This week, in five parts, I’m going to share the story of why and how we built our family via foster care adoption. I hope that this not only helps other parents who may be interested in foster care or adoption but also helps biological parents who may have given up a child or who may be raising children who ask questions about families that are ‘different’ like mine. Today, May 1st, is also the first day of National Foster Care Awareness Month, so I feel it is especially important to raise consciousness about this issue. Thanks for reading. ~Marci aka Mamausement
We started building our nursery right away—even before beginning our foster parent classes—because we were so excited and just READY. And that surprised us because we had spent the previous eight years feeling like we’d never be ready for kids. We had all these excuses as to why we couldn’t or wouldn’t have them and, suddenly, the pieces began to fall into place. My sister gave us one of her son’s old cribs. A co-worker of my husband’s donated furniture. People began to bless us with hand-me-down clothes and toys, anything a boy between the ages of newborn to five, our target zone might need. We began making slight modifications to baby-proof our bathroom and kitchen to ensure the safety of little fingers. April passed quickly.
In May, we started our foster care classes. On one hand, we felt like we learned so much and, on the other, the classes do not, in many ways, prepare you for what lies ahead. This is from someone who has worked in the system, has seen some fairly horrific cases of abuse and neglect, and was still unprepared for what we heard and saw. I was also stunned by some of our classmates. Their assumptions that kids would be grateful to be taken away from their biological parents and placed in a stranger’s home were normal but no less surprising. Children love their biological parents first and, sometimes, always. They owe their ‘saviors’ NOTHING.
This is also what frames my point of view when people say it must be “so hard” for me to “give back” babies. It isn’t. Ideally children belong with their biological families and my job, as a foster parent, is to keep a kid safe, healthy, and hitting developmental milestones until the day comes that their parents or guardians can resume parenting. I think about what a gift that respite from chaos is and how I would have LOVED for someone to have given my family that chance when my mom was at the height of her addictions.
I think my heart was most broken by one couple who wanted to be sure that there was respite care available so that they “didn’t have” to take foster kids on family trips or have them in their homes on holidays. As if the living with strangers part wasn’t bad enough, now those kids would have been shuffled off even more often than necessary during vulnerable times. I REALLY hope they weren’t certified.
Other questions of note:
-What if a CPS claim is made against me? It likely will be at some point because many of these kids and their parents are hurt and angry and may want to strike out against you or the system. (Yes, it happened to me.)
-Will we be first considered to adopt the child placed with us? No. After the parents, all possible family members must be considered, other foster-adopt placements will be considered, and, if you are selected, after six months in your care, you can then petition the court.
-What if I change my mind about fostering a child? Then we remove that child from your home and attempt to find a more suitable placement. Adoption, however, is permanent.
-How often does that happen? Often.
-How many kids are in foster care in Virginia? In May 2009 it was 6,856. There were 228 in this city.
-How many placements does the average child have before they go home or get adopted? Usually only 1 or 2 but many have six or more.
Foster parenting also, it should be said, is NOT a way to make an income. You pay your daycare provider more daily to watch a child than the average foster parent makes in a day to watch a child—even factoring things like food assistance, clothing vouchers, and daycare assistance. For reference, for an infant under two, we receive less than $15 a day, get food assistance (WIC) and medical coverage, are entitled to up to $150 a week in daycare assistance (only in a licensed daycare which typically charge more for infants/toddlers), and get $250 in clothing vouchers four times a year.
Once classes ended, we were subjected to a more thorough home study (to check our smoke detectors, do we have a fire extinguisher, is there a posted fire plan, do our pets have rabies shots, are our outlets covered, etc.) and more paperwork (letters from doctors were required to ensure I could be a safe parent, tax forms, debt declarations, physicals and so on). Many of these are standard for any foster home, some only because we wanted to adopt. I was interviewed several times, and at length, about my own abusive childhood and whether or not my bio-mom would be involved in a child’s life (they have access to my files) and I said no. That was the right answer. We even had to decide who would take on the responsibility of any child we may adopt if something happened to us—all before we even met a child.
It was July 9, 2009, before we received verbal confirmation that we had received our license as a foster-adopt home. We were elated. The nursery we had prepared—right down to baby wipes on the changing table and towels on the shelves—felt so empty and ready. Now all we had to do was wait for that phone to ring.
On August 4th, it finally did.
[To be Continued.]