Any Foster Parents Out There?


#1

I’d be interested in hearing how your family finds this experience. My husband and I have five children, the oldest is 16, the youngest is 4. So they’re pretty spread out. I always wondered if God is calling me to take a child in. I kind of think He may be, but I don’t know; it’s such a big step. My husband is on the fence about it, not really sure either way. I’ve taken in children in a family daycare setting, so I know what it is to care for someone else’s. Of course, this would be different. Probably if we were to do this, we’d go younger than our youngest just to keep the family pecking order in place, if you know what I mean. But maybe we could help someone; perhaps we could make a difference in the life of a child, at least for a while.

What do you think?


#2

My husband and I are, we actually just received our first placement this week. I am kind of in a meeting right now (and should be listening to DH and our programmer).

I will try to put some thought into a reponse and send it your way.


#3

DH and I are certified foster/adopt parents, but we have not had a placement yet b/c I am trying to get past the nausea stage of early pregnancy before we add a child to the mix :). I have heard many times that the best advice is to keep birth order in place and foster younger than your youngest (this also means that your children will be less likely to be susceptible to any influences - cursing, disrespect, etc. - that foster children may have been exposed to).

We are asking for a boy 6-11, who we hope will end up as part of our family permanently. If he doesn’t, we will know that we gave a child love, and helped a family heal, at a time when it was very much needed.

You can be very specific about which behaviors, ages, etc. that you are willing to work with. For example, I have dealt with ADD/ADHD kids in the past and actually enjoy them :), and since I have suffered from depression myself, I am very willing to help a child deal with it. But neither DH nor I feel qualified to deal with mental retardation, fetal alcohol syndrome, or children with aggression issues. You should set your boundaries and STICK TO THEM.

Also realize that often workers don’t know what problems a child has until you (the foster parent) see them. Most children in care have been sexually abused. They will tell you horror stories (at least our DSS workers did) about children, situations children come from, etc. You need to be able to be realistic and sure that God wants you to do this :). Otherwise, I think I’d have been scared off.

Please pray about it. So many children need loving homes. Fostering is really a very powerful way to live out the beatitudes and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.


#4

DH and I are certified foster/adopt parents, but we have not had a placement yet b/c I am trying to get past the nausea stage of early pregnancy before we add a child to the mix :).

How long did it take to get certified? What’s involved?

I have heard many times that the best advice is to keep birth order in place and foster younger than your youngest (this also means that your children will be less likely to be susceptible to any influences - cursing, disrespect, etc. - that foster children may have been exposed to).

Yeah, that’s sort of what I was thinking.

We are asking for a boy 6-11, who we hope will end up as part of our family permanently. If he doesn’t, we will know that we gave a child love, and helped a family heal, at a time when it was very much needed.

I’ll say a prayer for that. :slight_smile:

You can be very specific about which behaviors, ages, etc. that you are willing to work with. For example, I have dealt with ADD/ADHD kids in the past and actually enjoy them :), and since I have suffered from depression myself, I am very willing to help a child deal with it. But neither DH nor I feel qualified to deal with mental retardation, fetal alcohol syndrome, or children with aggression issues. You should set your boundaries and STICK TO THEM.

Ok, good advice.

Also realize that often workers don’t know what problems a child has until you (the foster parent) see them. Most children in care have been sexually abused. They will tell you horror stories (at least our DSS workers did) about children, situations children come from, etc. You need to be able to be realistic and sure that God wants you to do this :). Otherwise, I think I’d have been scared off.

It is a little scary.

Please pray about it. So many children need loving homes. Fostering is really a very powerful way to live out the beatitudes and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Thanks, I will continue to pray about it. I think it will depend on my husband. If he’s up for it, then I am too. The last time after really praying about this, I drove to the store. and while stopped at a red light, a bus pulled along side me with a huge advertisement for foster parenting. I mean it; staring me right in the face there. Crazy coincidence or was that God?


#5

It took us about seven months, beginning to end - mostly b/c our state has a lot of budget issues and getting staff to look at things was a problem. Basically, here’s how it went:

We were thinking seriously about international adoption - and had actually signed with an agency. Then the stock market crashed. And honestly, we had always wanted to foster/adopt - we just thought we would do that for child #2, and adopt #1 from overseas. So we went, “just to see”, over to DSS (dept. of social services) to talk to them. The head of our region actually sat down with us for an hour!! We received a much better reception, better info, and better preparation and help from DSS than we had ever received from our so-called “best of the best” international agency! DSS took us seriously despite our age (late twenties but we both look much younger) and our income (we are both grad students, so while we are blessed to have a lot in savings, we aren’t making much money).

We had to attend a few classes. These were designed to weed out those who weren’t serious (thought foster/adopt was the easy way out), had unrealistic expectations (one couple requested newborn twin girls - yeah, right), and thought they would be given kids who were perfect. Basically, lots of scare tactics and worst-case scenarios. You definately need to be prepared - but still, they will tell you the absolute worst, most horrific things they have seen. And that’s honestly really, really, really bad.

