May is National Foster Care Month, so when the opportunity arose that I could write about it I was so thrilled. Foster care is something near and dear to my heart and something I am currently in the nitty-gritty of. I am a current foster parent and I am here to spill all the tea about it.
First, let me tell you a little about me, my family, and our foster care journey before I jump into all the frequently asked and touchy questions. We are a family of three but currently have two foster children in our home. We have been foster parents for almost a year, and although ‘new’ foster parents we have been through a lot of different situations. Let me tell you, as soon as you become a foster parent there is no slowing down.
We have had 5 children come through our home from just days old to toddlers and I can tell you that it has been amazing, but so so hard.
We became foster parents because both my husband and I felt called to it. Every direction we went, we felt fostering was calling us. So we found an amazing foster care agency that treats us like family and gives us unconditional support; a must-have in this exhausting journey of fostering!
I talk to many families and women almost daily about fostering and what it’s like… what its REALLY like. Because if you can hear how we were affected by a child, how we got attached and hear about the heartbreak of losing a child that isn’t yours. Then maybe, just maybe, foster care is for you.
OK. LET’S SPILL THE TEA.
The most frequently asked question is…
How do you go about becoming a foster parent?
You need to find an agency – and not just any agency. You need to call around to foster agencies in your area and interview them. The agency you choose will be lucky to have you and you want it to feel like home. It needs to be a place you can feel supported, encouraged, and wanted.
I’ll be real with you.
We tried several different agencies, even getting to the point where we were sitting in an office with an agency manager signing paperwork, and we just didn’t like the vibe and we said “no, thank you.”
It was OUR choice. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t!
Once you find your agency, they will guide you through all the steps to becoming a foster parent. Which means, LOTS of paperwork, home studies, classes, interviews, and MORE paperwork. Here are a few local agencies to check out: Anchor Family Services, Benchmark Family, and Circles of Care.
Now the good stuff. . .
What’s my favorite/least favorite part of being a foster parent?
You know when someone says “It’s the little things that matter”, and although so cliché, its the truth. I look at it like this: These children all come from different circumstances and backgrounds, yet all still go through the same small but life-changing stages. I think those developmental changes are huge. We are the family they celebrate their first foods, first holidays, first time crawling, or their first word. These milestones are huge to me. I get all the firsts for these children while they are away from their biological family and I don’t take that for granted. These small moments are my favorite and what keeps me motivated in this process.
Now my least favorite is saying goodbye.
It comes to a time in your foster care journey that you have to say goodbye to a child you love so much. It’s the best thing for that child to go home with family but that doesn’t make it easier. I don’t think goodbyes will get easier but hello’s sure do come quick. Every child that comes through your home will have a special place in your heart. You will remember the GOOD and the BAD and cherish every milestone with them.
New Placements and CPS
The phone rings and on the other end of the phone is your foster agency calling with a potential foster placement.
“I have a 2 year old female, Caucasian, basic care. Do you want to accept?”
“Yes, yes we do” and then we hang up. We now wait, we are waiting to see if CPS has chosen our home for this child. Once we get the call we were chosen we then wait for CPS to arrive at our home; child in hand. We open the door and with open arms bring the child into our home. While one parent is doing placement paperwork, the other is playing, talking, or just sitting with the child.
The world all of a sudden slows down and speeds up for all of us.
CPS caseworker leaves and then that child just becomes our family, right then and there. We offer food and drink right away because as a parent feeding and caring for our child’s needs comes so quickly. Then we give them a tour of the home, showing them their bedroom, the playroom, and where to get snacks. Now we watch and wait.
We let the child take it in and not rush. How scary it must be to be alone (without family) in a stranger’s home. Lots of wiping tears, hugging, and holding happens shortly after. But day by day the tears transform into smiles and the laughter outweighs the crying.
The Misconception of Foster Care
Foster parents are mean. CPS doesn’t really care about the children and foster children are all bad, angry and come with a lot of baggage. We hear these things and its hard not to believe because news and media give foster care and CPS a bad rep. But I’m here to tell you, there are amazing foster families who give all they have for these children. There are also CPS workers that lose sleep and always have the best interest of the child in mind, and nobody else. Don’t let the horror stories you hear in the media overshadow all the good that people are doing out there.
As for the kids, YES, some come with more trauma than most adults. YES, they are angry, and YES, I’m sure they have made some bad choices. But their background doesn’t define who they are.
Some just haven’t been given the opportunity, love, and attention they deserve. Most of the children in foster care just need a good role model, parent, and friend. There is nothing a child can’t accomplish with a little structure, consistency, and love. The world is at their fingertips and foster parents are here for them to achieve greatness by celebrating all the little things.
My Thoughts on Reunification: Good or Bad?
Reunification, where do I even start.
We have been through reunification and have seen the good and the bad even in this short time we have been foster parents. Reunification is the number one goal when it comes to foster care.
When becoming a foster parent we sign up knowing that the goal is reunification. We want a child to go back to their family and we want families to have their children. Reunification only works though if all people involved are willing to do whatever it takes to get a child back. That means supporting the process even if they don’t agree with it.
Parents who lose custody of their children are given certain requirements that they have to complete in order to even have a chance of getting their child back. It’s a hard tough task – as it should be.
I do believe in reunification and I do believe every family should stay together. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes I don’t agree with decisions or could use some clarity on it, but that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here for the child and if I need to, I am here for the biological family too. Reunification is such an amazing thing if it happens successfully.
Ok… Ok… To Sum It Up!
Being a foster parent is tough, emotionally, and physically. There are a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of paperwork, and a lot of unplanned visits. But for us, we are here to love every child that comes through our door and celebrate the little things with them.
We get to watch them grow and love us. Foster care has changed our lives in so many ways and its hard, messy, and complicated. But we are here for it, we are here for these kids.
There is always a great need for foster parents. With over 400,000 children in foster care in the US, 28% are able to be adopted. You don’t have to be a foster parent to help. Look into CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), become an EA (Education Advocate), and last but certainly not least, love your neighbor!
Get out of your comfort zone and be a mentor to those around you!