More than a Spare Bedroom: Foster Parenting and Menstruation
It was a cool summer evening, and my husband and I had just finished our pizza dinner when we received the phone call asking us to accept the placement of a ten-year-old girl in our home. My husband and I quickly discussed this opportunity and decided to move forward with having the young girl placed in our home. We wanted to be able to give her the opportunity to be the best version of herself. Fast-forward about an hour and a half and the social services worker arrived at our front door with a scared ten-year-old who had just been told she could not live with her mother any longer and that she would be living with us, for now at least.
I walked the young lady through our home and showed her where everything she may need was kept: the towels, bedding, a new pack of underwear, her bedroom, etc. After showing her the bedroom she would have all to herself and allowing her to get settled, I went into the living room to relax for a little while.
I had just sat down and pulled the blanket over me on the couch to watch television when I heard a blood-curdling scream come from the bathroom. Our new foster daughter was screaming, a scream that contained so much fear. I went to the bathroom door and calmly asked her what was wrong. She fearfully cried that she had blood in her underwear and didn’t know what to do. I told her that everything was going to be okay and sent my husband to the drugstore to get the appropriate feminine hygiene products for a ten-year-old girl (after Googling an image of the correct items for him to purchase, of course).
She allowed me to come in the bathroom, and I sat on the bathtub to talk with her. She had never had “the period talk” with her mother and had no idea what was going on with her body. “Nice to meet you, young lady. Here is how women’s bodies reproduce children.” There is never a dull moment in foster care! My husband returned with the hygiene products, and we had a discussion about hygiene and caring for her body while she was menstruating. A young girl who had barely learned how to properly take care of her hygiene in general was now adding managing her period to the list of responsibilities.
We have cared for a total of eight teenage girls in foster care, with this ten-year-old girl being the youngest. Each girl had a different idea of what it meant to experience menstruation each month and, surprisingly, almost all of them had never had someone discuss the reason for menstruation with them. What I have learned in caring for eight teenage girls, as well as countless conversations with my adult stepdaughter about how to handle this topic, is that the conversation is very important to have within the first couple of days of a girl moving in. I have also learned that each girl has a different preference of feminine hygiene products. We now have a closet in our home that resembles a feminine hygiene aisle at the local drugstore. We have many options to choose from, in hopes that each girl feels she has what she needs for her menstruation cycle.
I distinctly remember, as a youth, being embarrassed to ask my mother each month for products. Therefore, we try to keep them regularly available and accessible. As foster parents, we try to make children feel as comfortable as possible when they are living in our home. Ensuring that a wide variety and assortment of feminine hygiene products for young ladies are available in our home is one of the ways we can attempt to make them feel comfortable. Providing a young girl with this reassurance--especially during what may be a tumultuous point her life--helps ease the transition, creating a healthy environment for her to grow and thrive.
By: Stacey Goodson, Foster Parent and Friend of Be a Rose