October 9, 2015

Foster Care: An Introduction

So we're at the beginning of a pretty crazy journey with our family, and thought it was a good time to start sharing some of that.  At the beginning of this year, David and I started seriously talking and praying about becoming foster parents.  It is something that has been close to my heart for years--and something that I mentioned to David when we were dating-- and we felt like it might be time to take some sort of action.  So we started praying through it, reading and learning about it, going to conferences, talking with friends, and talking with each other.  
Over the summer, we decided to start the application process.  We are working with Presbyterian Children's Home and Services to get licensed with the state of Texas to be foster parents.  Since the end of July, we've been through 32 hours of on site training as well as some online training and a book study.  We've added lots of safety features to our house--pool, shed and cabinet locks, a fire extinguisher, outlet covers, furniture mounting straps, and indoor doorknobs without locks.  We've had a fire inspection and a health inspection; Physicals and TB tests; even Lily had to show proof of being vaccinated.  And we are now down to our final step in the process--a Home Study.  We are on track to be licensed by the beginning of next month, but we also know that there can always be glitches in the process, so we aren't holding too tightly to any one date.  But we figured it was a good time to start sharing with everyone our plans.  
Through our months of praying, reading and preparing, I've come across a lot of really good books and articles and quotes that explain more about foster care.  I have saved a lot of things.  I know in our conversations with friends and family and sometimes strangers, people have a lot of questions about the whole foster care thing.  So I plan to start sharing a little more about the foster care world in general here.  I've seen a lot of this world through my job, but I know it's going to be a whole different thing on the foster parent side.  
One of my very favorite websites about foster care is The Forgotten Initiative.  They post blogs at least a few times a week and I've found most of them to be very enlightening.  Today they posted a blog called "What is Foster Care?" where a foster parent wrote up answers to some of the common questions she gets.  I decided to go ahead and share those questions and answers here as well as our answer to the questions--Why do you want to be foster parents?  I've shared our answer first and then the Q&A from TFI's blog.  Today's post is pretty long, I promise they shouldn't all be like this--I just thought this was a good starting place!  So read it if you have time, and I'll be back with more info about foster care next week!
Q: Why do you want to be foster parents?
A: We believe that God has given some clear commandments in the Bible (i.e. James 1:27) about looking out for the needs of orphans, and we believe that the term “orphans” includes all children who need a home (whether temporary or permanent).  His unique calling on our lives has brought us through months of prayer and seeking God’s will about how we can be involved in the ministry of orphan care in a practical way.  We believe that this is something that is important to God and, therefore, it should also be important to us.  We know that there will be sacrifices along this journey and that sometimes life will be really hard and uncomfortable.  However, that is not an excuse for us to say no to this opportunity to make a difference in the life of someone in need.

Here’s a couple excerpts from books on foster parenting that explain this concept better than our own words can.

“God had fostered in my heart a willingness to make sacrifices for the benefit of an orphaned child.  I am willing to sacrifice my comfort, agenda, and wealth for the benefit of a child even when I know I have a good chance that I will suffer some kind of pain.”

Your life is probably crazy busy. But you are far more brave than you realize to say yes despite all the reasons you have to say no, and you are capable of handling far more than you could ever possibly imagine - even if it doesn't feel like it right now. … He doesn't expect you to understand it all now; He's simply asking you to trust Him with the next step, and then the next, then the next … Your "no" is a lot more difficult on them [kids in crisis] than your "yes" will ever be on you. Perhaps these kids need your family as much as your family needs these kids. One is given comfort and security for likely the first time in their life while the other is freed from comfort and security, and as a result, actually finds life. Jesus Himself said, "Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:25) In perhaps one of the most counterintuitive and countercultural statements He ever made, we find what life is all about - losing ourselves for the sake of someone else's gain. Hard? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. What you stand to lose pales in comparison to what everyone, including yourself, stands to gain. There's never really a perfect time to foster or adopt; just a lot of opportunities to say yes to losing yourself despite the many reasons you have to say no.”

