Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What I wish I knew when I became a foster parent

If there is anyone out there considering becoming a foster parent this one's for you. Here are 5 things I wish I would have known three years ago:

1.       Children are rarely the focus in the Foster Care system. The system is incredibly broken. I have struggled almost from day one with the fact that very design of the foster care system seems to forget the very reason it exists: the children.  Often, they are a number, a possession and a statistic but, rarely they are the focus. The birthparent(s) are/is considered the “client” and the entire system works to help reinstate their “right to parent”.  I would be amiss if I said that reunification is never the answer. It is certainly the answer if it is in the best interest of both the child and the parent. However, the system takes more of a one size fits all answer to a very complex problem.  It is my belief that if we want to change the system, we simply need to change the focus. Please be your child’s voice and fight for them, even if it feels like you aren’t being heard.  

2.       You are going to feel very alone, try to remember that you are not. I’m not quite sure that anyone can prepare you for the chaos, trauma, pain, and love that will enter your life when you open your home to a foster child. Sometimes that may cause some of those closest to you to distance themselves or say incredibly insensitive and infuriating things. For the most part people will be coming from a place of love and simply wanting to protect you. Despite their intent, a lot of times that is going to hurt. Please find other foster parents and cling to them. We may not have all the answers (or any answers at all), but we get it!

3.       Your biological children will be fine (and somehow you will too!) I can’t count how many times people told me I was “ruining” my family and that foster care wasn’t fair to my own boys. Please know that while my brain understands the difference between foster and biological, my heart only knows one kind of love. I love all of my boys equally and without measure …and I promise I didn’t ruin my family.  If you put the word foster in front of any relationship, it’s hard. Foster parent, foster child, foster sibling…it’s all hard and it is all messy. As a family, we’ve been force to deal with very tough emotions, have tough conversations and go through tough experiences. Foster care didn’t ruin us, but it did change us.  It made us tougher, kinder, and more compassionate.  Foster care has taught all of us some incredible lessons in the power of the human spirit, in unconditional love, and what it truly means to be a family.  We may not look like each other and now we definitely don’t live together, but nothing can take our journey from us.

4.       Koinonia (Our Foster Agency) is amazing. They will make sure that your home is order and that you have all your paperwork (oh my there is a lot of paperwork!) More than that though, they will be a voice of reason and truth in a system that is anything but. They have provided training on all sorts of things I didn’t want to learn from how to deal with infant drug withdrawal to how to deal with a toddler who has severe emotional disorders. Most recently, they walked beside us as we navigated through reunification process.

5.       It’s Worth It! Some days were hard and some days were harder. Every single moment was worth it because of two very special boys. I wish that each of you could meet them. Their first moments in this life were inconceivable and horrific and read more like a lifetime movie than a proper childhood.  I am completely in awe of their perseverance, curiosity, and resilience. They are more incredible than I could ever describe and I will forever be grateful and proud of the short time I got to be their momma. 

Please know that I certainly don’t believe that every person should become a foster parent, but I do believe that we are all called to do something for our society’s most fragile.  If you are considering becoming a foster parent: Thank you! Thank you for your time, for your commitment, and for your love. Even if you aren’t considering becoming a foster parent, please find a way to support foster care: vote, donate, educate and pray. Every single foster child needs every single one of us on their side!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Our Journey to Foster

I’d like to say that we began fostering because we had a “calling for it”. Or maybe because we read the Bible daily and know what it says about fostering and adoption. In our daily prayer sessions God spoke directly to us and laid it on our hearts to foster.  I wish that we wanted to make a difference in a child’s life. However, in all humanness and honesty our sole reason for fostering was less altruistic and so much more selfish. We wanted another baby, desperately. I wanted another child like I wanted air. Every fiber of my being craved a sweet baby in my arms. I prayed for my body to be healed to be able to carry a child.  I longed for days where multiple children would run at our feet, would play (nicely, quietly and for hours with each other), and the sweet smell of baby and delicious sound of baby laughter would fill the air.

