Good morning all!
I am so excited to finally get a chance to share this with yall! We have three families we will be hearing from. I have been following these families from the beginning of their fostering journey, and cannot wait to share their stories!
Each family unit is different, which is part of why I love that each of them has agreed to share their story! One is a single mother, one is a couple with two biological children, and the third is a young couple with no biological children. Their stories are unique to them, and no names or locations will be used to protect their privacy. I also have posted exactly what was sent to me. I have not changed a single word from them. (They are color coded to make referencing easier.)
How long have you been fostering?
I was licensed after my home check on 5/17/17 to do respite. The lady left my home at 3:30pm and called me at 3:45pm asking me to take an emergency respite placement. A 4 yr old girl whose foster home was under investigation. NJ never left she was placed with me as a fictive kin while I got licensed for foster care and I officially was licensed on 8/18/17 as a foster home. Simple answer is 13 months because in reality I was doing foster care the entire time she was placed with me.
We’re about five months into our foster journey
How many children have you fostered in your home?
I have fostered 2 children thus far NJ’s bio brother DJ (5) came to me on 9/21/17 after loosing his placement. I also provided respite for 2 infants with primary medical needs for 2 weeks while their family was on a cruise. I plan to continue to foster and right now am waiting on a termination hearing so I can adopt NJ and DJ who are now 5 & 6.
Two, a brother and sister
The child(ren) in your home, what is their legal status?
long(er) term foster care
Both kids are in the permanent managing conservatorship of the state. [note: Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) is a legal term in Texas used in child custody cases. It means that a judge appoints a person to be legally responsible for a child without adopting the child.*]
They're legally in the state's custody (foster care) right now.
What is the plan for the child(ren)? Expected length of placement?
Right now the plan is for reunification (it usually always is this early in the case). We will likely have Baby L for over a year.
The plan now is outside adoption. I am the 3rd foster home to care for both children, the first home they have been in together. They have a 2 year old sister who is also in care in an adoptive placement. They were all 3 placed in foster care in separate homes in November of 2015.
Right now, the primary plan is non-relative adoption, but as we know with the foster system, everything is subject to change at any time. The expected length is one year, but we do expect the parent to apply for a six month extension.
What is the difference between what you were expecting and what happened when you received your first foster child?
I was expecting it to be harder than it is. Sure it’s difficult not knowing how everything is going to unfold and if we are going to be able to adopt her or not, but right now we are just taking care of her and loving her which is so easy!
I wasn’t expecting to receive a permanent placement when I started because I was only planning to do respite at the time. I was planning to start fostering after doing respite for about a year and even following that plan I never imagined that my first placement would become an adoptive placement. Specifically with NJ, her trauma was bigger than I ever imagined being able to handle and so were her behaviors but her progress has been amazing and so has God’s grace on me. DJ’s behaviors are still extremely challenging and to be honest I am still surprised by what a challenge it is to manage day by day sometimes. He has attachment disorder and he needs someone committed to him no matter what and I am working hard to be that person, it’s harder than I ever believed it could be. I pray that God continues to fill me with compassion every day.
We understood that there is often only a few hours or a day of notice when you say yes to a placement. With our case it was even shorter - I was out running errands when I got the call, and within about twenty minutes, I was driving home with two kids!
Nosy questions, how do you respond (or want to respond) when you get asked or told these things:
“I could never do that!” How do you respond?
I think if God calls you to pursue foster care he will absolutely give you the strength to do it. Most people are afraid they will get too attached which is exactly what these children need. The biggest problem for children in the foster care system is that they don’t learn attachment which usually causes most of the problems in their life later down the road. If you can attach to them you will be helping them so much and are exactly who they need. The hard part is that you know you will get your heartbroken and setting yourself up for that goes against human nature, but these kids deserve to have families and are so worth it.
This questions has so many layers in my opinion. I try not to take anything people say in response to what I do personally and I always try to assume the best.
Most of the time I say “You’d be surprised what you can do when God calls you to it!” I hope this allows people to think more about what they are capable of and less about what they are afraid of.
Well, honestly, I used to think the same thing! That I would love the kids in my care so much and it would break my heart to give them back. The difference for me now is the understanding that God calls us to hard things and equips us with all we need to obey Him. Foster care is hard. It’s not something everyone is called to do. But I believe that the chance to make a real difference, even for a short time, in a hurting child’s life far outweighs the risk of heartbreak if they leave.
