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About Foster Parenting
It is my hope to give anyone interested as much of MY PERSPECTIVE as I can give into the wonderful world of fostering. So with this sentence comes my disclaimer – read it, know it, love it:
All opinions expressed in this blog are MY personal experiences and MY opinion. Each person has their own experience and reason for pursuing foster parenting. Rules differ from state to state. Please consult your local child services for information in your state. Please check the status of your own heart prior to pursuing this avenue. It is NOT for everyone. This is NOT a job to support a family. It’s taking on another person’s child for the sole benefit of the CHILD.
Off soapbox and onto my blog. Sit down – grab coffee, wine, scotch – whatever does ya…. it’s a long one.
How did we get here?
I’ve mentioned often that my body let me down when I was actually trying to be pregnant. Yes, I do have two of my very own biological children. Ten years apart. I wanted more kids, my husband wanted more kids and we both love kids.
We checked into international and national adoption. If you’ve gone that route, you know there are so many (scuze my language here) douche bags in the “adoption business.” Crooks preying on people who want a child. As a point of reference, you could spend about the amount it would cost you to buy a new Cadillac Escalade to adopt a child. They run you through the ringer and then they can say “NO.” Especially China! Truth – oh, and no refunds if it doesn’t pan out. This is not always the case – but something to be aware of.
My husband and I are both the “want to save the world” type. I’m always up for a challenge. I like to try to “fix” and help as much as I can and I truly want to make a difference. If I can do that, I’m happy. It doesn’t always go that way. We wanted to get involved in the system to help a child who’s already here, who needs love. These kids REALLY need love.
It’s not always wonderful, but neither is parenting your own kid. The difference is that some of these kids are hard, really hard. Many of these kids have seen or had unspeakable things done to them. Things you can’t even conceive of. You need to have a heart to love them. To teach them that what they’ve dealt with isn’t how things should be. To love them through it. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.
I will answer a couple of the questions I’ve received most often, in my very “Jenn” little way with a lot of my truth peppered with joy and heartache.
How do you get involved?
It varies from state to state. My best answer is to go to: the National Foster Care & Adoption Search Directory. Read through the site & find the nearest Child Services office to your county.
What do I need to do?
It’s a long process – which is a good thing! An intake worker will come to your home and speak to you and your family. They will look at your home to see how many children your home can accommodate, along with your family.
Yes, most of us are only looking for one child – but they will always consider you for sibling groups and you may change your mind. We’ve had a few sibling groups come through. Know your limit! They will fill out paperwork & ask you for references from friends/family members. They will do a background check. You will need to be fingerprinted and you will need to take classes. These are all very good things – if half the parents on the planet had to go through all of this to get a child, there wouldn’t be so many children in need!
The process will be a long, annoying pain in the arse! Expect it. You’re dealing with the government.
You CAN be very specific about the type of child you are willing to take. They will call you for any child they need to place but you CAN say no without it being held against you. Set a criteria that will work for you and your family in your home. Consider the ages of your kids, bedrooms. Think carefully – do you want a newborn? Really? Many of the newborns are drug addicted and may cry all the time. Be sure you can deal with that and be sure that you ask the question. Drug addiction usually takes about six months to wear off.
The “dumpster babies” and “Safe Haven babies” don’t seem to exist in the system. If they do, I’ve never been offered one.
Talk to your family. Sit down with every single person in your immediate household, and those close to you. You’ll need their support. Find out what every person thinks about the idea and what they think their role will be. You all will need to work together, even your kids. Trust me!
Our very first foster child had substantial emotional issues. She was a self-abuser at two years old. She screamed and cried all the time. She had two speeds: cute and psychotic. You could see the switch flip. I’m getting into this because my son couldn’t handle it. It was too much for him and he decided to go stay with his father until we could get the child re-placed in a more suitable environment for her. This situation was a total shock to our entire family. The other thing we were not prepared for was how difficult it would be to let her go, because we did fall in love with this child. We just knew we were not able to give her what she needed. I cried for weeks.
