Driveways always have been significant for a child in foster care. They are the first point of entry to new a foster home. It’s the moment when the placement is real. Turning into the driveway creates a heightening of everyone’s senses. There’s the perceptible bump when the car drives over the gutter and through the beginning of the driveway. The bump takes everyone away from the cocoon of the car and gives an emotional jolt into reality. The child looks up, eyes get wide and are full of anticipation. If foster mom is in the car, there’s a mostly inaudible deep breath from her. She’s nervous and thinking about all of the things she wants to get perfect. If foster dad is in the car, he fills the silence with his personal brand of “I know things are awkward but it will be kinda fun” dad language. It’s happening. Home.
As a worldwide pandemic was taking hold of our lives, a single mom took Wisconsin’s new Safer At Home order to heart. This particular foster mom has been giving safety, love and hope to teen girls for several years. Her calling is to nurture strong girls into becoming strong women. As businesses were shutting down, and anxiety was rising up around her, she picked up a young teen girl who has spent most of her almost dozen years of life in the foster care system. As they drove across that perceptible bump and into the driveway, they felt the familiar feelings that both of them have had on many occasions before.
The stay at home order has been a blessing for them. Often during the first couple of weeks of a new foster care placement, there’s a lot of activity: paperwork, new routines, and scheduling appointments. For this mom and this teen, they are getting a rare opportunity right away to figure each other out, to bond, and, simply, to be. They, and mom’s older teen daughter, watch and laugh at TikTok videos, cook great meals together, and take long daily family walks with the dog. They also work on life skills together, like hygiene, laundry, and, naturally, cooking.
Regular visits from the case manager happen, too. During this time of social distancing, most foster care case manager visits happen by video. Foundations case manager, Jessica, is among the case managers that look forward to driveway visits with her foster families. We are social creatures, and foster families are craving connection just like all of us. Driveway visits are a piece of normalcy. And they are fun. Foster parents or case managers bring out chalk and other games that nurture imagination. Driveway time is intentional time to play, talk, and check in. Driveway visits feel like summer. Jessica recently had a driveway visit with this mom and this teen who are bonded by foster care. She’s happy to report that things are going well.
Inspirational business author Joey Reiman believes our real wealth is in family, and he says that “the road to success just might be your driveway.” Are you ready to make turning the car into your driveway a significant event for a teen in foster care? In one week during the pandemic, the Foundations foster care team received 29 referrals from counties in Wisconsin searching for placements for children in the foster care system. 23 – or 79%! – of those referrals were for teens. We desperately need foster families who want to nurture, mentor, and love teens into adulthood.
Please visit our Foster Care by Foundations page to learn how your driveway can be the road to success for a teen in foster care!
Written by Kelly Nutty, Director of Development, Foundations Health & Wholeness