“What happened to his/her REAL parents?
I’m still struggling with how to answer this question. I’m a pretty open book so it’s my instinct to say why Baby L is in our care. The issue is that not everyone looks at the situation the same and sometimes says some really hurtful things about her birth family and even her. I need to get better about my response to this.
When people say “real parents” or any other term that is offensive to me or the kids birth parents I first rephrase it for them so they know the appropriate term. We use “first mom” because unfortunately my kids have had several and that’s very confusing for them. Then I answer that question very literally “My kids first mom is in....”
This one is tricky because sometimes it’s asked out of genuine interest and sometimes it’s just plain nosy. I usually just tell the truth, that the parent isn’t in a place to be able to care for themselves or their children. I think it’s important to respect everyone’s privacy, especially our children, and not share the details of their case unnecessarily.
Your child is so lucky to have you.
That’s sweet of you to say, but we feel that we are the ones that are blessed to have her. She has brought so much joy to our lives and we can’t imagine not having her in our life, even if just for a short period of time. We are the ones whose finger she grabs on to, who sings to her to calm her down, and to rock her to sleep, these are precious moments that can never be replaced and we are so humbled by them.
This evokes so many emotions for me. 1- Really? They are lucky to have gone through what they have so that they could loose their first parents and have me? 2- You have no idea how often I fail to be everything I wish I could be for them. 3- Ask my foster son because I’m sure he’d rather have his first mom no matter what and he doesn’t feel lucky at all to have me.
The answer I choose to give is: I am very blessed and happy to be their mom.
I know this comment is meant kindly, but there is such a lack of understanding there - the only reason this child “has me” is because their situation was so full of trauma and neglect that they had to be removed. Going into all of that during what’s usually a passing comment isn’t very realistic, so I just take it as it’s meant - kindly - and move on.
Your top 5 tips for first time foster parents
1. Do a lot of research when choosing an agency to work with. Foster care is hard enough, make sure you go with an agency that provides you the training and resources so it’s not any more difficult that it needs to be.
2. If you don’t already have children, having a “foster shower” is a fun idea. We were first time parents and it was so nice to have the celebration of the children who were going to come into our home and have family and friends help us prepare. Our first week with Baby L would have been a lot more stressful had we not been so equipped.
3. Get involved with the community and find your village. Foster care is a very unique situation and as much as people can try to sympathize for your situation, it’s nice to be able to talk to someone who has been in your shoes and knows exactly how you feel.
4. In regard to the children’s families, instead of asking “how could they do that?” try and ask “what happened to them that caused them to do that?” It will help you show them grace so much easier and I think that it just fills your heart with compassion rather than hate. It helps you love them and see them as Jesus does.
5. The biggest and best tip I can give you is to lean into Jesus. It is difficult and there are lots of unknowns, but the one thing that is always for sure is that He is good and will never fail you.
1 - Trust God: You will question everything you do. You will seek information from everyone you think might know more. You may read everything you can find. God will guide you if you trust Him. Then all you need to do is listen to the instinct He has given you.
2 - Food is KEY: Cook good food, warm filling food. Eat together on glass plates. Make sure meals are complete and on time or early every time. Give healthy snacks in between meals before they ask. At first try to pick stuff most kids will eat and be willing to quickly prepare a second option without a fuss, like a PBJ. Ask that they sit on their bottoms at the table. This becomes a safe and calm place as they learn that they don’t have to be anxiously popping up and around. Take time and give time to eat. Help them learn to get their food on their silverware and to their mouth. I promise food is key!
3 - Be patient at bedtime: Develop a bedtime routine and follow it so that it’s predictable. Be willing to sit by the bed while they fall a sleep and let them know where you will go after they fall asleep. Put your hand on their back or hold their hand if they are comfortable with that. Just sit there if they aren’t. At first wait until they are hard a sleep before you leave the room. As they seem more secure begin to ween them by letting them know what the plan is: I can sit here with you for 15 minutes; I can sing this song 5 times; I can hold your hand until you are relaxed; I can tell you 2 make believe stories etc... Over time it becomes I can give you a high five, a kiss you on the forehead, and a hug goodnight. They need to know you have time to help them feel safe and then they will know they are safe.
