarily going to be able to adopt a baby. Most people want to adopt a newborn,” she said, adding a foster family must open their hearts knowing the situation will likely be temporary.
“The purpose of foster care is reunification, and that we were trying to be with these kids, and loving them and helping them to function effectively until they can go back with their families. That part of it is difficult,” she said.
“My mom was a great example of how you love people, whether they’re born to you or not,” Cox said.
In this and her work as a teacher, Cox said it is important to accept one’s limitations.
“You’re not going to be that perfect parent, and they’re not looking for a perfect mom, but they’re looking for someone who will listen, someone who will correct them and someone who will actually provide structure and who will provide discipline,” Cox said. “That’s how we become productive citizens.”
She recalled one foster child who stayed with them a year before reuniting with their biological family.
“That was difficult. He’s not with us anymore, although he comes to visit, but he’s not with us anymore because his family’s doing well,” Cox said. “God has placed these kids with you for a short period of time. You do what you need to and you cry a lot when they leave, but you know for a fact that … they’re going back into a safe environment, and you also develop a relationship with the biological family. That’s one of the things that we try to do.”
She added foster parents make an impression.
“Know that they’re just families in a hard time, and that if it wasn’t for God’s grace you could be in a similar situation and looking at it from their point of view,” she said. “We can extend friendship, and that bond that we develop with this little guy that we have will continue even when he is back home with his family.”
It is also important to be mindful of words and behavior as a foster parent, she said.
“When you’re not even paying attention, kids are soaking in what you’re saying and what you’re doing. Foster parenting is like that. It’s about being intentional,” she said. “When you think you’re saying something that might not matter, they’re getting it.”
Cox recalled their experiences with the foster son who would become their adopted son.
“He came into our home with the purpose of foster-to-adopt, and that was tough. He gave us a run for our money,” she said, adding determination, therapy, counseling and foster parenting classes give valuable insights. “Sometimes the behavior that we’re getting isn’t really directed toward us, but you have kids that come into your home that are just angry, and they’re sad. … You just have to take your time and work through that.”
On a typical Mother’s Day, she will encourage buying a gift or making a craft for the foster child’s biological mother.
“You remind the kids constantly,” she said. “We talk about their moms and their dads, and on Mother’s Day we talk about Mom all the time.”
The holiday is complicated by whether visits with biological family are allowed or if the gift must be passed on by a social worker.
“I think it’s important that even when the kids are in a foster home, regardless of what Mom or Dad has done, that you’re always showing that level of respect for the families,” Cox noted.
Cox offers advice to potential foster parents who are considering this challenging and rewarding task.
“Search your heart first and realize if it’s something you want to do, knowing it can turn your family upside down,” she said, adding that a support network of experienced friends is valuable. “Talk to people who have done it for a little bit. Hear the ugly of it, because it’s not always pretty. … After you’ve heard it, and you’re still willing to do it, do it with your whole heart.”