A year ago the only thing I knew about foster care was that it scared me.
Goodness, how things can change in 365 days.
I won't lie. Some things about it are still uncomfortable. But when we feel The Lord leading us to push against those self-imposed comfort zone boundaries, unexpected strength waits on the other side.
I've received lots of great questions about this journey, so I thought it might be helpful for at least a couple of you if I jot a few of the most frequent ones here. I'm sure all this and more can be found online elsewhere, but I know sometimes it's helpful to hear the perspective of someone you know.
These thoughts are just based on our family's experience and wouldn't be the same for everyone. And as mentioned before, the lack of time currently prevents me from a well-crafted post.
So here we go.
What made you decide to do foster care?
Adoption has been part of the "plan" since we've been married. I think we had envisioned international adoption as our likely route for years. It wasn't until about a year and a half ago that Kristian brought up the conversation about domestic adoption by way of foster care.
Honestly, it scared me at first. That was not how I envisioned our adoption happening. But the more we talked and read, the more the plight of abandoned, abused, and neglected children in our community took hold of us.
Additionally, Kristian directs an anti-trafficking non-profit here in Texas. Children who age out of the foster care system are at extremely high risk for sexual exploitation and trafficking. For our family, fostering seemed to be a logical step in the fight against child trafficking. It fit. The pieces work together. (Of course, orphans internationally are similarly at high risk. Kristian's work just happens to focus more on the issue locally currently. We have many friends adopting internationally and are in complete support of them.)
I'm so grateful Kristian lead us down this path, and find myself hoping more and more people will jump on board. It has felt like an incredible and weighty privilege to care for a dependent child who needs love and safety. We already feel it's been a highlight of our marriage.
What is the training/certification process like?
It took us about 9 months to complete all our certification requirements, but we weren't necessarily rushing.
I knew basically nothing about foster care a year ago. I still have a lot to learn, and can only speak to our experience. We earned our certification through an adoption agency called Arrow. Arrow, along with others like Buckner and DePelchin, essentially offer their services to families interested in foster care free of charge. They train you, walk you through the process, and then assist you as you actually journey down the road of referrals, placements, CPS meetings, etc.
Certification components included: about 7 multi-hour training sessions at our local Arrow office, a few online training courses, background checks, CPR training, lots of paperwork, finger printings, safety inspection of our home, physicals, and a home study.
How much does it cost?
The only costs incurred for foster care are the fees associated with doctor visits during your screening process, home inspections and any necessary improvements, and a few other minor things (like in our case, purchasing a vehicle large enough to accommodate three car seats - which turned out to be not such a "minor" thing). Once you have a child placed in your home you are responsible for their basic care and needs (medical is covered through Medicaid), but you are given a small stipend to help with things like clothes, diapers, formula, food, transportation, etc. If the foster care placement turns in to permanent adoption, that stipend typically ends.
Can you specify the type of child your family will accept?
People always seem to feel bad asking this question but it's an important one! Yes, you can be as detailed as you want with specifications. They will ask you to specify age, gender, race, medical condition, and the number of children you're willing to accept.
The more detailed you are in your specifications, the less referral calls you will receive because less children will fit your requirements. Every family is different and must consider what they are capable of handling in a given season.
What is "foster-to-adopt"? (What we are doing)
In very basic terms, there are three ways to do foster care.
1. Foster Care (only)- You are opening your home to children who need temporary care but do not plan to adopt a child should biological parental rights be terminated.
2. Foster-to-Adopt- You are opening your home to provide temporary care for children in the foster system and would love to adopt a child in your care if that is what the child needs.
3. Straight Adoption- You are able to adopt immediately from state custody without providing any contingent or temporary "foster" care. These will be children whose parents' rights have already been terminated and they are just waiting for a family. These are almost always older children who have often spent years in foster care.
Are you going to adopt the baby you have now?
If his circumstances play out in such a way that adoption is the next step for him, we would be absolutely overjoyed to adopt him.
For now, he is someone else's child. We have the enormous privilege of caring for him. We are praying for his family and trusting God with the future. While he's in our care we treat him as one of our own.
How have your sons reacted to a new child in the house?
Our boys are in love with this little baby. They ask to help me feed him and hold him all day long and are constantly commenting on his cuteness. We are all quite enamored.
However, before our current foster son, we provided Respite Care for one week for another family's foster child who was a little older. That was a different story. For a couple reasons, it was a very trying experience for our boys. Based on what we learned from that week, we decided to keep the age of our foster child younger than our youngest biological child for now. That's what is working for our family currently. People have all different opinions on "birth order" though. Different things work for different families who have children with varying personalities.
Do you have to say yes when you are called with a possible placement?
No. You are never forced into a placement. It's totally up to you. You might be about to leave town and the timing doesn't work out (happened to us). Or you might be out of town and can't make it back in time (happened to us). Or your husband might be out of town and you already have one newborn and can't imagine taking in a second newborn that same day on your own (happened to us).
You simply decline and they will call you with the next one (possibly later that day).
If you made it this far...
...then foster care may be something you are considering. Perhaps your heart is being stirred to reach out to the extremely needy children living just miles from you. If you take the leap, your heart will likely go from stirred to exploding.
Just tonight we received a call from our agency asking if we were able to take another child, a one year old. We discussed it and declined. That breaks my heart. With the needs of our current foster son, and the sudden transition of two to three small children, we are feeling at capacity. We told them we would let them know when we were ready to consider an additional placement.
There is a massive need for loving and stable families to open their arms to children in the foster care system.
I will leave it at that for now. Hope this provides a little bit of insight into the process.