We had to fill out LOTS of paperwork - autobiographies, financial statements, background checks, fingerprinting … and agree not to spank, which isn’t a problem for us, but may be for some.

Then we had our homestudy. Basically, a social worker comes over and interviews you, your spouse, and your kids. The questions can seem invasive, some say, but we didn’t find them such. It’s important that you be open and tell the truth. Our worker was very nice, and she came over twice.

We also had to have a home inspection, where they checked fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, etc, and a lead test.

All in all, I could have been keeping six pit bulls in the backyard and NO ONE would have noticed. Seriously. They never even met the three dogs we do have :). While it was a lot of work, I was pretty shocked that they didn’t check all they said they would. Some states are different, though - ours is pretty lax.

My big advice:

  1. read, read, read. I liked “Adoption: the Primal Wound” (which talks about how kids’ lives are disrupted by things like adoption and foster care); and “Parenting the Hurt Child”. Really, though, I read a ton, and that helped me see what we could and couldn’t deal with.
  2. STICK TO YOUR BOUNDARIES. We had to fill out an exhaustive “child factors checklist” that talks about what we are and aren’t prepared to deal with a) in the child, b) in the child’s birthparent (since some things are hereditary). We also had to rate what severity of each issue we could cope with. So, for example, we don’t care if they have glasses, but we aren’t prepared to take a child who’s blind. Don’t be fooled by cute children, don’t think you can fix them if you only love them enough, and don’t let any workers tell you it’s “not as bad as it sounds”.
  3. read up on things like Reactive Attachment Disorder and attachment disorders in general.
  4. go on any internet message boards about foster care and read, read, read.

I’ll keep you in my prayers. Keep us updated!!


#6

My wife and I have been foster parents for nearly two years. The explanations you have been given about the process were excellent and thorough. I can’t really add to it.

What I can tell you is the biggest difference in Foster/Adoption and international adoption is the interaction you will have with the birth parents. For months to years you will take the child to visit his or her birth parents. You will turn them over to drug addicts, mentally unstable people, alcoholics and more. You will wait patiently in the waiting room until the child comes back out, then you deal with the aftermath.

At first, it can be dealing with missing birth mom/dad. Slowly, over time, as the child bonds to you it becomes apparent that the child will struggle with issues over guilt about loving you. There will be frequent problems after a visit with behavior, anger, sadness, bathroom control, wetting the bed, nightmares, etc. You are powerless to do anything except provide unconditional love and stability.

If is a very challenging process, especially if it is not a short term relationship and one that moves eventually to adoption. (We have our first adoption scheduled for next week). you will be tested in ways that you cannot believe. You are getting children that are broken and damaged, some physically, some mentally, all emotionally.

Even infants suffer. Some of ours (we have 3 fosters girls 3 and under) come out of their visits visibly sad and confused. They cannot communicate their confusion. They don’t know why mommy or daddy gives them to these strange people once a week.

Do not go into foster care as a means of adoption. You cannot control who stays and who leaves. The state determines fitness and you are not consulted. Your choice is either to bond and face a broken heart, or stay at arm’s length and protect yourself. My wife and I have always said we will love them as our own for as long as they are with us and face a broken heart if they are returned. They’ve already had their share of pain, we can take our turn.

We’ve invited birth mom’s to our home, taken food to crack addicts, and tried to treat the birth parent’s like people who are also facing a loss. They are not trash, just people who cannot care for their children – but they love them. I’ve seen other foster parents treat the birth parents like the enemy because it’s a win/loss for one of them. Someone gets the kid and someone has a whole in their heart.

In the end, all the parents who have faced termination have asked us to adopt their child. We were going to anyway, but it feels like a gift to the birth parent to take away concern about their child being in a loving home. We’ve spent the past year or two proving to them that we love their child and respect the loss the birth parent is going through.

Foster care workers tend to focus on the child and the process, they do not tell you just how much of your life will be taken up by the “undesirable” elements. We’ve grieved with birthmother’s who had miscarriages; wept with mother’s who faced terrible health problems and even been the support person for the birthmom at termination. They often have no one else in their lives.

You can, of course, tune them out and refuse to see them as people. Most foster parents do. It protects you from having to deal with them and allows you to see them as bad people who deserve to have their children removed.

Don’t get me wrong: some are. Anyone who hurts a child or abuses them is not fit; they deserve to be punished. I’m talking about the majority of cases that we’ve seen where the mother (usually it’s a single mom) is mentally ill, addicted to drugs, or just not fit. None of our foster children have ever been physically abused.

For us, foster care is the form of service that we feel best displays our faith in action. We are taking in children and protecting them and also treating the “undesirable” as people. Seems to me, Jesus did stuff like that.

