The day I decided to foster started just like any other day. Coffee. Drive to work. Mark assessments. Teach. Take detention duty.
Somewhere around the middle of the day I was called into the principal’s office. Not because I was in trouble, but because one of the kids in my homeroom was. The ‘he is about to be expelled’ sort of trouble.
The principal asked me to step in and advocate for the boy, to present his side of the story. See, there was no one else to speak up for him. Bryce* was one of those kids whose own parents weren’t there to back him up, nor to tell him off once he got home. In fact, he didn’t even have a home.
Bryce was a ward of the state. He spent the school term living in a boarding school, and on holidays was carted off to whatever last minute respite placement could be found. A foster kid, without a foster home.
It wasn’t the first time I had dealings with kids whose ‘parent’ was the Department of Child Protection (DCP). There was Hayley*, a stubborn blond haired girl who muttered ‘bitch’ under her breath, but thrived in my History class; Troy*, my son’s 12 year old mate who came over for dinner a few days before making out to slash his wrists in the playground; teenage friends, some long silent, others reunited thanks to Facebook. Each had a story to tell, most needed a stable home. A home which I felt I would somehow one day be able to offer.
Ever since my teens I wanted a large family, but fate had other ideas. My first husband fell victim to cancer. Sadly, chemo, disability and the doom of terminal illness have a way of limiting both procreation and adoption – to say nothing of fostering, which requires mental strength and physical presence to deal with children with extraordinary needs and deep wounds.
Enter husband #2. We spoke of fostering on our first date. But there were houses to be bought, families to be blended, and holidays to take. Foster care was put on the one day definitively maybe list.
And then Bryce happened.
Bryce, so full of bravado and make pretend confidence in the principal’s office. But now, in my homeroom, he sat on the chair with his bag packed, shoulders hunched. His fists opened, then squeezed tight, his head bowed low. He didn’t say a word as I tried to comfort him, to convince him that another school will be ok, that future will be fine.
Finally, he looked up at me; pale, freckled face, hair in a mess. Bright blue eyes, filling with tears, and me, with nothing to say that would make any difference.
“I’m a DCP kid, Miss. Who gives a fuck?”
I never saw Bryce after that day. I have no idea what happened to him since. But that same evening I typed ‘foster care’ into a search engine and picked up the phone.
* Not their real names.