This is a crazy journey. Our emotions run a wide spectrum from total excitement to total fear, and then finally to peace because we know that God is with us. He is the one who put foster parenting on our hearts, and He is the One who has promised to be right here with us and going before us! What a beautiful promise. The topic of most of our conversations these days revolves around our journey as #fosterparentsinthemaking ;) And that's great! Any chance we can get to share about this opportunity, we will take! But as I was in my third or fourth foster conversation yesterday, I realized that I seemed to be answering all the same questions time & again. And that's okay! But I figured...if everybody has these similar questions, that means that most people don't know the answers. (Deep thinking, Kari....)
So here I am, putting together some of the FAQs I receive, as well as my FRAs (frequently responded answers. feeling clever today... :) )
How did you decide to become foster parents?
In short, we read the Bible. It told us that pure and true religion is taking care of the orphans & widows in their distress... so that is what we will do! The longer answer & full story can be found in my full blog post HERE.
Are there a lot of kids in the foster care system?
Yes!! Far too many :( There are over 8000 Oregon kids in foster care, and about 200 of them are also waiting to be adopted.
What is the difference between foster care and adoption?
Foster parents are essential partners of the state's services to children. DHS (The Department of Human Services) depends on foster parents to do the day-to-day parenting for these children until they can either return safely to their own homes or until an alternate permanent plan is found. As foster parents, our intention is to love & care for the child(ren) as long as they are in our home, with the goal of reuniting them with their parents or another family member. We would be setting ourselves up for heartbreak if we thought to ourselves that we might be able to keep the little one forever... that is not the goal. (Yes, every once in a while there is an exception. I just can't allow myself to think about it or it will hurt too much to let them go).
Adoption is a lifelong commitment to a child. When children in foster care cannot be safely returned home to their parents, an adoption plan is possible. The goal is to help the child transition into being a part of your forever family. Some children are placed with other family members or non-related adults with whom they have a significant attachment. Foster families may also choose to adopt the child in their care once the child is freed for adoption (which means that the parent either gave up their parental rights or had them taken away). Sometimes none of these options are available and a new family is found for the child.
So are you guys going to adopt a child?
When setting out in the process, it is really important that you & your spouse/family decide what your desired end goal is. Right now, our intention is foster care only. The Lord could absolutely change our hearts and desires, and adoption is definitely not out of the picture for the future; however, as I mentioned before, we can not set our minds on adoption, in order to protect our hearts.
If your end goal is to adopt a child, then your process will look different! Your track will be "Foster-to-adopt" rather than simply "foster."
Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer about your intentions. Both fostering and adopting are greatly needed! So wherever God is steering your heart, you should follow :)
Why do children come into foster care?
Because it was reported that the child was not being cared for, or was mistreated. The reasons range from abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, etc.) to neglect to drug or alcohol affects. Sometimes, a baby will come straight out of the hospital into a foster home because the mother and/or baby tested positive for drugs - meaning the baby is now on drugs and will suffer from withdrawals and possibly the lifelong repercussions of their addiction. Other times it is for alcohol abuse and the child will suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Effects. Sometimes, children will not come into care until a later age (anything up to 18 years old) because of their situation. If their parent(s) can no longer care for them, they will be brought into care and hopefully placed with family. If no family is available, a foster family is next.
What is the process like? What do you have to do to become foster parents?
First things first, gather all the information you want! We asked for an information packet, and then proceeded to attend an orientation class, where we received an application. We filled out the long, detailed, somewhat nosy application and sent it in. ;)
Then we met with somebody from our assigned branch (usually, the DHS branch nearest to your home), who gave us the training schedule. We are required to attend 8 classes that are 3 hours each, for a total of 24 hours of training. The classes cover topics such as: -The Importance of Birth Families -Child Development and the Impact of Abuse -Sexual Abuse -Behavior Management -Valuing the Child's Heritage -Working with the Child's Family -Next steps for foster parents/relative caregivers/prospective adoptive families.
