Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Foster Care Consultation and Classes

Photo: www.utahfostercare.org     

First, read this... a case for Foster Care: 5 reasons you won’t adopt from foster care, and why they’re wrong

Whenever I've thought of foster care, it was always something that we'd do "later." Come to think of it, we thought the same thing about adoption and that happened a lot sooner than "later." So, same situation here - the timeline of when we should become foster parents has crept up on us to the point where we said, "Let's move to Georgia and buy a house and do foster care there." So, not just in the distant future... but in the next few years. That would be our plan, our goal, what we'd be working towards.

But I feel like the Spirit has been working on us these last few months. Plans have changed about going to Georgia next year and we don't know exactly when we'll get there now. So, why not start foster care classes now? If for nothing else, to see what we'd be getting ourselves into and learn some good parenting tips. After that Adoption Resource Fair, I was so frustrated. It didn't give me what I was looking for. But I held onto that foster care card tightly. And Zay and I talked about why we wanted to do it and if we were ready now to try. We came to the conclusion that it couldn't hurt to take the classes.

All the way back in March, I wrote this post on FB: I read this quote on a foster care blog I follow and couldn't get it out of my head: "When I look back on our adoption journey, I know there is a reason the points connect as they do. Any other order and we would not have been prepared to love the way God asks us to." (Heart Cries blog) I see the world much differently than I did a few years ago. There's a lot of pain, a lot of suffering. Indescribable injustices to children. And my heart is full of compassion. Foster care is where my heart is and is what we want to pursue. I can't think of anything I'm more passionate about... or anything that I know I can do that would make as much of an impact. That's the kind of life I want to live. That's the position God has put us in. That's who I want to be: a foster mom.

So... we did a consultation with the recruiter in our area. He is amazing. He and his wife have fostered 54 kids in total since 2004. And he's adopted 15. He has a total of 19 kids! How crazy/cool is that?! Hearing his story and his passion for family was super inspiring to say the least. Plus he's just a really cool guy, so the consultation was awesome. Zay got a lot of his questions answered. We got the class schedule and he said to let him know if/when we could start, no pressure. I told him we'd let him know.

A really good friend of mine is doing foster care with her husband right now. They barely got licensed about the time we were thinking about starting. I've been learning from her experience and have probably drilled her with every question I could think of. I love her family. She has 3 young kids right now (hard-earned infertility miracles) and our kids are best friends. So, knowing her and her family already and then meeting the kids she's been fostering has been really good for me.

If you asked me 5 years ago what I knew about foster care, I'd have looked at you dumbfounded and shrugged. I don't think I "got" it... I knew some people back home who had had their kids "taken away from them" and that's about it. Now I feel like I'm surrounded by foster parents. Some of my hair clients are girls who are currently being fostered or were adopted from foster care. So I get to ask them and their moms tons of questions and get that perspective. I have a friend who was in foster care when she was younger... who actually was brave enough to turn herself into CPS because of a negligent/abusive mother. Not every kid has the sense or courage to do that. She talked to me a ton about the need right here in Utah and what her experience was like. She was grateful for foster care giving her a safe place to go when life at home was out of control.

Zay's taking an intro class to Social Work right now (what he's majoring in) and it has opened up all kinds of discussions between us. Mostly about what we went through as kids. I don't talk about my childhood much in this space, just because there's a lot of hard things I don't even know how to put into words. And if I did, I don't know if I'd want them out on the Internet. But let's just say neither one of us had it easy, for different reasons. Zay once said to me, "I used to live in a crack house. But you guys had it bad." Lol. Our experiences have given us an interesting perspective on life. One that I think is pushing us to give back and to want to make a difference in children's lives. That wasn't an easy realization, because knowing what you should be doing when it's going to be difficult is a tough pill to swallow. But now I can look back over the course of my whole entire life and see how things have worked together to bring Zay & me to this point. We're not ready to let go of trying to have biological babies and we're not ready to let go of adopting an infant. And maybe we WILL have to let go of those things at some point. But for now, we're just nurturing that desire to do foster care until it grows bigger and bigger and is just who we are - foster parents. I think it's inevitable, but I don't understand the timing of things just yet.

