This story is popping up all over the news this month, including in the local Sunday paper today.
If you are wondering if this means you. It just might. If you are interested in being a foster parent, you should check it out.
When I started this blog, I had envisioned writing more about our experiences as foster parents. We started our MAPP class a little over five years ago; about six months later we were licensed foster parents. When November rolls around we will have been active foster parents for five years – parenting a total of 10 children, from newborns to teens. Many of them for a lengthy stay.
The reason I say very little about foster care online is because most of the issues and problems I deal with are confidential. I’d love to share more about the children, the issues, the case managers, court, and everything we deal with – but there is a limit to what can be said. The children are in our care to be protected.
We currently parent two foster care children: a 6-month-old baby girl, and a 19-month-old toddler. We have had both of these children for what I would consider a long-term basis. The baby girl moved in with us at 5 days old; the toddler moved in at 7 months old.
In addition, both Petra and Jasper were adopted through the foster care system. Petra came to live with us at 2 days old. We were blessed to pick her up from the hospital. Jasper came home at 2.5 months old. Both of them are blessings and we are delighted to call them our own.
Fostering is a rewarding and frustrating experience. You love the child, and the “system” is enough to drive you mad.
Frustration can occur due to a number of factors when you foster. I have come to realize the most aggravating for myself is the lack of communication. There is a huge communication issue that foster parents deal with. I expect information and communication as a foster parent on a regular basis – I rarely get it. Most of the time case managers are too timid to tell you much of anything – even though they should. Many times they don’t realize what they can legally tell you and what they cannot share. And each one is different. On occasion we have been blessed with a wonderful case manager that sees us as part of the team, but for the most part, most of them fail to see the team value we are able to add.
Just a few examples of some things we have experienced: no one bothers to tell you about an internal staffing, they forget to tell you that the child will be picked up for visitation, they take 2 weeks to respond to an email you sent, they tell you the child’s case is a low priority, they lie to you, they review the case 5 minutes before they show up and never really prepare or know what’s going on, they purposely keep things from you regarding the case because they don’t know what they can share because they’ve never bothered to figure it out, they forget to check to see if the mom is married which slows everything down for many months, and the list goes on and on.
But to frustrate me even more, there are often complete communication gaps that have a real impact on us and the child. One of those communication gaps happened recently. As foster parents we are a party to the case and we are required to be notified of every court hearing. Except recently there was a court hearing for our toddler and somehow no one managed to notify us of the hearing. He has lived with us for 12 months and I can assure you they know to contact us in the event of any meeting. Plus in this case its the law. At this court hearing in particular, an important decision came down from the judge – the decision to reunify with his biological family. We were told of it 4 days later.
Now I can tell you, this represents one of the largest communication problems in the system we have had to deal with to date. And while it is aggravating, and can be frustrating, it by no means discounts the rewards of being a foster parent.
While there have been many challenges for us, and the “system” is lacking in many ways, and you sometimes have to deal with more drama than in a season of Teen Mom on MTV, being a foster parent has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Every moment of it I have loved.
I love the first few moments when a child is welcomed into our home. I remember each child’s eyes and their expression of the unknown. I love the first few days when we are working on figuring each other out. I love the weeks that follow when you learn to love and trust one another. As the weeks pass their laugh, smile, cute baby toes, or even their dreams for a better future, all meld into your heart and they are part of your family. And I especially love the opportunity it presents for us to share our beliefs, values and morals. It challenges us daily to be our best.
There is not one moment in the last five years that I would want to change. There is not one child I wish we hadn’t fostered. Every one of the 10 children we have loved has made us better people, better parents. And I love them all. I love the good and the bad, the happy and the sad.
If you have a desire to foster, take the chance. Don’t let worry or fear keep you away from this incredible experience. Trust me when I say fostering a child will change your life for the better.
For fostering in Florida, contact the Children’s Home Society.