“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending” – C. S. Lewis
I don’t know that I’ve ever come across a more perfect quote for fostering. You can’t change the beginning but, gosh, how you can change the ending. This is the perfect start for our fostering journey…
Foster Care Journey – Part 1
In May of 2015 (one year after our wedding day) we started talks about kids; when did we want them, when should we start “trying”…whatever that looked like, when would we really be “old enough” to be parents, and many many other thoughts.
In November of that year, after a destination wedding of a best friend in Jamaica, we decided we were capable to be parents and, while fostering was something we talked about, we had no reason to continue pushing it off. We were capable adults who knew we could be parents who also knew that there were kids in our state who needed a safe, loving home while their parents worked to get them back. We RSVP’d for our first foster care training session. We hadn’t started paperwork or even decided that we were definitely doing this thing. We just decided that we would attend a training and go from there. We knew we were called to do it and instead of just jumping in, we would tip toe our way into that water.
That first training was not easy. We sat in a room across from one other couple with a worker explaining trauma to us. Trauma. I guess we assumed we would learn how to parent but we didn’t fully grasp the concept of the type of parenting required from foster parents. We knew fostering would be hard and it wasn’t a “normal thing” so the kids would maybe have some adjustments to make; but we never expected an entire day full of trauma training. But we still knew we were called to do this so we decided to attend another training and start the paperwork.
We didn’t really tell family or friends in the beginning. We didn’t want opinions, fears, concerns, or just anything coming from anyone to deter us from what we knew we were supposed to be doing. Because, in all honesty, fostering is a hard concept for a lot of people to fully comprehend. Especially your friends and family. They just want what’s best for you and the idea of basically sacrificing time (potentially years) of your life to take care of somebody else’s kid, then give them back with the potential to never see them again is just a lot to wish upon somebody. I wouldn’t want that for somebody and definitely not somebody I love. But the reality of foster care is you have to take out what you want and realize that any selfish thought you have has to go. It’s impossible to be selfish and foster well. Now, do not get me wrong, I had PLENTY of selfish thoughts but they weren’t my main thoughts or even thoughts I gave time to. But we will get to the actual fostering soon…
We told family once we officially started the process to become foster parents because then there was no turning back. We knew once we started all of the work to do it, we would finish it; because it is a lot of work. We would sometimes joke (but maybe not really joke) that every parent should have to do all of these things before they have a child no matter how they have a child. Besides the 27 hours of foster care training (mostly all about trauma and how to bridge with bio parents) you have stacks of paperwork, visits from numerous people, a home study which dives into how you were raised and what your family is like, background checks, physicals and more paperwork.
The home study was probably the most interesting part to me. I guess I pictured that they would actually just “study” our home, what it looked like, what it offered, and what we offered. But it goes into so much more than that. Our worker sat with each of us, individually, and asked about our childhoods, our parents, our siblings, the way we were raised, and our family now. We also sat with her together and went over us as a couple, our history, what we saw in a family, what we would do in different situations. It was a lot.
In the middle of all of the paperwork and home study I didn’t quite comprehend why all of that was so important. Once I delved into the foster care world I realized the significance of it. These kids are taken from their homes and are in a very vulnerable state of life; they need to go to the safest place possible because even through all of this foster care vetting, some really bad people still get through. And that’s when Matt and I really felt that this was what we were meant to do. If we could be one really good foster family to make up for a really bad one, then we would sacrifice that part of our lives for whatever kid we were asked to take care of. Because if we didn’t do it, who would?
When we became certified foster parents I personally knew 2 couples who fostered. Two. Neither of them lived close to me. But oh how they helped me. One of them I believe significantly altered the path we took with our first bio parents with a few simple, direct, encouraging, yet honest words (but that’s a story for another day…).
After months of paperwork and passing everything we got the call we were a certified open foster home on a Friday morning. We received 2 calls that day about potential placements. One ended up going with kinship. The other ended up being a failed trial reunification and their previous foster parents took them back (trial reunification is when the child goes home with their bio parents for a trial run, usually one year. A failed trial reunification means the bio parents were unable to take care of the child or keep the child safe and they were brought back into the system. It happens more often than not.)
After receiving two calls we decided it was time to make our foster journey official because we had zero items for children in our home. We didn’t really have a lot of money to prepare for children that quickly so a dear friend set up an online foster care baby shower for us (and for that I will always be indebted). The people who gave allowed us to buy car seats, clothes, diapers, and basically just the necessities we would need when we got that call. I will never forget when I was told we should get a shower, even if it’s online, because we were becoming parents. Just because we weren’t doing it the “normal” way or even the adoptive way didn’t take away from the fact that whatever children were brought to us first, were our first. Our first babies. Our first children.
One week after certification, on a Friday afternoon, we received a call about a sibling set. We said yes. And then we waited. Just because we said yes didn’t mean they would actually end up at our home (they could find kinship, another foster family could be chosen over us, other reasons I’m sure could come up); but they did. We got a call late Friday night from the DHS worker to schedule their drop off. They would arrive Sunday morning. We spent our Saturday prepping a bedroom for an 8 month old and a bedroom for an almost 2 year old. I’m not sure we slept Saturday night.
That Sunday morning I will never forget standing in our guest bedroom watching out the window as a woman got a blonde headed toddler out, set her on the ground, and then went and got a little brunette baby out of the car….
James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts are pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress”
To be continued – Foster Journey Part 2