Fostering is Easy.
My husband and I began our adventure into the crazy world that is the foster care system the end of last year. We received our first placement – a sibling set of newborn twins and a 1 year old – on December 1, 2017. A friend of mine came over about a month later. She and her husband had fostered for a couple of years and we were swapping stories of our limited experiences. (I’d only been at this for a month. She’d already tread these waters and survived to tell the tale.)
Our toddler was in meltdown mode. It was past her nap time and she had an audience… cue the Terrible Two’s. Every toy she saw seemed to require screaming, crying, and arguing about (with no one in particular – an imaginary friend, maybe?) and me, trying to keep her from waking up the babies and have a conversation with my friend, all while maintaining a smile and still trying to keep my home in a somewhat non-pigsty type order. (There are seasoned foster parents laughing hysterically right now at my naivete… I did mention I was only a month in at this point, right?)
My friend then went all sage-ish on me and broke down the foster care system in 7 words. The sentence she spoke was tragic, enlightening, semi-freeing… and incredibly sad.
You don’t have to give her toys.
I looked at her like she’d just informed me she’s dodging the feds and – should I ever need her – she’ll be hiding out in Mexico with her lesbian lover AND she’s not taking her precious baby boy because that’d be too inconvenient. (Yeah, it wasn’t a good look on me.)
Eventually, I got my mouth to form words again:
Wha — what?
You don’t have to give her toys.
What do you mean?
You have to give them clothes, food, basic necessities. But nothing else…you don’t have to give them toys.
Umm…Yeeeah, I do.
Well so did I. But it’s not a real requirement. They don’t care.
I don’t have to give her toys??? She wasn’t even two yet!
My mind was blown.
In that moment, I no longer cared that the toddler was throwing her toys all over the floor…I was just happy she had them to throw.
Suddenly, everything up to that point made so much more sense. And I realized…
The Fostering is EASY!
I don’t know what you’ve been told, but becoming a foster parent is NOT a grueling process. It may actually be a little too easy…
Basically, you make a call, sign some papers, take some classes, do some training, clean your house like a mad person before every home study visit (which, turns out, is completely unnecessary!), give up your fingerprints for a background check, and BAM! Congratulations, you’re qualified and ready for your first foster placement.
And the actual fostering isn’t hard either…
You’ve already picked what type of kids you’re willing to accept during the home study… how many, what ages, what races, what type of health concerns, etc. (Like are you willing to accept a child even if they have a large birthmark on their face? Seriously, it was an actual yes/no option under a special “needs/concerns” list of what you’re willing to accept…Come on people, who says no to that one??? What am I missing???)
So, you get a call and they tell you “We’ve got X age/gender child(ren). We know XYZ about them. Are you willing to accept them?” You say Yes or No.
Then they bring the child(ren) to your home. You expect to have some pleasantries and learn more about them, but you won’t… You sign more papers, get a paper that says you’re legally this child(‘s) caregiver and the worker leaves you with a few clothes (if you’re lucky/unlucky), a few toys (if you’re lucky), and a voucher. You take the voucher to Wal-Mart and buy clothes and any other necessities the child(ren) may need. (Not gonna lie, the clothing spree is a little fun…especially for toddler and baby clothes!!)
After that, you feed them, clothe them appropriately (no shorts in blizzard weather, guys…sorry!), make sure they go to class (if applicable), keep them off the internet, and basically make sure they don’t die. (There’s visits and stuff in there too, but you get the idea…)
If something comes up you’re not sure about or you need help with… call or text a worker and they’ll figure it out.
It’s pretty freaking simple, but… (Bear with me guys, this may turn into a bit of a rant…)
The loving is HARD!
I already had two daughters when we started fostering. I loved them before they were even born. Loving them is SO easy!
And, at first, it seemed like loving my foster children was going to be exactly the same.
We loved them before they ever set foot in our home. We imagined what they would be like before we ever got “the call” and prepared our home in the same way all expectant parents do.
Our love was and is unconditional.
But it isn’t easy.
The loving is hard for so many different reasons!
The loving is hard when…Complete strangers ask completely inappropriate questions.
I have some serious mama bear issues. I can go from sweet, innocent, and meek to all out “IF I let you walk away from this conversation, just know that I’M GOING TO MURDER YOU IN YOUR SLEEP TONIGHT” in about 0.0001 seconds. (Yeah, I’m aware it’s a problem guys.)
So when complete strangers ask questions about my foster kids (and bios for that matter) and their bio mom, I have to call upon all the love of Jesus not to just punch them in the nose.
For some reason, people will ask you questions they would never dream of asking if they weren’t asking about your foster kids. As an example, a complete stranger has never asked if I divorced my ex-husband because of drugs, abuse, etc.
But I have been asked if my foster kids are “meth” babies, what kind of issues they have, what’s wrong with them, and a host of other questions I’m not going to go into because I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about them. The truly sad thing is…they ask even worse questions about their parents.
I happen to actually LIKE my foster kids’ mom. She’s a sweet woman who loves her kids every bit as much as I do. But even if I didn’t, there’s no way I’d share her (or her kids) personal business with a complete stranger… and this happens way to often.
I love my foster kids, but it’s hard dealing with people’s inconsiderate questions and opinions…especially when they say them right in front of them, as if their thoughts and feelings don’t matter!
