Our Foster Care
According to a report by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there were more than 407,000 children in foster care in September 2020 [“This report reflects all AFCARS data received as of October 4, 2021 related to AFCARS reporting periods through September 30, 2020.”]. 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 of becoming a foster (and eventual adoptive) parent.
Becoming Foster Parents
Close to this time four 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 to have 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). *Foster care licensing differs from state-to-state. I urge you to look into licensing requirements in your state.
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 is a foster parent (in WV). My sister (in TX) also fostered and eventually adopted. That familiarity and knowing we already had a solid support system eased our minds even further and encouraged us to take the leap. In my opinion, it is very important to have a good support system of family, friends, and/or other foster families. Like I said before, fostering is hard and weighs heavily on everyone involved! It’s good to have people to turn to if you need to talk or to help so you can have a break (I learned the hard way that I needed to take extra care of myself, both physically and mentally, like I was trying to do for the kids, after becoming a foster mom).
Once we made the decision, we researched and chose a foster agency, learned more about the licensing and care requirements, then my husband and I committed fully to completing the process 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. Again, it differs from state-to-state. 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. This was one of many thoughts I needed to check and expectations that I needed to lower because in the end, the goal of foster care is reunification! My job as a foster parent was to provide a safe, loving home in the interim.
So yea, foster care is frustrating! I have stressed and cried and gotten angry more times than I care to count in the past four 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.
We became licensed in early February of 2019 and had our first placement by the end of the month — a 4.5 month old girl (spoiler alert: she is now almost 4 years old and was adopted by us a year and a half ago).
This is Where I'm Meant To Be
Let’s skip ahead 3 months to when my husband and I had our licensed modified so we could accommodate more than one foster placement.
To come full circle, the little girl that inspired me to want to become a foster parent became one of our placements! In case you’re curious how, after my brother and sister-in-law had their 4th child of their own, they had to make some adjustments to their foster home, and we decided to take in that girl and her older brother.
In about 7 month’s time, we went from having no children (or plan to have children) to raising 3! Some people think we’re crazy — and maybe we are — but amid all the chaos, beneath the exasperation for the system, exhaustion from parenting two toddlers only 10 months apart and an “older” (at least in terms of the foster care) child with trauma responses, I know we are in the right place.
It’s important to reiterate that the goal of foster care is reunification. I am not going to discuss more details of the kids’ cases, but in the end, reunification did not happen with the children’s biological families nor were kinship placements made permanent. In two separate cases, as we had kids from two separate families, parental rights were fully terminated and the children’s cases were moved to adoption units in February 2020.
You might assume that it would be a quicker, easier process from that point forward, but it took another 15 months before we were able to adopt the kids.
Finally, on May 21, 2021, we became of forever family of 5!
Foster the Family blog said it best: Adoption is bittersweet. One family (in our case, two families), has to be broken in order to make another one whole. My husband and I will always be happy to celebrate the 3 kids joining our family and to call them “ours,” but they might not always feel the same way…and that’s okay!
A year and a half since the adoption, and we are still trying to settle as a family. The girls are too young to understand, although we don’t shy away from talking about being adopted or birth families vs. us. Our oldest is working through a lot in therapy. Nothing became easier, but we’re trying to find out footing, together.
If you have any questions about my experience with foster care, please leave them in the comments. *Note: I will not tell you anything specific about the reasoning for my kids’ 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!
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.