May 11, 2010

We are Family.

In June of 2009 our membership to our community recreation center expired.  No big thing.  At the time I was going every day anyway (this was prior to giving birth to a child.  Now…not so much:  a.they don’t take kids under 6 months old at the childcare center.  b. I’m pretty sure my stomach muscles still don’t even connect in the center.  But I’ve started back…slowly).  So during one of my trips, I stopped by the front desk to renew the membership. 

I was making small talk with the man at the desk while he clicked away on his computer, occasionally asking me a question regarding our membership renewal, and our faithful attendance to the rec center every dayIn the shuffle, he asked me how many children we would be adding to the membership.  “None right now,” I said, “but we’re foster parents, so our kid status varies.”  From the look on his face you would think I had just said that I’d be bringing my two cats in to take dips in the pool every so often, but not to worry, they’ve never pooped anywhere but the cat box.  He looked at me like I was crazy

He asked me to wait a minute, and turned around to whisper on the phone like I had just caused a code red.  When he came back, he told me very politely, that my foster children would not be welcome at the rec center on our family membership, and that if I ever wanted to bring one of these foster children with me, I’d have to pay the $8 they charge non-members.  I was confused.  I’m paying for a family membership, I explained.  “Yes, I’m aware,” he replied, “but your foster children,

they don’t fit our definition of “family.”

Cue livid, boiling anger rising.  Steam out of the ears.  Seeing spots kind of angry.

I kindly told him that I’d be looking for another place to exercise, and that I’d let all of my friends know not to go there in case they didn’t “fit their definition of family.”  (After cooling off I wrote a very pointed e-mail to the head of recreation for our city.  I suggested that they change their definition.  He let me know that we could attend the rec without issue, but that their definition of family suited them just fine.)


All that to say – this kind of thing happens a lot as foster parents.  Projects at school that are about family get a lot more difficult.  People (well-meaning people) say things that make it sound like your foster kids don’t count.  When introducing your family, people make distinctions between your foster kids and your biological kids.  Before Sylvie was born people would tell us about parenthood like we had never been parents before.  When we have our second child, I’d place bets that we get comments like, “Just watch out, two is a different ballgame.”  It’s frustrating.  I don’t fault the individual though, I think it’s our society.  Why do we define family so narrowly?  Adoptive Mama Of Two posted on this a while back, and she quoted,

"Losing ones family obliges us to find ones family. Not always the family that is our blood but the family that can become our blood." - Sean Connery in Finding Forester


Some people have to find their family.  Our family grows by the year unlike most.  But these kids are my kids.  And we are family.


  1. This makes my stomach turn. How SICK. I know you agree with me that when we take foster children in they are JUST as much a part of the family as biological or adopted kids. Isn't that the point of foster care? For these kids to have a family when their own family is making poor choices. Am I wrong? I thought foster homes were FAMILY so the kids didn't have to go into an institutional setting. But the man running the rec center desk must no better, since I'm sure he's been involved in foster care for years and years. sick.

    We're getting two more kids (shhhh I haven't blogged it yet) and you can bet that they will be coming to our country club to swim with us every day this summer. They might legally be foster, but they are my sisters and I reuse to treat them differently.

    end rant.

    Oh, and good for you for sticking up for yourself and your boys!

  2. I can't believe that. I was REALLY hoping halfway through the post it would turn out to be just an ignorant desk clerk, but to have the manager confirm that rule? We had no trouble getting cards for Poet and Nixon last summer at our rec center - I don't even think I had to mention they were foster kids (and they obviously weren't our biological kids).

    Further, if this is a tax-dollar funded center, you might be able to write some politicians, city council, etc, and get things changed. Would the rec center not admit kids living with an aunt or uncle? Grandmother moving in with her grown kids and grandkids? Your elected officials need to know that about this.

  3. Wow, That would really make me mad too!! I am a foster parent too, and I was thankful that the YMCA was willing to accept any of my foster children, I just had to add their names to my list when the names changed.
    I also agree that taking it a step further would be a great idea! Sheesh! I would give them negative publicity by writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper and such too! They shouldn't get away with that!

    On a seperate note... Keep up the good work! You are amazing.

  4. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. I hope you have a YMCA in the area that you can all join as a family instead!

    Feel free to share the name of this rec center as I'm sure they should hear from others about how wrong their definition of family is.

  5. Oh Maggie-belle!!! I want to let loose my mama lion roar! How ridiculous is that! I have never given birth to a child! I have never adopted! But I AM a mother to the nine children who are now and WILL ALWAYS be part of my family! I dare someone to try and challenge that!

    Pa-tooey! Wipe your shoes as you walk out their door! Good luck finding a new place that welcomes you and your brood just as you are!

  6. What is their definition of family??? Is it designed to discriminate against single parents? Gay folks?
    A few thoughts now that my blood has stopped boiling, too. If the kids are in school then they are legally there because they are in your home (therefore the CITY says they are part of your family (cuz out-of towners can't go to city schools for free...etc)
    Also, contact the local paper....

  7. I really can't understand why the boys can't be on your family pass. Makes no sense. Also, ever since I posted in on your FB wall, I've felt weird that I wished you a happy first mother's day when you were a mother last year, too. I don't think you were any less a mother last year, just a different kind of mother.

  8. All I can think to say is- ignorance isn't dead.
    Foster Family IS family.

  9. It is so ironic that you posted this because I've had two experiences recently that I worried would turn out like this.

    A week ago I bought the family membership for the zoo. They wanted the names and ages of all our kids. Well, I knew that we'd be fostering but not an age or name. I didn't want to get all tangled up in it with the clerk at the entrance gate (as a long line formed behind me). So I wrote down a name that will fit a boy or a girl and made up a birthdate. At the time I felt a bit dishonest (was it wrong?), but wanted to avoid the situation that you encountered.

    Yesterday while picking up my daughter from the childcare at the gym I told the manager over childcare that we are becoming foster parents and would she mind if I brought the foster child in. Her exact words: "Of course, bring them! They're a part of your family aren't they?" I could have kissed her.
    (Now, it's another issue if our agency will be OK with that.)

    I can't believe that. And for the head to write you back and say that their definition of family is just fine?!? Ok... I'm done.

    I love your blog because you write honestly and it helps me see what being a foster mom is really like.. down to the not so fun moments.

    Graet job sticking up for and loving on those kids!

  11. Great great post and very much needed.

    I'm visiting your blog for the first time, will follow, and hope you'll do the same. Looking forward to "knowing" you better.


Thanks for commenting!!


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