We’re currently in our third month of foster care prep. This Thursday will be our eighth class (out of 10 total), so we’re close to the finish line as far as classes go. Throughout the past few months, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about foster care. A lot of those questions are from friends and family who want to help us and have a genuine interest in our lives. Others are questions from people who are also considering foster care but are a bit intimidated by the whole thing.
To be honest, I’m terrible with explaining things vocally, and I tend to do much better with written words. So I’ve decided to blog about it.
This post is just an intro to why we’re choosing foster care, which is something we’ve actually been asked a lot by various case workers. Friends and family don’t usually ask why we’re doing this, but sometimes they make assumptions that are incorrect. So here’s the truth.
It’s Not Because of Infertility
Most close friends and family members think we’re pursuing foster care because of infertility. It’s an understandable assumption. We have struggled (pretty openly) with fertility for the past seven years. However, that’s not why we’re doing this. If I’m being perfectly honest, we’ve both mostly come to terms with the fact that we may never have biological children of our own. Sure, it’d be great it it happens, but it’s not as important to us as it once was.
We’ve always wanted to pursue foster care. I can’t really tell you why. I’ve known that I wanted to do this for over a decade – well before my husband and I got married. He says he’s considered it since he was a child, mostly because of the way he was raised (in a very loving household where anyone and everyone was welcome, including kids who just needed a place to crash for a while).
Some people are under the assumption that foster care is a great way to adopt a child if you struggle with infertility. That really couldn’t be further from the truth. Why? Because:
1. The main goal of foster care is reunification. Human resource workers do everything except stamp this message on your forehead. That means that absolutely everyone involved is doing their part to make sure the child goes home to their biological parents. As a foster parent, our purpose is to provide the child with a loving, supportive family until they can go back home.
2. They won’t actually approve you to foster if you have unresolved emotional issues due to fertility struggles. The approval process involves lots of extremely personal questions that we must answer honestly. They require a full medical history with a sign-off by your doctor, as well as a completed questionnaire about your fertility history. They also ask you lots of questions about your fertility and your motivations for foster care throughout the three month home study process. If our case worker thought we were only pursuing foster care because we couldn’t have a biological child, they most likely wouldn’t approve us. And if you think about the reasons why, it makes perfect sense.
3. We’re set up for foster care or adoption. That means we’re asking for approval for both (and, yes, the processes are slightly different). Basically, we’re open for any child who needs a home (and is within our target demographic). That child may or may not be up for adoption at some point. It is very, very rare that a child is placed in a foster home with the goal of adoption. Even in those circumstances, a relative often appeals at the last minute, so adoptions are never guaranteed until they’re finalized by the court.
That being said, there are some people who choose to “foster-to-adopt.” Our case worker told us that those people are often disappointed. They usually are last in line to have a placement (relatives are first in line for adoption, then the child’s own foster parents, then other foster parents, and then foster-to-adopt parents). Foster-to-adopt parents usually wait years and years for a child, and even then the adoption isn’t guaranteed. In the meantime, they have to attend classes, keep their certifications, and be ready for a child with almost no notice. The only exceptions are people who already have children in their care that are considered “kinship.” Oftentimes, they already know that the parents have terminated their rights, and they’re only gaining approval so they can foster-to-adopt these specific children that they already know (e.g. a relative or close friend’s child). You can see why foster-to-adopt isn’t the best “solution” for infertility.
Side note: If you’re struggling with infertility and feel like foster-to-adoption was your last option, don’t be discouraged. You may feel like you’ll never get over the emotional turmoil you’re in now, but you will. All grief eventually has a period of acceptance, and you will get to yours eventually, too. When you get there, foster care may be a great option for you.
It’s Not Because We’re Just Great People
People often tell us that we’re awesome for doing this, or that we have amazing hearts. Some even imply that we have some sort of super human trait that makes us better equipped for foster care. This is all extremely flattering to hear, but it’s not true. I’m not sure why we feel called to foster, but it’s something we’re excited about. It doesn’t feel like a huge sacrifice to us, and we aren’t reluctant at all. Sometimes I just know that this is what I’m meant to do, and this is one of those times. My husband says he feels the same way. I hope we’re great parents, but I guarantee we will struggle just as much as the next person.
It May Be a Little Selfish
To be honest, I feel like part of my motivation for foster care is selfish – or at least self-focused.
I have a need to make a difference with my life. I’m not sure why, but it’s an innate part of me. I don’t want fame or recognition for it; in fact, I tend to shy away from attention. It’s just something I need to feel good about myself. When I’m not actively focused on making life a little better for those around me, I get discouraged and sometimes even depressed.
In the past, I’ve used various things as an outlet for this:
1. Giving (sometimes unsolicited) advice to friends and family members, especially my siblings. (No, they don’t always want or need this advice.)
2. Restoring vintage or antique furniture so it’s beautiful again. It may seem silly, but it feels great to take something old and make it useful again.
3. Writing, painting, crafting, drawing, and other creative pursuits…for obvious reasons.
4. Being a homemaker – decorating, cleaning, etc.
5. Learning as much as I possibly can. If I’m not learning, I feel useless.
I’m not content with a “typical” lifestyle – one where I work, eat dinner, go to bed, and do it all again the next day. I need my daily tasks to feel more important than that. Sound crazy? It probably is to some people. But helping other people feels a little selfish to me because I enjoy it so much. So, yeah, there’s some selfish motivation with foster care, too.
Why We’re Doing It Now
So, now that you know we’ve considered this for more than a decade, you’re probably wondering “why now?” Well, that’s a lengthy answer, too.
1. We planned to have biological kids first. While we always planned to foster, the original plan was to have biological children first. Obviously, that makes the most sense because it’s much easier to parent your own children than it is to parent someone else’s. But after much deliberation, we decided that foster kids probably need us now, whether we feel like we’re doing things in the best order or not. I’m sure we’ll figure it out.
2. Our old home had some issues. We owned our own home for nearly ten years, but I had my doubts over whether it was suitable for foster care or not. We had some fairly extensive tornado damage in 2008, the whole house needed rewiring and replumbing (and even new walls and floors, according to one inspector), so we planned to move before we started foster care. Plus, we lived 45 minutes from most of our friends and family, and a support system is pretty important for foster care. Since then, we’ve moved to a rental home that’s surrounded by friends and family. It doesn’t need any construction work, so we’re in a much better place than before.
3. We’re probably as prepared as we’ll ever be. Life is far from perfect, but we finally feel like we’re responsible adults who (mostly) have their lives together. Do we feel prepared for foster care? Heck, no! But we feel prepared for chaos. We keep hearing (from case workers, other foster parents, etc.) that the best mindset for foster care is “be prepared for being unprepared.”
That simply means:
-Be prepared to become parents on a random Tuesday night, right around dinner time when you have work the next day.
-Be prepared for frequent therapist visits, doctor appointments, and biological parent visits.
-Be prepared for absolutely any behavior a kid might throw at you (literally, anything – some of the advice we received in class for possible behaviors was “Call the police if they threaten you with violence.”)
-Be prepared for a 12-year-old child when you specifically stated that you wouldn’t take children over the age of eight.
-Be prepared for kids who just need a home for the night and for kids who need a home for the rest of their lives.
-Be prepared for biological parents who hate you and will do anything to get their kids back.
-Be prepared for biological parents who won’t even show up to visits, disappointing their kids over and over again.
Some of this may happen; some of it (hopefully) won’t. But we feel more prepared for whatever happens than I thought we would at this point.
That being said, we’re going to need all the help we can get, and we appreciate absolutely everyone who is supporting us.