Kristin Ballard on Foster Care, Parenting, and helping community.

Kristin Ballard is known for her outreach to children in foster care, adopting children herself, and being the wife of the Indiana Colts General Manager. In this interview with her, we discuss what she has learned from her years as a foster mom, the honest challenges and the joys, and her work in her community.

How do you navigate hard times as a foster parent?

Ballard: You need to take a step back and evaluate “is this for me?” Are you willing to go through the hard times and you have to make a conscious effort to be there in the moment and figure it out and be mentally ready for that? And some days I am, some days I’m not. 

I definitely think that you have to reevaluate that every day and commit yourself every day to what you’re doing. That can happen with biological children, that can happen with adopted children, but you know the adopted ones, they’ll push you a little further. They’ll push you to try to get rid of them. Like, ‘are you really going to be there for me?’

You definitely have to take care of yourself and I tell foster parents that all the time. You need to take care of yourself, you need to take care of your relationships. So you can be that person for the kids and to be that role model for the kids. So my mom always told me – she’s no longer with us- but she always told me go to the shower, use your tears and wash your worries down the drain. 

And so there’s many times that I will try not to show it in front of the kids. It’s okay just let them see you cry. It’s okay to let them see the emotions, but go and have that moment for yourself. If it’s just in the shower for five minutes by yourself… cry it out and wash those worries down the drain and find a way to move forward and recommit yourself to the kids because there’s so many times that you need to do that for yourself. 

Because they’re gonna push you. Just like your biological children, they’re gonna push you and they’re gonna push you away and see if you come back.

What’s been the biggest challenge as a foster parent?

Ballard: You know, some of the most trying times in my relationship with Chris was the kids and to not be resentful of that because Chris and I don’t argue. We don’t fight. We don’t raise our voices to each other and the only times we had were in private and we disagreed. I was being too hard or you know, and he waltzes in and says you’re too hard on him. (Laughs) Dude, you don’t know what I’ve been through all day, right? 

So just having those times of resentment… what could my life have been if this hadn’t happened? But my saying also is: We play and God laughs. And he laughs at us as daily… because you know what?  You have to have faith. You have to have faith in the fact that we were dealt this hand. I only wanted two kids. I have six now. I really was determined I was only having two kids and I had a girl boy and I was done and he talked me into one more and then the girls came along and… yeah I was laughed at very hard that day. 

But you know, you just have to keep moving forward and you have to keep thinking I can do this. This is what I’m here for. This is my purpose and my purpose is to make them give them that chance at life. Give them that chance to achieve things and be the best person they can be no matter what direction they go into. If it’s sports related, if it’s college, if it’s not college, like where can you find your purpose and your passion and your joy? That’s my goal for them is to be able to take care of themselves. 

What has being a foster parent taught you?

Ballard: Being a foster parent has taught all of us so much. The biological kids handled it and took them in much quicker than Chris and I did because we didn’t know what we were going to do and we had a guard up we were doing, we were taking care of them, we were loving on them, but we were afraid to get attached.  The three kids, they were locked in from day one. 

So they get it, and we are very open with them because I just feel like that’s the way that they have consistency, that they have no doubts. Like there’s no doubt in our family that this is the way we’re going to be. Give everyone time and give them their space. Everyone’s doing great now.

What is your advice for people wanting to get involved with kids and families affected by foster care?

Ballard: A lot of people try like “no, I got this.” Well, there’s resources. I tell a lot of people that. And I’m so grateful for Every Child now that they have a Resource Center for people to go to for volunteer opportunities.

You don’t have to just be a foster parent. There’s so many opportunities out there. I would just say be a respite caregiver. That helps the children, that helps the foster parents. Just take the courses. It’s not long. And that way you can just give everybody a break.