Throughout the process, I was convinced that God hated me. That I had done something very, very wrong and He had turned his back on me. The truth is that I did. I had told God, “No”. Just as Jonah had run from God’s request, so had I. For a majority of the time that we had tried for a baby I had been hearing a still small voice. I certainly heard it… I just doubted who it was.  Surely, God would not be speaking to me. After all, He had been silent for so long. He had taken my Josiah away. He hadn’t answered a single prayer I had prayed over the last few years. It also wasn’t what I had imagined it to be. It wasn’t Godly. There were no bushes burning in my front yard and I didn’t get a voicemail with caller ID that said “Incoming Call From God”. So, I just chalked it up to my imagination and my desperate wanting to hear from Him.

The voice certainly wasn’t prevailing, but it was clear. There were two requests, I get baptized and I go to this adoption/foster care meeting. I had said no to both. I grew up Catholic and had been baptized as a baby. I didn't feel the need to do it again. Each week that the pastor would call people to come forward, I would sit. My heart would urge me to go but my feet would not move. I would tell myself on Josiah’s due date, I’ll go forward. But Josiah’s due date came and I didn’t like the preacher that morning or his message so my feet didn’t go. Surely, if God himself was calling me to do something, I should have been moved to tears that day.

My husband had been strongly anti-foster care. We would never be able to give up a child or love someone else’s child the way that we love Drew knowing that we may have to return them. The love that is so all encompassing it hurts. And the cost of adoption was overwhelming. We didn’t have a large savings, we were already in debt and the thought of coming up with the $25,000 or more needed to adopt was laughable.

While God’s voice may not be loud, it certainly is persistent and patient. And each time I said no, each promised date that had passed, the voice waited and patiently urged again.

I finally said yes to the second request.  We joined our small group “Adoption/Foster Care Support” and attended our first session on October 2, 2013. That night, God used the people in that group to be his hands and voice and our hearts became open to foster care. I called the foster care agency that most of the group was connected with the next week and didn’t receive a call back. For three weeks I called almost daily and never heard back. I even met with another agency but didn’t feel comfortable with their process so I had continued to call Serenity. On October 27, 2014 I said yes to His first request. I was baptized at Vantage Point Church. That night, I googled foster care agencies and came across Koinonia Foster Family Agency. I completed the questionnaire.  They called the next day, happened to be literally across the street from our work and had an orientation that night. Brian and I attended and began the process with them. Typically the process takes 6 months to complete, but we were finished in 6 weeks. The whole time praying that we would hold a baby by Christmas.  Never before had the agency ever completed a certification in 6 weeks. Surely, God was there.

We held our foster baby, for the first time on December 20, 2013. Oh, but God had a much bigger plan for us that one more baby.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Plan B

We tried one more time, one final time. The doctor switched my medicine, I still gained weight, I still got sick and I still hoped. With every ounce of my body I hoped.

The cycle took longer than expected, and my body showed once again it doesn't like infertility. My levels jumped off the charts and I felt horrible. We probably should have cancelled but we didn't. The insemination fell on the only weekend we had prayed it wouldn't. Brian was away at a bachelor party in Vegas. I didn't want to tell anyone. We ended up telling everyone. Mostly for logistics, My mom gave me my trigger shot, Brian had to explain his early departure.

Brian drove all night back from a bachelor party in Vegas to be there. On lots oGood thing we needed him. We didn't have anyone to watch Drew, so he came. We didn't ask either. I had been through this before. I needed my boys, needed to be reminded that at one time my body worked. Drew found out where babies come from. Obviously the doctor plants baby seeds in mummy's belly. We prayed in that room they would grow. 

My belly grew.

And grew
And grew

I tried to stay distracted ( I certainly had enough to), I tried to not get stressed (I did). As the days passed I grew more convinced by the minute I was pregnant. Drew would talk to our babies and ask God every night for them to grow. (Certainly God can't tell him, no.)

I was on top of the world! Then it happened, after a hike with my boy, I began to bleed. My body  hurt heart hurt, my soul hurt. After five times I thought the pain would be less, it was more and I was angry.

We went to bible study, the group asked for prayers, Brian and I passed. God doesn't answer our prayers. Our group didn't know we had tried, they didn't know we had failed, and they didn't know I was angry. I had put on my poker face.  

The lady next to me began to speak. She adopted her daughter, she had gone through infertility and she said, "I tell my daughter she was never Gods Plan B. She was always Plan A. I just had to get there."

I got it. I wasn't angry anymore.  My baby is out there, and he/she is God's Plan A. I can't wait to meet him (or her).