What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by an anonymous writer. 

Every night I rock a baby to sleep that isn’t mine. I won’t be keeping her. My job is to love her right now until her mom comes back for her. It’s also my job to hold her older siblings while they cry themselves to sleep because they miss their mommy and want to be with her, not us, even though they’ve been with us more in the past year.

I want you to know what it’s like to be a Safe Family. We’re not foster parents. We’re not doing this because we want to expand our family or because we get paid from the state. In fact, we don’t get paid at all. Most of the families we’ve worked with have some benefits (WIC, food stamps, daycare benefits) but we never actually use those. We could use the daycare but we don’t. We have four kids and because of their adoptions, we have dealt with trauma and attachment for the past several years. While we didn’t want to expand our family we did know that there were kids who need a safe place to land short term. We felt like we would be prepared.

We weren’t.

I don’t know that we ever could have been. Safe Families is a voluntary program, where parents or caregivers contact them to ask for help. The family is in some sort of crisis and the kids need care. Everything is still done through social workers but there is not the involvement of children’s services and with our experience they tend to not be as overwhelmed. But the kids are still coming from unimaginable circumstances right in our own Midwestern, fairly high income city.

What I want you to know is that tonight there are three extra kids sleeping in my house because their mother is homeless. She is young, has no family, and has three children under the age of five. I want you to know that we get, on average, seven emails a week about kids who need placements from Safe Families and I fight between wanting to take every child and wanting to ask them to stop emailing me. I want you to know that I have wondered whether or not it’s appropriate to ask the mother of my extra kids if she would consider adoption because they’ve been here for months and we love them and every time they call me Mama my heart aches. (Side note : It is NOT appropriate and I would never do it.)

I want you to know that this morning they emailed about a 14 year old girl who is pregnant with her second child and getting kicked out of her home. She’s willing to live on the streets but wants a placement for her children. I want you to know that even though I knew this happened here I cannot wrap my head around that.

I want you to know that foster parents don’t get us because we don’t have to deal with the court system and all the lingo that goes along with it. It’s kind of a no man’s land in adoption. Terminating parental rights or making a plan for adoption is rarely ever a goal. We just keep moving along, providing a home and a family for these kids and hoping their mom will step up and follow her plan. I want you to know that we’ve had family members tear us to shreds for this, saying that we’ve adopted four times so we’ve “done enough about that whole orphan thing.”

I also want you to know that this isn’t really tough. We get an email, we discuss whether or not we would be willing to take the placement, we email a response. Within a few hours we usually hear back and if that placement is going to happen, it usually happens within the week. Our social worker visits once a week to check on everyone. Respite care is available whenever we need it. All things considered, this feels like the best way to help those kids who are falling through the cracks in our own community.

But it is hard too, even though I just said it isn’t. It’s hard to welcome another child or more children in to our home. It’s hard to say goodbye to them. After having these three kids here for so long, even though I love them, I am longing to have my family back to normal. But whenever I think about packing away their things I want to sob. These three kids have been knit into the fabric of our family and we love them dearly. I can’t imagine not having them here.

Still, we are a Safe Family. This is what we do. We have become part of a community safety net and for better or worse, this is where we will remain.

For more information about Safe Families, please visit : http://www.safe-families.org/