We tell ourselves many things to convince ourselves we can't be a foster parent.
"I don't have the space."
Foster Parents are not perfect. It takes love, empathy, creativity, an open mind, training, and patience, patience, patience. Being a successful Foster Parent takes many things, but not the reasons you are telling yourself "no".
So ask yourself. Why am I really saying no? Is it a good enough reason?
The following is a great video to show numbers of kids in care and the lack of housing options.
I wanted to take a break from all the deep, difficult stuff for a moment. I want to share with you one of the many beautiful aspects of fostering.
It's beautiful to see a family, a church, and a community come together to support the children in our home. This support comes in a variety of ways. Today I am going to take a moment to give a huge shout out to my Mother-In-Law.
Life has been a crazy transition to two under three. And Bear really has given us a run for our money in many ways. When I say he is energetic, this is an understatement. When people kindly tell us he is "quite active" we laugh. With his oodles of laughs and his tender caring moments comes a lot of chaos and hard moments. Now, I have worked with kids for years. I have babysat our friends 4 under 4 with my 1.5 year old and it was a breeze. But this new little puts all of that to shame. (Let me say, I wouldn't have it any other way. I absolutely love him and he has already made great strides to being a kinder and gentler boy who tries his best to listen.)
As we look towards the future and unsure when we are ready to reopen for a third, we knew we needed help. Let me tell you, it took quite a bit of strength and courage to ask. Asking for help is not weak. I remember when we first got Bug at 2 months old and I felt like I had to have it all together. Prove I was handling it. I killed myself keeping the house clean. I always put on jewelry and make up before leaving the house. I definitely felt that new mom, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest pressure to look like I had it in control. I also had that stereotypical "daughter-in-law" pressure of showing I was a good mother and wife. So after a year a half.... and this new addition.... and looking to our future.... I swallowed my pride and told my husband ".... maybe your mom would be interested in coming on Mondays when we are passing each other between rehearsals to help with the kids and do their laundry."
This has been the third week that my mother-in-law came over straight after work and began doing the kids laundry in the living room while they run amok around her and I get a few moments to clean the kitchen and make dinner. My husband races home from rehearsal and we all eat dinner before I rush off to my rehearsal. She helps my husband with their nighttime routine and puts them to bed. They then get a weekly chance to catch up and talk which has been a beautiful relationship to watch.
I cannot put into words how grateful I am for this help. How love and supported I feel. This is a rather unusual request. But this has turned into the biggest unexpected help I have ever received in the fostering journey. In life we have to remember our loved ones want to help. They want to support us. We just have to find ways we are willing to let them in and simply, humbly, ask.
To help her help us, as well as help the kids help themselves, I laminated everything. I feel super proud.
"I would get too attached."
Then you would be perfect! Kids need attachment more than adults need to be protected from it.
I am not scared of loss.
I am scared these children will never feel loved.
I am scared these children will not be safe.
I am scared these children will not get to be kids.
I am scared these children will be shuffled from shelter to shelter every 45 days**.
I am scared these children will grow up to perpetuate the cycle of abuse and neglect.
These children need healthy attachment. They need an example of what a family is suppose to look like. What does it mean to be a family member? How do I appropriately support my family? What is my expectation and responsibilities as a kid? (Kids in care often had to take on adult roles of caring for younger siblings or for their parents. Learning to be a kid can actually be difficult.)
These children need all of this a lot more than I need to be protected from loss.
"I could never give them back!"
No children are guaranteed. All children, even biological are a gift that can be taken away from us at any time.
The heart of this statement is like the previous. "I want to be protected from pain and loss". And I get it. It's hard. It hurts. I have cried many nights. But I know I made a difference. I did my best. I tried. I was a part of healing. Our children are better off now having been in our home. Despite the many hard and heartbreaking moments, I have never regretted any part of our Foster Care journey.
When the system is healthy, supported, and funded, it will be an honor to "give them back" because they will be going to a successfully bridged and healed family. You will get to remain in contact and continue to be another healthy adult in their lives to support them. When it is done right, you never really "give them back". Your time of bridging and mentoring merely looks different.
** Oklahoma implemented a very well-intended law. To keep kids from sitting in shelters for years waiting for caseworkers to find a suitable home or sometimes until they age out of care at 18, Oklahoma passed legislation to light a fire under the caseworkers tooshies so to speak. Children can only be placed in a shelter up to 45 days. At which time they will be discharged and need to be placed somewhere else. These are called "Emergency Shelters". All other shelters have been closing around the state. These “Emergency Shelters often share residency with other programs to help cut costs. One such shelter resides in the back portion of an assisted living facility for adults with disabilities. I have a deep passion for that as well, as my mother in law is a Habilitation Specialist. But step into the shoes of the children for a moment. They have been taken from the only thing they know and understand and without a foundational understanding of disabilities have now be placed to live with people who have disabilities. What do you think this does to their understanding of who they are and their worth?