The loving is hard when… you’re not a “real” parent..
I wish it were only uninformed individuals that felt this way, but there are so many ways a foster parent is taken for granted in their role as a parent.
The word parent is right there in the title! But somehow, people outside the foster care system (and in it for that matter) don’t see foster parents as “real” parents or our foster children as our “real” children.
While they are here, in our home, we will be caring for them in the exact same way we care for our other children. They are my children’s brothers and sisters…not “fake” siblings, but REAL siblings. We love them the same as our children because they are our REAL children, and we are REALLY parenting them.
Things like being shocked because we’re taking our foster kids on our family vacation feels like a jab at me and my kids.
Or when someone asks “now, are you going to let ‘those’ do that too?” referring to something I’m going to do with ALL my kids. (First of all, I’m a mixed chick who grew up in WV…do not refer to ANYONE as a “what,” “it,” or “thing” around me.) Yes, yes I am!
My love for my foster children is unconditional, just as it is for my bio children, but it’s hard when I bend over backwards for ALL my kids and it’s somehow shocking to other people.
The loving is hard when…other foster parents question your love or ability for your foster kids.
This one was a shocker to me. I’m a part of a couple of Facebook support groups for foster parents. Another WV foster parent asked a question not too long ago about how other parents handle not being allowed in the courtroom during hearings. I have wondered the same thing many times.
It seems that every other state allows foster parents in on the conversations and hearings that take place in their kids case. But in my county, they do not…
We’ve been told that we can sit outside in the hall and wait for the workers to come out and give us an update. But we will not be allowed to talk to the judge or sit in the courtroom.
Basically, every time a hearing comes around, it feels like we’re viewed as glorified babysitters. I personally feel that being able to be more involved and attend the hearings would put us in a better position to know what bio parents need and how we can support them… but either the judicial or foster care system (I have no idea whose to blame here) doesn’t agree.
The woman on Facebook got a big bunch of replies that all basically accused her of not knowing what she was talking about. They insisted that she IS allowed in the courtroom for EVERY hearing, some even went so far as accusing her of either lying or not caring enough about the kids to take time out to go to court.
I, of course, chimed in my two cents. I didn’t get the same response she did, but I was sent a message gently encouraging me to “double check” what was allowed in my county, as they believed I may be wrong.
The point of sharing this story is, foster parents require a LOT of support. We love and care for ALL of our kids and sacrifice for them on a daily basis. It’s incredibly hard when other foster parents question our love for our fosters.
The loving is hard when… they leave.
This one should require no explanation at all. We haven’t had to experience this yet, but our first placement will more than likely be going home in the very near future.
Every foster parent has heard the words “I could never do that.”
The implication is that they would love the kids too much to let them go, while we… the foster parents who sign up to get our hearts broken… do not.
The reality is, we love them so much that we let them go even though it feels as if it’ll kill us.
The pain is real.
The love is real.
It’s hard when they leave.
And you’re heart breaks a million times in-between…
The fostering is the easy part…It’s the loving that’s hard.
What are you’re thoughts? Do you have a foster parent (or child) story to share? Leave me a comment below or shoot me a message through the Contact Me page!
I love you! You are an amazing woman. I just found out my foster babies are back in the system but no we may not have them back because they were taken in Virginia and they have different rules and have already been placed. I chose not to take more fosters after my experience with my first set of babies. I totally understand the love and the hurt. I understand doing anything you can for them. You are an amazing person and any child that gets to call you all parents is lucky
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Aww, I love you! And that’s so sad! I hate to hear that! I’d think trying to place them with you all would be way better for them (but no one asked me what I thought lol).
Jess, what amazing people you and your family are. God bless you abundantly! We have a family in church whose youngest just graduated high school. They have unexpectedly been fostering an infant, now almost 3, and due to crazy circumstances, are adopting her in August! All of you who do this have my special prayers. Hugs to you!
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Awww, thank you. That’s very sweet and we can use all the prayers we can get!
How exciting for your church family! I’m feeling so happy for them and we’ve never even met! 😂
I’m seeing that it takes the whole church family to commit to raising any kids, but especially fosters. So stay connected to your church, but especially stay connected to your Lord Jesus! It’s only by his grace and love we can endure the hard times, because we know the long term, eternal truth.
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Well said! Our church family has carried us through so much of our foster care journey! They’re even staying a foster care closet to help other foster families, as well. We are so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives!
We foster too, and I just wrote about how scared I am when we are about to get a new placement! Glad I’m not alone!
The vacation questions get me too. I let my neighbor know we were leaving and he asked where the foster kids were going. I gave him this confused look and said “…with…us…” If I were him, I probably would have said something like “that will be nice.” I would even have been ok with “do they make you do a lot of paperwork for that?” Nope. He kept digging his hole. He said something to the effect of “Do you have to? DCF at least pays for *them* to go, right?” I told him no, they don’t pay, and of course they have to go! They are part of the family! What did he expect me to do with them? He responded that he wasn’t sure and figured they’d go stay at a different home or maybe stay with their mom for a while. (???!!!) I’ve only been a foster parent 7 months and I wonder how long it will take for me to understand how much other people don’t understand about foster care.