We cannot change the world, but we can change some lives. What a blessing that is. I truly wish every Christian family would take in one child – what a powerful message and life changing thing. Who knows how many abortions are saved when a girl is taken into a home where life is valued. Who knows how many are saved from a life of drugs, despair and simply adding the next generation to the system.

Just don’t misunderestimate the work, though.


#7

GhostMan said EVERYTHING right on!! :thumbsup:

This is our 1st so we haven’t felt the loss yet. Although, I can’t even start to count the number of people that have told us “don’t get too close”, “watch out for yourself”, “don’t bond”. I know they are well meaning, although this is an INNOCENT baby, a baby that many of us all over the world pray that will come into this world! I don’t know if she will be here with me for the next few days or the rest of her life. Although I know that Christ calls us to LOVE and we are loving her with all of our heart. Yes she may go home and we will be sad and it will hurt. Although, we are the adults in this, we will get through it, we will heal. She is the innocent one and this love that we give her will be with her forever!!

I have read a lot about and by Mother Theresa, I pray for her guidance a lot when it comes to foster care.

It took us about 1 1/2 months to get licensed. Our state offers classes pretty much every month and we are in one of the larger counties so we have it here about every 3 months. We had to take 5 classes to be Foster & Foster to Adopt Licensed (Foster only is 4 classes. They were all day classes on a Saturday. All the classes are free. After the classes we had 3 home visits with the case worker who was completing our home study. We waited about 2 months before our first placement came, she came to us a week ago at 2 days old. It is rare that they come that young here, mostly since she is healthy as can be. There are other factors that have nothing to do with this sweet baby on why she is with us. Our judge orders a lot of visits. This week she has 3, tonight will be 4 hours long, the rest are about 2 hours long. We don’t have to, although we have been printing out pictures of her for Mom, Dad & Grandma and send them with her to each visit. I also keep a daily journal about how she is doing that I send with her. They can write in it during the visits and it comes back with her. At this point we do not have contact with parents. This is REALLY rare for our DCF, they actually encourage foster parents to meet and kind of mentor parents (it is not required though).
I agree with GhostMan that we have to remember that the parents are also children of God. Most of the time they are just in a really bad situation or time in their lives. We have to look for Jesus in them, we have to pray that they get better for their children (and themselves).
Most of all, no matter what, every foster parent needs to care, LOVE and protect their foster children, no matter their age or situation!!!

One other thing, you do get reimbursed/ a per-diem, most of us find out that you spend a bit more than we get back. Your not going to get rich doing foster care and no one should ever do it just for the money.


#8

Our state actually has separate tracks for foster and foster/adopt. We’ve chosen the foster/adopt track, which means that:
a) we get to pick our level of legal risk. Some child have had parental rights terminated (they are immediately available for adoption). Others have not; these children may have a birth father no one can reach, a mother who wants to fight termination, or any other complicating factor. We chose a comparatively high level of legal risk, meaning that our children are less likely than straight foster-care cases to be returned to their birthparents, but also may be involved in what’s called concurrent planning (planning for both reunification and adoption at the same time). Concurrent planning means that it’s all pretty much up in the air.
b) social workers know our intention to adopt and will steer us predominately toward cases where they believe, based on past experience, that the cases will go to termination and adoption.
c) there is a chance that the children will be reunified with their birth parents. We have prepared our hearts for this (though you can never really prepare), knowing that we can do our best to love them while they are with us.

But it’s important to remember that THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES. An emergency, short-term placement can go to termination and adoption; a long-term placement with adoption as its goal can go to reunification.

If you go into it for straight-out foster care, I wouldn’t be betting on adoption. Most of the cases go to reunification.

Ghostman, wonderful advice on how to deal with birthparents. I hope DH and I have the courage and spiritual strength to do as you and your wife have. Please keep us updated, and congratulations on your impending adoption.


#9

We were on the fost/adopt track in another state. However the children we were approached for had more problems than we felt able to handle. We moved to another state and the same thing happened again. We were not requesting only babies, etc., but once again the children just had too severe of problems that we didn’t feel comfortable with. Since we were childless we had no parenting experience so didn’t feel up to it. We ended up going to Ukraine and adopting our son. Then we were called on one days notice to take a 3 month old who had a broken leg and three broken ribs in a spika cast. She stayed with us until she was 15 months old and was calling us mama and papa. Got a phone call one day to get her ready to go back to mom the following day. We have never seen or heard a thing about her since handing her back to her mom. That was 9 years ago. I wonder if she stayed out of the system or if she ended up back in foster care. I don’t regret a minute of it, but it was tough handing her back to her mom. We also did respite care for a while and that was different having them for two weeks at a time.


#10

Thanks for all the information. My husband has decided that he’s not up to this right now. Maybe in a few years we’ll revisit the idea.


#11

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