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!