Telling Our Families

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When being interviewed by the social workers, we were asked what our families thought about us deciding to become foster parents.  We were stumped.  Neither of us had even thought to talk to our families about it.  I mean, we are the ones doing it right?  Its not really anyone’s business what we do with our free time and spare bedroom.  WRONG.  Your family is definitely a part of the experience whether they want to be or not.  Think about Christmas, family get-together, birthdays, vacations, and so on.  You can’t just get rid of your foster child because you have something to do that day.  They are a part of your family, however temporary.

So with admitted apprehension we approached our families with our plans.  I was AMAZED at the overall support and blessings we got from our family.  I was even more surprised by how many people said they wanted to do it to but were afraid of attachment.  Offers to supply toys, clothing, assistance, babysitting, and so on streamed in from several unexpected corners.

Admittedly there were a few family members who said we were very generous with incredibly worried looks on their face, but in all honesty they would probably have had the same reaction if we told them we were volunteering at a group home.  Not everyone has a giving spirit and we take that into account.

Happily, the family members who mattered were all vastly excited by our decision and proud of us for what we have chosen to do.  For any other apprehensive potential foster parents, telling your family honestly and upfront is the best thing you can do to create strong communication flows.  You might be surprised by the responses you receive.

Changing Directions

Children dancing, International Peace Day 2009...

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Shortly after we began the process of becoming licensed foster care parents, we were approached by the director of social services and asked if we would be interested in being receiving home parents.  So this was kind of a new direction and one we weren’t sure we were ready for, but we were willing to sit down and listen to what they had to say.

First of all, I think it would be beneficial for those foster care newbies out there to know the breakdown of foster care levels.  Your average foster care home is what most people think of.  The children are raised with a family that lasts anywhere from a few months to a few years and in some cases age out (turn 18 and are removed from the system).  These homes can often pick and choose what age ranges, genders, nationality, personality types, and so on that they are willing to accept.  In many cases they can even meet the child ahead of time to determine if they like the child.  This is your average foster care home.

On the next level up, is a treatment care home.  A treatment home is one that is higher licensed to deal with children of a more challenging nature.  These home’s are the one’s that take children who need almost constant care but are not considered dangerous or difficult enough to require 24 hour straight supervision.

Receiving homes are a special type of foster care.  This is the home the child is first place in when entering the system.  Children can arrive at any time day or night with little to no warning.  In fact, receiving home foster parents generally carry pagers to be available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  The children generally stay for less than 30 days until they either are returned home or are placed in long term foster care while the home corrects the issues preventing them from providing a safe environment.

Finally, there are respite homes.  Respite providers provide short term care for foster children to allow foster care parents a break.  I like to call these homes the super-babysitters.

For extreme cases, there is also shelter care and group home options for foster children in the system.

Originally, my husband and I planned on being a basic foster care family.  However, our biggest fear was attachment.  One of the hardest things for foster care parents is letting the foster child go when it is time for the child to return home or the child has been adopted.  That is the greatest benefit of receiving home care and that is the short term of it and the high turnover.  However, the downside is that you really are on call ALL the time.  There are no days off or I don’t feel like it. You can not say no if you have a bed open.  This means you can get any child of any age, gender, nationality, or difficulty level at any time of the day or not.  In fact, they frequently show up in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their back.

This was a big decision for us.  We really weren’t sure which way to go because this type of home can be really challenging but it does have a high burnout rate because of the stress involved.

However, when we really thought it over we realized that we can handle this AND we can really make a difference in so many lives instead of just a few.  The revolving door aspect of it makes it less likely we will get severely attached and it really gives us the opportunity to help in the best way we can.  So we decided that we will do the receiving care and I am truly hoping we will do great at it!

Paperwork! Paperwork! Paperwork!

Paperwork

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Early in November, we finally had our first home visit.  And with the first home visit came the mountain of paperwork.  The foster care system used to be really bad and part of making it better is by very thoroughly checking out the prospective parents. We had a GIANT stack of paperwork they brought.  They truly wanted to know every little detail about our lives.  On top of that they did our home inspection and added more things to our to do list.

Those first two weeks after the initial visit were extremely hectic.  Besides the mountain of paperwork to be filled out, we had paperwork for our friends to fill out.  We also had to get paperwork signed by the insurance companies showing we had insurance, proof of ownership for our house, and much much more.  The animals all needed to be vaccinated, the house needed to be baby-proofed, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors, locks on the basement and every single safety feature you can think of.  Being as that we have no kids, these aren’t things that were already done.  AND we needed a stair banister.

There was so much stuff that after two months it still isn’t done!!!  Don’t worry we are almost there.  All in all there was so much to do and it never seems to end.  When they say it takes 60 to 90 days to license it’s because of the paperwork.  And so many people have told me there is no upfront cost.  Well they were wrong.  Granted I can see the reason for having all of these safety features, but come on how many people keep fire extinguishers on every level of the house?

Well if anyone is interested in it, don’t let the paperwork frighten you.  It is a lot but it will be worth it in the end.  (Or so I’m told).

The Beginning

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Becoming a foster care parent is a full time commitment that many are not able to conceive of doing.  My husband and I recently decided that we were going to try and make this commitment.  However, we had no kids of our own, very little children related things, and no idea where to start.

When beginning our research we became terrified.  There are dozens of websites and articles available online outlining foster parenting.  In fact, they will tell you everything that could possibly go wrong with a foster care child or that a foster care child could potentially do to you.  This got me to thinking.

Why would anyone do foster care if it is such a scary undertaking?  Do we really have a host of ticking time bombs disguised as children running around our neighborhoods?  The answers it seems are elusive.  From the research we have done so far we have determined that the foster care program can be intensely rewarding and satisfying.  However, there is no literature documenting the experiences of foster care parents that I can find online.

I intend to keep a record of our foster care experience and hopefully by providing this insight in the system, it will allow others to open their homes and become foster parents as well.  Please follow us in our journey to making a difference in the lives of needy children.  Please also remember that for the privacy of the child we will never share any names or personal information of the child.  This blog is simply about our experiences and perhaps an introduction to new foster care parents.