According to a report by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there were more than 420,000 children in foster care in September 2019 [“This report reflects all AFCARS data received as of June 23, 2020 related to AFCARS reporting periods through September 30, 2019.”]. That is a staggering, heartbreaking statistic.
People make the choice to become foster parents for different reasons. I’d like to share my own story!
Close to this time two years ago was the first time I ever considered fostering. I was sitting with my husband and neighbor outside drinking wine and passing out candy to kids for Halloween. My brother and sister-in-law, who are also foster parents, came to our development with their biological and foster kids to Trick or Treat. I spent a lot of time that night hanging out with their youngest, a little girl under one in foster. That was it! That was the moment I decided we were going to be foster parents!
I said as much to my husband, and I’m pretty sure he thought I was kidding or drunk. A little back story: I did not want my own children. I did not want to go through pregnancy. I have known that for a long time and was very adamant about it. Hence, the immediate thought by my husband that I was not being serious. The next day, I brought it up to him again. After a long conversation, we decided that we would get some information about becoming foster parents in our state (West Virginia).
Fostering is not a decision to be made lightly. Raising kids in general is tough! Raising someone else’s kids who have suffered trauma, have been ripped from their home with little more than the clothes on their back, and battling possible physical, mental, and/or emotional distress because of it all is absolutely hard! With each placement, there are new or different challenges to face. But, I knew my husband and I could offer a safe, stable, loving home to a kid(s) in need.
Fostering was not new to my family. As I mentioned, my brother was a foster parent (in WV). My sister (in TX) was also in the process of fostering to adopt after years of infertility. That familiarity and knowing we already had a solid support system eased our minds even further and encouraged us to take the leap.
Once we made the decision, we researched and chose a foster agency, then my husband and I committed fully to completing the requirements in as quickly a manner as possible. For me in particular, once I make up my mind about something, it’s hard to dissuade me or slow me down. This decision was no different.
We had a bit of luck on our side with the timing of new staff additions at the foster agency we chose, and our certification process took less time than normal. We went from our initial contact with the agency to certified and getting our first placement in a matter of 4 months. *Note: This is likely a shorter amount of time than most foster certification processes.
Let me tell you, though, that the certification process to foster isn’t exactly easy. The thought crossed our minds more than once that it seemed ridiculous that we have to go through such an in depth, on the verge of invasive, process to take abused or neglected children in but they are often returned to homes that might not be certified themselves by the standards foster parents are held to. But that is one of many frustrations that we had to learn to let go of, or at the very least cope with.
So yea, foster care is frustrating! I have stressed and cried and gotten angry more times than I care to count in the past two years.
On the other side of all that, though, is the chance to make a real difference in a child’s life. Regardless of how long a foster child is in your care, you have the chance to show them that they are beautiful people despite their circumstance and that they deserve love and a safe home to grow up and thrive in.
So, here we are almost two years later, foster parents to three kids right now. To come full circle, the little girl that inspired me to want to become a foster parent is one of our current placements! In case you’re curious how, after my brother and sister-in-law had their 4th biological child, they had to make some adjustments to their foster home, and my husband and I decided to take in that girl and her brother.
In about seven months, we went from having no children (or plan to have children) to raising three! Some people think we’re crazy — and maybe we are — but amid all the chaos, beneath the exasperation for the system, I am completely content to be a foster mom.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, I encourage you to do some research and learn more about the processes in your state. If you are located in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, or Louisiana, I’d like to recommend our foster agency: National Youth Advocate Program.
Let’s chat! If you have any questions about my experience with foster care, please leave them in the comments. *Note: I cannot tell you anything specific about my foster placements. I would also love to hear your own stories and connect if you are a former foster child or current/former foster parent!