When we read things like that, the deepest parts of our hearts say “amen” and that’s how we have known and felt this is a calling on our lives.  We want to be foster parents because we want to say “yes” to God despite our own fears and doubts, and we want to watch him do amazing things in the lives of children, in our marriage, and in our relationship with God.


The following is from http://www.theforgotteninitiative.org/blog/2015/10/forgotten-friday-what-is-foster-care/#sthash.K0oGivRl.dpuf
“Why are kids put in foster care?”
There are a variety of reasons about why a child enters the foster care system. The most common reasons are because of neglect, abuse, or parental drug use, followed by the less common reasons of abandonment or death of both parents. And let me be clear about one thing – no child who enters the foster care system does so because of his or her own choices. These children are placed into the system because their basic needs were not being met and they could not safely remain in their home or in the home of a family member. Their parents have their own demons and can’t safely deal with them while caring for their children. The state only removes children in the most extreme cases and does everything it possibly can to keep children with their birth families or with extended family or friends before resorting to placement in a foster home.
“Why don’t their parents want them?”
There are actually very, very few cases that I’ve heard of where parents just “don’t want” their kids. In my personal opinion the things these parents are up against are just too strong for them. Addiction is a very real thing. Fighting against the cycle of abuse and neglect is a very difficult thing. Being a parent is not an easy task and when you’re dealing with your own inner battles, sometimes selfish desire wins. This is why the state becomes involved. They remove children so that they can get the parents onto a case plan to work towards bettering themselves so they can safely have their children returned to their care.
“What do the parents have to do to get their kids back?”
Each parent’s case plan is set up to target the exact issues that caused the children to come into care. This plan usually includes counseling, parenting classes, Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, random drug testing, stable housing, stable job and attending regular visitation with the child that is in care. Things are added and taken away based on the particular needs of the parent who is working the plan.
“How long are kids in foster care?”
Again, this varies heavily case to case, and state to state. Federal law says that a child can only be in foster care for 12 months before permanency is to be decided. But each state varies on how many extensions can be given to parents who are working their case plan and how many “extenuating circumstances” arise in the duration of the case. In the United States the average child is in foster care for almost three years (31 months) before being reunited with family or adopted—and over 20% of those children are in the system for over five years. More than 20,000 foster youth age out of the system every year. Aging out means that they were not reunited with family members or adopted before turning 18. Most children who age out literally grew up in the system, bouncing between various foster and group homes, and are unprepared for life on their own as an adult without family support.
“Why don’t you just adopt them?”
Foster care was put into place to not only to protect kids, but to maintain the parent/child relationship. When a case starts the goal is always, always, always going to be parental reunification. Everyone (including foster parents) must be on board with helping parents acquire the life skills needed to regain custody of their children. The process of proving stability takes several months. Getting a person’s life back on track isn’t a quick process. Adoption is always a last resort in foster care. Adoption is only laid on the table when the parents and family members of a child are not willing or able to provide a safe and stable environment for that child. Do not become a foster parent if the only thing you want out of it is to adopt a child. There are several children waiting in the system to be adopted by an awesome family. Please, look into adopting a waiting child if that’s all you’re wanting out of foster care. As foster parents your first priority is the child’s safety, but you must be willing to love, support, and walk beside these hurting families when it can be safely done.
“I couldn’t do it. I would get too attached.”
This is a whole other post on its own, but I just couldn’t leave out this comment. If you ask any foster parent what the most common statement said to them is, it would be that one. Most foster parents understand that it’s supposed to be a compliment. It’s supposed to make us feel like we are some type of super hero, or something. But what we are doing on the inside is screaming “Good! You should become to attached! That’s what every child needs! They need someone to get ‘to0 attached.’ They need someone to show them that they are worth it—that they are worthy of love no matter the cost!” Why? Because just as a child can’t make the choice to be born into a life of privilege, a child doesn’t choose to be born into a dysfunctional mess.

1 comment:

erin m said...

So excited to walk this journey with you!!