Three Ways a Mother, Part II

Interview by Luanne

“Being a foster parent means you are giving a piece of your heart away and you may not see it again.” Kat Mendoza

Part I can be found here.

On Friday, we introduced Kathy Mendoza and her husband John, as well as their foster, bio, and adopted children.  Kathy, or Kat, is a stay-at-home mom and John, who was born in the Philippines, is a federal police officer.  They have a transracial and diverse loving family.

Here is the second part of my interview with Kat.

How did you choose whether to adopt from foster care, a local adoption, an international adoption, etc.? What factors did you consider? Do you still feel the same way you did when you made the decision?

Adoption was always a by-product.  It is only the right option when it is a fit on all sides. And, yes, we feel the same because we will do it again when the situation is right. But we do not need the paper to say who is or isn’t our child.

What has surprised you about your foster children and your son by adoption?

How resilient kids are. They are absolutely no different from my step or biological sons. They are mine, and I get the same moments of pride and joy with each.

What would you like to see changed in the system?

The system isn’t what needs to change; it is society’s views of the children in foster care and the children who have been adopted. People assume something is wrong with the child. I believe that this is a cultural thing. There are cultures where it is not only more accepted, but normal to foster or adopt.

What qualifications do you think it takes to be a foster parent? An adoptive parent? An adoptive parent in a foster adoption?

Just being open. They say being a parent means having your heart walking around somewhere else, but being a foster parent means you are giving a piece of your heart away and you may not see it again.

It is supposed to be that way.  As a foster parent, you have to be open to the fact that the child may not stay.

There are misconceptions. I have actually had people tell me they were surprised we do it because we can have kids–that they thought only infertile couples do foster care or adoption.

Do you have resources that help you? If so, what are they?

We were blessed with awesome social workers.  Since we just moved and are in the process of having our license changed to a new county, I have high hopes that we will be as lucky here.

But the best support are other foster parents. No one will understand what you go through unless they have been through it. And what works in a clinical or school setting is not going to be as effective as the tried and true home methods of other parents!

Do you have a little story about your children you would like to share?

The most recent thing my oldest told me was he wished we could get his younger brother so that we could straighten him out. This is the same “child” who told me after his graduation that if it wasn’t for us he didn’t think he would have been there that night.

That same evening I watched two of my kids graduate, beating the 50% odds.  I cried from happiness.

Have you volunteered or worked with any agencies for foster children or adoptions?

I have spoken at the last class given to prospective foster parents each year.  Later on, when I would see them, they would tell me they have taken my suggestions.  These include making sure the biological parents get pictures, the kids are sent to visitations with their parents in clothes the parents send, and starting a scrapbook or Lifebook for the kids.

Also, I have held a few offices for our local Foster Parent Association. We worked to make sure other foster parents had more opportunities to fulfill their continuing education requirements and that they understand what their rights and responsibilities are.

What do you want the general population to know about the foster system and the adoption system?

It is a personal decision to foster or adopt.  I have heard so many people say they couldn’t do it, but these are the same people who have stepped up and accepted my kids without any shadow of a doubt. We have been blessed with friends and family who didn’t have a choice in the matter, but have been supportive without hesitation. More people could do it than they realize.

However, there are many other ways to help. People can mentor, donate, the opportunities are endless.

Has your experience with fostering and/or adoption affected your politics? In other words, is it a topic you watch for during election season?

I have yet to hear of any politician run on a platform covering foster care or adoption. In fact, through fostering older kids, I have seen their advisory boards push for and receive change. They ask for treatment to be changed, they lobby our government, and they have been with our governor and president when new bills were signed making the situations of the children better.

What do you think motivates you to foster children?

Our motivation is to give back, but John and I have different reasons. I had an idyllic childhood and feel I couldn’t appreciate it and value it enough if I was not trying to make the childhoods of others better.

A family took my husband under their wing when he came to this country.  By doing so they gave him opportunities he would have had a hard time copying, so he feels he should do the same for others.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Even from the unknown public we have received acceptance, for the most part. People will stop to tell me what a beautiful family I have or how cute my kids are. People have stopped me to say I’m doing a great job with my kids. I have yet to come against negativity.  In fact, the “worst” has only been good-natured curiosity.

I do correct terminology when people use the expression “real kids.” There was one time a friend of a friend stopped mid-sentence asking where our one child got his curly hair (I was in a phase of straightening my own all of the time), and we laughed because he looked at John and myself, then walked away. We figure he concluded our son was the by-product of an indiscretion. If he had stuck around we would have been happy to explain. My oldest son has been mistaken for daddy before. He or myself will say he is big brother or I am his mother. I only wish that in our culture we could look past the label of foster or adopted child as quickly as the diversity of my family has been accepted!

Also, I want to add something for people to know: teens aren’t automatically harder. Yes, they will try you, but all teens will. I know that I did with my parents! And I have run into situations where teens are easier than some younger kids, just because you can reason with older kids. You can walk through problems and emotions more easily.

This has been an amazing experience for my biological son. He asks to see his big brother and friend, and the kids I have had previously. He once told me that when he gets older he will ask God to find him a little boy that doesn’t have a daddy so he can be the daddy.

The more you reflect on your situation, the more you think of . . . .

Here’s one more.  Just the little everyday things we have taken for granted–photos, holidays, trips–they are all amazing to experience with children. Taking one of my kids on their first roller coaster ride will probably be etched in my memory forever. You get to experience everything again through new eyes. Going clothes shopping have been memorable experiences with my kids. It might be cliché to quote Winnie the Pooh, but the littlest things do take up the most room in your heart!

John and Kat

John and Kat

Comments

  1. Lisa Ercolano says:

    Kat, many heartfelt thanks for your willingness to share your experiences with the rest of us, and Luanne, thank you for doing these interviews! Kat, my family comprises one “homemade” child (now a lovely 23-year-old young woman) and one (now a lovely 18-year-old young woman!) who came to us via what I think of as the miracle of adoption. She was born in China, and for reasons we know not, landed in an orphanage. Your comment that people are surprised that you and your husband adopted because you were able to have kids biologically from your own body resonated with me, because that was the case with us, too. But because we chose to adopt our second from China (after reading in the New York Times about the plethora of baby girls who needed homes), people *assume* that our oldest was adopted, too, and that we have infertility. In fact, back on the plane to China with a group who was adopting, several of the adopting families told me that they thought my husband and I were crazy to adopt when we had “another choice.” I think that is a very typical reaction, unfortunately. Adoption was our very first choice for our younger daughter and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: