“My Story Monday” is a weekly segment where foster parents anonymously share their stories, tips, and advice. It is intended to encourage prospective foster parents and demystify the journey of fostering. You can view past stories here: My Story Monday.
My Story Monday: Fostering to Foster
I have always wanted to adopt, ever since I was young. It all started when I read the book The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss. It’s an outdated book now, but still good. It’s about a couple who adopts children of differing nationalities, back when that was unheard-of. As I got older and started looking into adoption, I realized international adoption and domestic adoption were both crazy expensive. I also realized that there are so many people waiting for a domestic adoption situation and I didn’t want to be “competing” with others for children. I knew there were more children who needed homes in the foster care system than families willing to take them. So from early on, I knew I wanted to foster and hopefully adopt one day.
My husband knew this before we got married, as I had to make sure he was in agreement. When we had been married for two years, we started trying for a child. I felt I would regret never having biological children and thought we could have one or two and then start fostering. About 8 months in, we hadn’t gotten pregnant. I decided I wanted to pursue fostering and getting pregnant at the same time, so we attended a foster care orientation. I was hooked and so excited to get started. When the agency followed up with me, I learned that they didn’t want you trying to get pregnant and fostering at the same time. They said many couples stop fostering once they become pregnant or have the baby and that caused an unnecessary move for a foster child. I was upset because I knew my husband and I would never have a child moved for such a reason. We decided to try for 4 more months, as it would then be a whole year. After that, I went to my doctor who ordered blood tests since I still wasn’t pregnant. When I arrived at the lab to take the tests, I found out it was going to be hundreds of dollars out of pocket since my insurance only covered 50% of infertility tests and treatment. It felt so wrong. I had been waffling on whether or not I really wanted to get pregnant or just wanted to foster. We had already decided we would never do IVF with so many kids in the world needing homes. So I left the lab without my tests done and emailed the foster agency the next day to say we weren’t going to try for a biological child anymore and wanted to foster.
It took us about 9 months to get licensed and receive our first placement, which seems ironic. We didn’t know we were licensed until we got a call saying, “Congratulations! You’re licensed. Can we drop two kids off tonight?” and we said, “Yes!” We started out with a 5 year old girl and her 3 year old brother as our first placement. Then our second placement was a 3 year old girl and her 2 year old brother.
Seeing attachment build is an amazing thing. Friends noticed that during play dates in the beginning, the kids were totally fine running off and playing the whole time. Near the end, they were wanting me to go with them, coming back and checking in with me, or wanting to be held instead of playing. It might look like a lack of independence for a typical child, but for a foster child, it’s a sign of a strong attachment.
The biggest challenge for me has been my mindset. It is sometimes difficult to enjoy my time with the children, knowing it will probably not be forever. That’s always in the back of my mind, and I dread saying goodbye to them. Weirdly enough, actually saying goodbye and having them gone hasn’t been as difficult as my anxiety over it before it happens.
One thing I didn’t realize is how much self-care you really do need. We don’t have any biological kids, so I wasn’t aware of how exhausting and all-consuming being a parent is. I ended up going to bed way too late every night because after the kids’ bedtime was the only time I had to myself. But then I wasn’t taking care of my body.
On the other hand, looking at the positives I am completely and totally blessed in being able to keep in touch with the sibling set we had the longest after reunification. It was a dream of mine, but I didn’t think it would actually come true. I didn’t expect to love and cheer for the biological parents as much as I do.
I am lucky in that I joined a bunch of Facebook groups before I fostered and got tons of advice they don’t tell you in class. Some practical things are: using a Google voice number and your agency address on paperwork at the doctor’s office, using the app Tiny Scanner to keep track of paperwork and send it to your agency, and scheduling initial doctor and dentist appointments the day the child arrives.
If I could give any advice to prospective foster parents, I would tell them of the importance of working with and getting to know the biological family. I was given this advice and it really pushed me out of my comfort zone in visiting with the parents before and after visits, sending them pictures of their kids, and giving them gifts at holidays. Because we built a relationship during placement, I am now able to see the kids after reunification. Do a lot of research before you begin to learn about trauma. I highly recommend the book The Connected Child by Karyn B. Purvis and David R. Cross. Their videos are even better. I think it’s good to have some idea of children’s therapy, too. Start with researching play therapy.
A quality foster parent requires a whole lot of patience, understanding, and love. Knowledge of trauma and how to help children heal. Also, flexibility. Things can change on a moment’s notice, whether it’s a canceled visit or a moved court date.
My husband and I originally set out to adopt. We looked into matched adoption first, but when we got an emergency placement call, we couldn’t say no. I feel so blessed to have played a part in helping restore a family through providing foster care. There is fulfillment and satisfaction in being a foster-only home, not just in adopting. I had also read so many “horror stories” of foster care and was pleasantly surprised at how amazing the children we have had have been. They’ve blessed me way more than I’ve blessed them.
Foster care is challenging and scary to think about jumping into. But it’s absolutely worth doing the research and attending an orientation. You can start just with respite care. You can also help foster families without becoming a foster parent by babysitting, providing meals, running errands, and just asking how it is going. There are actually a lot of ways to help foster kids and foster parents. You could become a Court Appointed Special Advocate or a Guardian ad Litem. You could start a foster parent support group at your church and provide respite nights for foster families. There’s a huge opportunity to make a difference in your community through foster care!
[This interview has been edited for readability]
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