4 - Don’t take IT personal: Whatever “it” is for your child and “it” may change, be sure not to take it personal. If she hits you and smiles about it after you patiently say that hursts don’t hit. If he pees in the floor when he’s angry. If you have a great fun day together as a family and then they throw a tantrum of all tantrums in return. If you make progress and then feel like you’re starting all over. It’s not about you and it’s not against you so don’t take it personal.
5 - Pray, pray, and pray: I am solution oriented, it’s the way my mind works. Sometimes I get completely discouraged when I can’t find a solution to whatever the problem is. I feel defeated and want to ask everyone what should I do, what would you do, there’s got to be a way to solve this. Then my kids case worker kindly reminds me “Don’t forget to pray, God can do this!” And then she tells me she will be praying too. (By the way she’s awesome!)
A few more tips:
-Be careful you cannot trust and/or be vulnerable with everyone in this business. I am talking about folks in DFPS, private licensing agencies, and other foster/adoptive parents. Be diligent to be discerning and do your research. Things are not always what they seem and often people say what they want you to hear.
-Advocate for your kids at school. Make sure they get a teacher that’s a good fit. Make suggestions about how the school can help your kids. Don’t be afraid to be assertive.
-Know that you will feel a certain amount of isolation as a foster or adoptive parent. Other people don’t understand. They may stare and/or give way to much advice. They will say stupid things. You may think their looks are judgmental. They might be, but they might also not be. It’s isolating and that’s hard. Remember it’s hard for your kids too. Find other families that can relate. Find other families that can encourage you even if they can’t relate.
-When you blow it, and you will, forgive yourself. If you need to, ask your kids to forgive you. Let God’s grace be enough for you too. You don’t have to be a perfect parent. You are enough!!
-Help your kids learn their story. Be discerning on how to do this but it’s very very important that they are able to know their story and process it in an age and developmentally appropriate way.
- Don’t be afraid of the bio-family. Discern if and how to have a relationship with them. Set boundaries if needed but let them know their kids are ok if you can. It has been huge in helping my kids and their first mom make progress by keeping her updated through emails and photos. Let your kids know how and what you are communicating to their birth parents as age appropriate. This helps to build trust and avoid resentment.
1. Let go of your expectations! For the case, the children, the bio parents, caseworkers, lawyers, all of it. It’s so much easier that way.
2. Be patient. These kids need a lot of patience.
3. Take time for yourself when you need it. Actually, before you need it. Don’t wait till you’re losing your mind!
4. Just roll with it. Things are constantly changing - something what was fine yesterday might send your child into a full-blown meltdown today. You might learn that your child is deathly afraid of grass. Or vacuum cleaners (there’s a story there). Keep a good sense of humor and take everything in stride.
5. Get support. Find people to babysit for you, plug in to a foster parent community, your church, and let people know when you need help.
Favorite thing you’ve learned/favorite memory of fostering (so far in your journey)
We just love getting to be Baby L’s parents right now. There are so many sweet moments and snuggles. Our hearts have never been happier!
Getting to be a part of the “firsts” with my kids are my favorite. I feel so blessed and honored to get to share those experiences with them or provide them for them. I let myself be happy in those moments even when I realize it’s sad that their first parents aren’t there or that it’s something most kids have already experienced many times before with their families. First are fun!! And I love to be a part of them. When we went to the ocean NJ tasted the water and sand for the first time as a wave splashed her face and she came running to me and said “Mom Mom Mom, the water and sand, it tastes like peppermints!” I happened to be videoing already and I have watched it over and over again.
In just the first week that we had our kids, we saw such a drastic change in them! Our baby went from having no head control to being able to hold up her head on her own. Our toddler, who used hitting and screeching as his only way to communicate, had stopped hitting and started using signs to communicate instead. It was such an eye-opening example of what an impact even just a little time in a caring, healthy environment can have on these kids. If all the work and time it took for us to get licensed as foster parents was put in just to have them for that one week, it would have been totally worth it.
I hope you have learned more about fostering and what foster parents go through. Each of these families is showing God's love and mercy to their kids. I am so proud of each of them, and cannot wait for their futures.
If you or someone you know needs prayer or encouragement with anything they are going through, feel free to contact me. If you would like to talk to one of these families, send a message and I will forward it.
As always, I'm praying and waiting for God to use our lives!
Jesus lover, wife, momma, teacher, and hopeful writer.