You will attend the same training whether you are on the Foster track or Foster-to-Adopt track.
You will also need to get your fingerprints done to ensure that you are not, and have not been a criminal. If there is something on your criminal history background, it does not automatically disqualify you from becoming a foster parent, but it will be looked into to determine whether or not you are a good fit for traumatized children in your home.
Then you will undergo a home study. This means that a Certifier will come to your home and talk with you about your home life, your history, your relationships, your dreams/goals/interests/hobbies, parenting style, your support system...etc. There is also a Home Safety Assessment to ensure you have all the required items to safely have children in your home (such as a good fire extinguisher, a carbon monoxide detector, an evacuation plan, doors that can unlock from either side, etc.).
There are 3 Home Studies, and then your certifier will put together a write-up of all they learned, checked, and saw. Once that is turned in, you will either be approved or denied. Hopefully approved! :)
Andthen you will be certified foster parents, ready to accept children!!
Do you know what age the children in your home will be?
Not necessarily, but mostly. When you meet with your Certifier, you will inform them of the age and number of children you are comfortable with having in your home.
This is important to discuss with your spouse/family. Some families with children want to stick with foster kids who are younger than their bio kids. Some families, like us, do not have any bio kids yet, but want to start young since we don't have parenting experience.
We told our Certifier that we are most comfortable with children who are newborns to 3 or 4 years old. Our hope is that one day, we will be ready and able to take in older children. It's a pretty standard rule of thumb that older children are much harder to place. As you could imagine, the older they are, often times the more trauma they have experience and the more difficult they might be. My heart is to take them in and love them regardless...but we feel the Lord telling us to start small and He will guide us into bigger adventures.
How long will you have a foster child?
This is a case-by-case, child-by-child answer. In some situations, the parent(s) only need a small amount of time to get back on their feet and ready to take the child back. It could be a couple days or a couple weeks. In other cases, there is a lot of work & help needed. It could be multiple months and sometimes even over a year.
Children used to grow up in the foster system because there were no time restrictions given to the parent(s). They had as long as they wanted or needed to fix whatever was wrong. After learning that this is not ideal for the children, the law changed and bio parents now have 1 year. That's the short answer. If the bio parent makes no progress throughout the first 10 months and then comes to say that he/she is willing to attend rehab, they will keep the child in foster care with hopes that the parent will now improve.
If the year goes by and no progress has been made, the parent's parenting rights will be terminated. You could imagine how heartbreaking that would be to see. At any point, if the parent decides they just can't do it, they have the option to give up their parental rights, and the child would then either be placed with a relative, or a foster family if no relatives were available.
So, how long will we have each child? I don't know! We could get a call when the child is all bundled up & ready to go for a walk in the park, saying that they are ready to go home and will be picked up in 30 minutes. Painful, yes, but that is how it works.
I could never do it. Giving the child back to their family would be way too hard from me. How will you do it?
I was talking with a foster mom who is a new friend of mine, and we were discussing this very question. She mentioned that she had read an article that stated, "Yes, it will be hard. But this is not about me."
And there is the plain & simple answer. Of course in my heart I do not want to pour all of my love & all of myself into a child, just to have them "taken away" or given back to their parents. But if I let that selfish fear keep me from loving a child, then who knows if that child will ever receive this kind of love. We are not becoming foster parents for ourselves... we are doing it because we see an immense need in the lives of so many children here in our city, and we are ready to do something about it.
Luke 12:48 says, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
Zach & I have been so loved, so cared for, so blessed throughout our lives. We are asked and even required to love back. What a high and beautiful calling.
I read this a couple days ago and was so inspired! It can be really hard to see a huge need, because we get overwhelmed easily and don't know how to move forward to help. I pray that we will be people who act on the belief that every life matters, and seeing one smile or treating one wound can make all the difference in the world.
If you have any more questions about foster parenting and would like to talk with us, please don't hesitate to do so! And if anything I said above was not quite accurate, let me know :) I just type what I've come to understand...