I understand the intent behind this legislation, I really do. But with an overworked caseworker, underfunded resources, and dwindling foster/adoptive homes this means at 45 days the child will be moved to a different shelter, in a different town, with a different school, with a different therapists, and all new care takers. Every. 45. Days. If they are lucky they find a foster home. More often they get shuffled around further stunting their healing and education until they are accepted into a group home or mental health facility. Both of which handle more than just kids in custody. So the care is not as tailored to children from trauma, but children with mental health diagnosis or children who are struggling with Juvenile detention. Not getting the proper trauma therapy and support, and being a product of their environment, children in custody also begin to struggle with similar issues.
"DHS is so broken!"
Children in Foster Care don’t have a choice to be placed into this broken system. They have done nothing to be placed in to care. Foster Care is not where you go to "drop off unwanted kids". Foster Care is not where you place unintended babies up for adoption. Foster Care is not a punishment for troubled teens. Foster care relies only on the actions of children's care takers and situations beyond the children's control.
Why then do I have a choice not to be a part of this broken system? Why am I so privileged that I do not have to be bothered by the brokenness? Why do I hold my freedom of security and predictability more precious than the safety and care of innocent children?
This dear friends was the final nail in the coffin. When I reached this paradigm shift I had to be a part of the the solution.
DHS and Foster Care will never be "fixed" by good people standing on the sidelines making comments on the internet. This "broken system" will only be fixed by flooding it with good people and safe homes to give case workers too many options for children coming into care. It will only be fixed by passionate people who will speak up and advocate for the children and the system they are a part of. It will only be fixed by people who are convicted and work closely with legislators and DHS themselves on the ever shrinking budget and over worked staff.
Yes. DHS may be broken. I may be very frustrated with it at times. But let me tell you. It would not change or improve if I threw in the towel. It would only make it that much harder to have safe, loving, and stable environments for these children who are flung into uncertainty every day.
What is Foster Care?
Foster Care is overwhelming, and hard, and beautiful, and tragic, and miraculous, and a privilege, and every moment is the living gospel. Each child has suffered trauma in some way. As foster parents, we are not heroes, we are not saints. I do not feel brave. I am human. A human that just happens to go into the brokenness because I feel that is what we are all called to do.
If we never enter into the brokenness. Who would we become? Who would that make me?
I am the privileged one. I am privileged to have my children in my life. Because they make me a better person.
I didn't wake you up today. I didn't come back in five minutes later to wake you up again. I didn't remind you to brush your teeth. I didn't ask if you got everything and tell you I'm starting the car. I didn't tell you to make good choices as you headed off to youth. I didn't faintly hear you singing in my ear during worship. I didn't quietly tell you it was time for us to go to choir practice and reluctantly leave you in worship alone. I didn't hear you bravely read the scripture in front of the entire church after months of working hard on your confidence in reading. You didn't come to lunch with Great Makka R and D and tease them and keep them young. You didn't ask to go shoot hoops as soon as we got home. I didn't have to pick up a glass left in Bugs reach. I didn't hear you mindlessly singing while picking your hair in the bathroom. You didn't belly flop onto the couch and beg for a family movie night. You didn't fight bedtime for over an hour due to a mix of trauma and normal teenage defiance. You didn't say "love you too" as you finally headed to bed after forgetting to brush your teeth but diligently taking a bath. You didn't excitedly asks us to watching you run and do a backflip onto your bed to "stretch your bones" before we turned off the light.
Every day. Every moment is different without you.
Today he saw an older black gentleman. But it was just another big person that looked like you. Like him. Beautiful deep skin that matches the one he sees every time he looks down. He kept saying "bubba!" He thought it was you. And he was confused you didn't come sit to and eat with us. And he was hurt you didn't say hello to him. And he was sad to leave you at the restaurant.
We had to change your room. Not because you don't still fill a place in our heart and home. But for him. He needed freedom from the constant reminder and confusion. And honestly we did too. Because we love you still. A piece of our heart is gone. We can change the house. We can reopen our home. We can find happy moments. But that piece will always be gone. And life will always be different.
Hello old friends,
I think I'm finally ready to return to blogging. These two years have been quite chaotic.
We opened our home to a beautiful baby boy, "Bug".
He was our baptism by fire. Within a week we were hospitalized for 5 days with RSV and Pneumonia. But that story is for another post.
We welcomed his amazing 14 year old brother into our home for a year and a half, "M". Again a story for another post.
We reopened and an energetic boy, "Bear" who is 11 months older than Bug, came into our lives bringing copious amounts of laughter.
Between these life events we had a series of ups and downs that I look forward to revisiting and sharing with you all. We had several "Respite" kiddos here and there.
Overall it has just been one busy and full two years.
My hope is to start blogging again for myself. It calms me and it helps me process my feelings. But I also hope it helps you. I hope this becomes a place to learn more about Foster Care. I want to be an advocate for my sweet boys. I want to raise awareness, dispel myths, and share just how amazing this life of uncertainty and living season to season can be. So welcome to the journey. Welcome into a glimpse of how we foster moments, one at a time.