Ask many, many, many questions. If you’re not getting the answer you’re looking for – ask someone else. Keep asking until you are completely satisfied that you understand the answer you are receiving. I do it all the time. Yes, there’s confidentiality – BUT if there is information you need to benefit the child, you are entitled to the answer. You won’t always know what questions to ask if you’re new so they give you a list in training. Use it!
Make sure your own children are on board.
I can’t stress this enough: make sure your children are on board. They will ALWAYS need to come first and be your main priority. Make sure they understand that it’s more than a playmate in the home. It can’t be a selfish decision – what you want to do. They really, really need to be a part of it. I mentioned the incident with my son for a reason. As wonderful as this is, it can really interrupt a family.
Our daughter is great with the kids that come through our home. She is a born “little mommy.” She is always jumping in to help the kids, and plays with them. She’s a great big sister. That was one of the things I wanted for her and am thankful it worked out so well BUT – yes, there is always a but – when the kids leave, she is DESTROYED! This has become something I have had to work around.
One little girl we had was very difficult. Our daughter could not wait until she left, but the second the little girl did leave the house, our daughter darted to her room in tears. This was not what we wanted for her.
We talked to her about not taking in any more kids in the future, and she was very clear to say that she wanted more kids, she just felt sad when they left.
We had to come up with a plan so our daughter wouldn’t get hurt. We talked about it and determined that as long as she doesn’t see it, it doesn’t happen.
So after that child, when we knew a child was leaving, we’d pack them up together and when the child was actually leaving, our daughter would go for a play date. She would say her goodbyes before, and when she came home they were gone. No problems. This is what worked for us.
Find other Foster Parents to network with.
You don’t need to be BFF’s, but a network is wonderful. There will be a time you may want to get away with just your biological family – it’s better to KNOW the people your foster child is going into vacation placement with, otherwise they could end up anywhere. The kids have already gone through so much, consistency is important for them. Also, during the tough times, it’s good to have someone to talk with that understands what you’re dealing with. Understands the system.
Stay informed & educated!
There are online classes and groups. You are mandated to have a certain amount of instructional hours per year and per three-year period for annual inspection. These courses are brilliant. I’m a mom – I’ve got two of my own and have had several come through. I have learned so much from these classes. You’ll be surprised at how much you didn’t know!
Document the good stuff (and the bad).
Take notes, lots of them. Be in touch with your caseworker, take lots of pictures and have fun. I try to keep a little diary of important things. Since the invention of the digital camera and Snapfish, it’s much easier to upload pix and put a little caption of what happened in the picture. When a child leaves, they take it with them as pieces to a part of their life they may need in the future.
It’s not about you!
It’s parenting. You’re #2 (take that anyway you want it).
You ALWAYS need to remember this will always be about the child. It’s not a paycheck. If you’re relying on that money for a paycheck, you shouldn’t even be entering into this foray. The stipend is less than child support you’d receive from your significant other in a divorce/custody situation. You WILL spend every single cent and then some on the child. At least I do.
You WILL get your heart broken from time to time. Part of taking in these children is loving and caring for them as if they were your own. You form a bond. Some of the children become adoptable. You may or may not want to go that route. Some of the kids go back. Sometimes they go back to a good place, sometimes you don’t know. No matter what the situation, your heart will break a little each time.
If you’re getting involved for the right reasons, you are giving this child a sense of self and family that they probably never had. The most important things to give kids are roots and wings.
Think of the motto for the Peace Corp – it’s the toughest job you’ll ever love. It’s difficult and it can be heart wrenching. The children can be incredibly needy or angry or impaired. You can and will fall deeply in love with a child, and then they may leave.
Remember: even a few months of love and positive example will make a lifetime of difference in a child’s life.
I’m no saint, I’m no angel. My husband and I are truly lucky to have the opportunity to share in the lives of these kids – the good, the bad and the ugly. I hope this information is helpful to you.
Jenn says: Life is a gift…take each day as it comes & find the humor in every situation. Live well, Laugh often & Love with your whole heart! Be sure to visit her blog My Daily Jenn-ism.