We did it. It’s official. We are signed up and in process to become foster parents.
This is not new for J and me: it was something we’ve been exploring since before we were married, and something we knew we’d undertake when we said our vows.
J and I were lucky, in that we met when we were older, and both of us, separately, had already decided we would adopt. (to quell the invariable second question: It wasn’t even fertility issues that drove us to consider adoption, either). A combination of failed first marriages and not necessarily feeling like we had to have our OWN kids in order to be loving parents, and knowing that time was marching on had led us both to consider adoption, separately, before we met. I’d continue to envision fostering before or concurrent with actual adoption. J had always considered foster-to-adopt. And, we’d both already knew we wanted older children.
J and I met online, and his main profile said he’d like to adopt, which was a clincher for me to talk to him. While we were dating, we discussed adoption, of course. I even brought up fostering with him a few times. He seemed open to foster-to-adopt (this is where you are matched with a child that is in the foster system who is eligible for adoption, and then foster the child during the generally two-year process for the adoption to become official). But I still felt compelled to plain old foster – to be a home for children who needed a place to be raised while their parents handled their stuff (hopefully).
J was more hesitant about the fostering, until we attended a foster adoption convention in Washington DC organized by DC127 (www.dc127.org). We attended one of the seminars about fostering, and one of the speakers put it in words that resonated with J (and me, but I was already sold): “You’re not signing up to foster just a child: you are fostering the entire FAMILY.” This foster mother, who had fostered dozens of children and adopted 5 of them, made it clear that the kids don’t go back to bad situations: that you work with the parent (and more rarely, the parents) in caring for the child — regular phone calls, regular visits, even coordinating discipline and vacations. Maybe the children don’t return to the IDEAL environment all us well-adjusted folks envision, but the return back to a home that is better, with parent(s) better equipped with parenting skills, and with the issues that led the children to a foster home resolved. And they return back to their biological parent (s) — and let’s face it, children always, always, ALWAYS love their parents, no matter what. It is the best place for them, their biological family. It was this viewpoint, that of fostering the entire family, that made it feel like a viable option for J.
We’ve read the pamphlets, the books, and looked at ALL options. We’ve run through all the scenarios in our head – the ones people always bemoan and tell you about when you tell them you plan to foster: that it’s tough, that the kids have issues, etc. For the record, we know all this, fully, eyes open. We’ve talked about it, prayed about it and even discussed how we will set up discipline and rewards (that we know will change as soon as it’s a reality), how we will feel and respond with parents in the mix. We’ve attended an information session (last year) and now waited until the time seemed right to move forward. We’ve been married for more than a year, that move to Arizona looks like it’s going to be pushed off longer than we’d thought, and we are ready to offer all the love we have to kids who just need a safe, loving place for a little bit.
We are excited, even while we are realistic about the emotions this could well bring. But I think we also know that, overriding it, all the potential pain, and discipline issues, and tears and wishes that will inevitably come in our foster journey, will be 100 and fourfold WORTH it.
Meanwhile, the month-long, 27-hour training starts next month. We’re mid-process of encapsulating all the lead paint in our 1945 house. We can’t do much about the wild boxer dog who LOVES kids, but know we will be training kids to train HER (the other dog we don’t have to worry about – he’s the closest thing to a therapy dog you can get without training). A home visit, home inspection and fire inspection will follow, along with a social worker getting all up in our grill.
It sounds like a perfect summer, to us.
We’re going to blog about this journey of ours — as much as we can, anyway, given rules for privacy and protecting the kids — in the hopes that others who might have even had a glimmer of a thought about fostering (or even foster-to-adopt) might consider it a bit more strongly. Hopefully to dispel so many of the myths that follow these foster children around. And to explore how it is LOVE that makes a family.
402,000: number of children in foster care at any one time, nationwide.
58,000: number of children who, at any one time, are in foster care but can be adopted.
Stats from Children’s Rights, www.childrensrights.org