The time and energy and love and compassion it would take to be a foster parent would leave no room for wishing for more of "my own" babies, I think. So I'm torn in multiple directions right now. But I know that fostering will bring such an amazing opportunity into our lives that would change us and would provide us an opportunity to show Kal how to love and serve others.

Right now I have no idea what kind of fostering situations we'd be well-equipped to handle. I still feel like we are newbies to parenting in the big scheme of things. But they give you the "easy" ones to begin with, so I'm not too worried about that. Yes, we'd have to learn a lot about parenting children who have experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and/or exposure to drugs... all of whom will have experienced some form of trauma. Yes, it will be hard, but we think it will be worth it. Children in foster care get a bad reputation... that they're "bad kids," but the fact is that they are traumatized kids and in a lot of cases it's a situation of bad parents or at least parents who aren't in a position to provide a safe place for their children. Service to the "least of these" trumps how hard it might be, in my opinion.

Photo: www.nationaladoptionday.org

I also think we'll be able to handle the temporariness of it all. The goal of foster care is to provide a safe place for a child to stay while their parents/caregivers get their act together. Most of the time they do and the children return home or another family member steps up and takes them in. This is good. This is what the system is supposed to accomplish. My only worry is Kal and making sure he understands that a temporary sibling is okay and that he's not going anywhere and we're not going anywhere. That's my only hesitancy right now. If we ever feel like he's suffering because of anything we're trying to do foster-care-related, we would stop. But I think we're supposed to try. And we will stay cautiously optimistic along the way.

There are also "waiting children" who are already available for adoption and for whatever reason are not able to be adopted by their foster parents. Once we get licensed, we can inquire about a specific child (or sibling group). I don't know how many times I've scrolled through pictures of children who need permanent homes right now and have wondered if that's where we'll end up finding our child/ children. We shall see.

They have 8 classes we both need to attend as part of getting to the point where we're licensed foster parents. Because of the length of the classes and the timing clashing with Zay's school stuff, he hasn't been to one yet. Sigh... I've got 2 more. I was hoping we could speed through the classes and work on the paperwork as quickly as possible, but of course I'm learning patience all over again. You'd think I'd have the patience of a Saint by now, but I don't. I get anxious and want to be done and on to the next step.

The classes have been... long. Lol. Sometimes I'm just trying my best to get through them and I think to myself, "How am I ever gonna get Zay to sit through all these??" Other times I'm so engaged in the class and feel like I'm soaking it all in and I'm becoming a better person just by being in that room with the 20+ other couples who are packed into that tiny space, listening to the foster care trainer. I'm inspired. I'm worried about the kids in my community who aren't getting what they need. I get home and tell Zay all about it. So, it's been interesting. I don't know when we'll get through all the hoops to become licensed. Part of me is annoyed that it's gonna take so long. And part of me is perfectly okay because I'm distracted by other things right now and life is busy.

P.S. - There's been a big jump in couples attending the foster care classes recently. Ever since LDSFS announced they wouldn't be doing adoptions after this year. I think it really gave a lot of hopeful adoptive couples around here a kick in the pants to seek out other affordable options to grow their family. And foster-to-adopt is the answer.

I do get excited about being a foster mom, though. :) ... Kal calls every kid he sees his "friend" and is the most social little thing I've ever seen. So I think he's going to be great and so excited to have a "friend" actually living with us. And I can imagine my over-use of my camera being a benefit in a fostering situation, because sometimes these kids are cared for so little that they don't even have a picture of themselves. I'm gonna be the super picture-taking, scrapbook-making mom who makes sure she documents every kid who comes to her! I'd love the heck out of every kid who got to be a part of our family, even if only temporarily. That's what any kid needs but not every kid gets - parents who love them and show them that they matter.

We've been focusing on trying to make the overall feeling in our home be peaceful and a safe haven. I take screenshots on my phone all the time when I'm reading my favorite blogs and come across a good quote. This quote's kind of our motto right now as we try to prepare ourselves for foster care:

Source: Simple Inspiration





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