Thursday, February 2, 2017

Questions about Foster Care.

I have been given a lot of opportunities lately to share our story. Our story is one of my favorite things to talk about, it is filled with God’s goodness, personal development and lots of really cute kids. Each time our story is shared I am flooded with questions. Here are a few of them.

What started it all for you?

My journey into foster care has been a long one coming. It started in my childhood home watching my mom raise my sister who had no biological connection to her. As a child I would secretly hope that someone would leave a baby on my doorstep, I was intrigued and inspired by stories of people in third world countries opening their homes to orphans, collecting them from boxes on the streets and raising them as their own. In our home our door was always open, friends were always over and holidays were a mix of blood and non-blood “family.”

Early December 2013, what I assumed would be a pretty typical week. Sunday, we had a guest speaker at church, she was talking to us about foster care on behalf of a local ministry. Monday, I pass by a billboard asking me to become a foster parent. Tuesday a radio ad about becoming a foster parent. Wednesday meet someone new, they happened to be a foster parent. Thursday meet another set of foster parents. Friday, finish the week out nicely with an article in the paper about foster care and the great need in our community.

I also could not escape the song “Oceans,” it was my own personal soundtrack. The line that haunted me was “...lead me where my trust is without borders…take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, where my faith can be made stronger.” When I notice a common theme I slow down and pay attention.

I noticed the theme but what I was supposed to do with it? There was something there and I just couldn’t shake it. The following week while having coffee with my friend, Keeva, I briefly mentioned the fact the foster care kept coming up. She shared with me that she had a friend who had stepped into the life of a single foster mom a few years before, she fanned the flame that was flickering in my soul.

Feeling inspired, that night I went home and began to research the foster care laws for my state and discovered, I was a great candidate. I decide to press in, not being able to shake the feeling that I could do something. I went to an informational meeting and the next thing I knew I was enrolled in classes and well on my way to a license. Could I do this? I was more than qualified, the things I assumed disqualified me, did not. The things I viewed as inadequacies were not in fact not shortcomings but realities, things I only needed to work around. I was beginning to realize that I did in fact have the tools I needed, singleness being one of them.

Obviously the ideal goal is reunification with the family. How do you keep that in mind while also investing in the kids? How do you approach that, knowing it really may not be in the best interest of the child to return home?

I have done this well at times and not well at times, I have lots of thoughts about this one. As foster parents it can be easy to feel superior or better than birth parents, that is the easiest way to be miserable. Reality is we are blessed that we have found other coping skills besides addiction or abuse. I must love whole heartedly but with an open hand, the juggle of that is so hard and comes with practice. You will have moments where you see how painful loving these little ones is and the ultimate challenge is realizing in order to truly love your kids you must also love their parents, you can not separate the two. There will be moments where you question is it worth it? I came across this quote early on in my journey, “I am not afraid to grieve. I am afraid of what would happen to these children if no one took the risk to love them.” This journey is not about us, it is about them. We will be uncomfortable, we will grieve, our hearts will break, they must, this system as a whole exists because of brokenness. Foster care and adoption is the redemption work and that reality is messy. You will spend your days seeking Jesus to find the peace allowing you to say, “it is well.” Any moment you invest in a child, is no small or wasted thing.

What was the response from family and friends?

I have had people that knew me before I was mom, who journeyed through the beginning stages. I have people who now pour into my family, not knowing us before. I had people that celebrated and supported what I was doing. While others questioned if being a single mom was the best option for these kids. I had people who made comments about how I would “never find a husband.” I had friends who grieved the good old days when I was single. I found people who I shared the vision early on with, they circled me and walked with me. As time went on I shared a little more and more people walked with me, while some stopped. Now I share our story to the world, now I find people who are like minded and understand the journey of foster care. I have people approach me out of the blue who feel the tug of foster care. I have surrounded my crew, with a community who pours in.

How long did the licensing process take?

Each state is different, my state was 10 weeks of classes (3 hours a week; total of 30 hours) and then I got my license about 6 weeks after completing my classes. Getting your actual license depends on a lot of factors (paperwork, background checks, etc), it can take up to 3 months to get your actual license.

Were you initially foster to adopt or just as time went on?

I was actually foster care only until the second to last class, I felt I needed to be adopt as well. Changing it during the classes was as easy as checking a box, changing it post classes was a bit more of a hassle I suggest just doing both even if you aren’t ready to adopt right away. The greatest mistake I made, was not believing I was the best parent for my children, I still struggled with being single and forcing that on them. It almost caused me not to adopt them. Be confident that if God is calling you there, He will keep showing up and supporting you, even into adoption.

Do you work or stay at home?

The foster care monthly stipend allowed me to step back from a full time job to about 30 hours a week. Allowing me to be the one who drops off and picks up at school, the mom who is home on weekends and day offs. I have had to learn the balance or work and home. Choosing to put my work hat on and focus on that during those hours. Striving to steward my time well when I am home with my crew.

How did/do you navigate being a young, single, foster/adoptive mom? 

I viewed singleness as a negative attribute as a foster mom, I was wrong. Actually it became a strength, some kids do better in homes without a mom or dad depending on the abuse they endured. My kids did better not having a male in our home at first, giving them a chance to heal, bond and grow. I said earlier that we have surrounded ourselves with a large community who pour into us. Men and women, who come into our home and just love on my crew. My friends are awesome and will come to me after my crew is in bed. I am an extrovert, so the change of being locked in my home at 7pm every night was a huge adjustment. I just changed my social calendar and brought it into my home.

How do you decide whether to say yes or no to a placement?

There are so many factors that go into this. Know your “family” know what you can and can’t handle. I have 2 dogs and I chose to never take someone who had a history of pet abuse. When you get a call for placement you are also given a list of known behaviors, don’t let that be a huge turn off. Consider it and how it will affect your home, but don't let the fear of it sway your decision. My children had a large list of behaviors, many of them I never have seen but there have been others behaviors that were a surprise. I also pray about each open bed in my home and I set really firm boundaries about what I am willing to take. This last November, I said no to 13 calls that were not right ages or fits, then one month later I got the call I had been praying for, and I got my baby boy.

Any other questions out there? 

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