OUR JOURNEY WITH FOSTER CARE, SO FAR…
At the time of writing this post, it is May 31st. The last day of National Foster Care Month. I thought that I would take an opportunity to give you some insight of our journey with foster care and the roller coaster that is “the system”.
If you didn’t know by reading my About page, Hubs and I have been licensed foster parents for over three years now. Wow, really…. three years? Seems like so much longer. We have seen quite a bit in our short time involved.
We wanted to become foster parents because of our desire to be parents. I always said that my biological clock was just a tick, tick, ticking away. My [female] family members would always roll their eyes at that statement saying, “Men don’t have biological clocks!”. Well, I – being a man – would disagree! I could almost feel it! I had an overwhelming WANT to become a parent. Something that Hubs and I talked about quite a bit when we first started dating.
He is a few years older than I am and he had to really come to terms with his partner wanted to have children. His parents had him at a later stage in their lives and he didn’t want our children to resent him as he had his parents, from time to time. After some long discussions and reflection, we both agreed that we wanted this!
We began looking at adoption agencies. Now, I am not saying that this is a bad route to go. After all, you basically get to have a child from birth. One that you can teach and nurture from the very beginning. Who doesn’t want a baby? Ahh, babies…..
As we started researching agencies, we quickly realized that we just couldn’t afford them. It can be, not always, quite expensive. There are so many things that need to be paid for. We just didn’t feel right about it. On a whim, we looked at surrogacy. THAT WAS QUICKLY CROSSED OFF! The women who agree to be surrogates are amazing human beings. They are. However, we ultimately didn’t feel like that was “our path”.
OUR VOICE OF REASON
After starting to feel like our dream that we had talked about for so long wouldn’t happen, we reached out to a friend of ours who had been involved with “the system”. Lori. Oh, Lori, We love you!
She pointed us to the agency that we would later become licensed through. You see, something I haven’t mentioned is that A LOT of agencies, whether it be foster care, adoption, surrogacy, wouldn’t deal with us because we are a same sex couple. Our agency welcomed us with open arms.
Back to Lori…
Lori invited us over to her home and explained how the process worked for her. She had adopted her daughter, now thirteen, through our agency when she was born. She, and her then husband, were there at her birth. Her story really is something amazing. Her knowledge of the system is even more incredible. After we left her house, we thought, okay, let’s talk to this place!
We set up an interview with Jen, who is Lori’s friend and the head of the agency. She was real cool. Real matter of fact. Real down to Earth. It was refreshing but as we have found out, in this field, you have to be matter of fact because some of the aspects just downright suck!
While talking, she suggested that instead of looking at “cold adoption”, which is just trying to find a pregnant woman to like us, trust us, and agree to give us her unborn child [sounds so odd!], we try foster care.
Immediately, Hubs was interested. His mind went to the good that we could do and hopefully become adoptive parents out of this. I needed some convincing. It was an interesting turn of events because, like I said, when we first got together, I was so ready and now here I am with reservations.
My thoughts were…. What if the children don’t get attached to us? Could they have severe traumas? What if they aren’t what we thought kids would be? All legitimate questions in my mind, then and now.
After talking with the members of our agency, we agreed to at least go through the licensing process. WOW! It is long and extensive!
Your home has to, understandably, have to be approved to be child-appropriate, you have to go through a long application, your finances have to be examined, your support system (i.e. family members who would be even watching the kiddos) have to be vetted, you have to go through extensive training and agree to the long list of rules of DO’s and DO NOT’s that are involved with foster care.
During one of our training sessions, we were introduced to some licensed parents. Their insight really helped me understand. They basically said the questions everyone has. The what ifs, the worries, the concerns…. while valid would still be there if you even GAVE BIRTH to the child! It really did open my eyes! They were right!
After a long year, maybe more, of the licensing process, we became licensed foster parents. YAY! It was a big moment for us in our lives.
Then, we waited…. and waited….. and waited.
I finally got the phone call one evening when I was at work. At the time, I worked as a Pharmacy Technician and my co-workers knew that if I get a call from The Agency, I HAVE to take it. So, in the middle of typing scripts, my phone rings. It was the placement coordinator.
“Hi Nick. We have a potential placement.” Immediate butterflies. A baby boy. Three months old. Oh my, a little baby boy! My heart swelled! I said that I would have to call Hubs first and then call her right back.
Hubs said “YES! YES! YES!”. So, I called her back and the little guy was dropped off to us a few hours later. Literally, dropped off.
“Here he is. Here are the things he comes with – in a garbage bag. Thanks!”
We found out later that this is normal. Usually, kids are removed from their biological parents in a hurry because of a range of issues, like drug use, domestic violence, things like that. Shocking and disheartening but true.
While we were just elated with this little guy, we quickly started to learn of the issues that came with The System. We had been told about them during our training but you don’t really understand, you can’t understand, what it is like until you are actually involved.
Let me be blunt. The System SUCKS. It is not something that, in our opinion, is set up for the best interest of the child. AT ALL!
The birth mother in our first case was MIA. She wasn’t showing up to meetings with the agency, wasn’t attempting to do any parenting time. Nothing.
The agency basically thought that the case was a slam dunk. That we would become the adoptive parents of this little boy.
This, sadly, was not the case.
During one of the routine visits that foster care workers make to your home, we were told that an Aunt had come out of the woodwork and wanted placement of the little boy. Due to the fact that she was a biological family member, she was fast tracked to be licensed and within a week, the little boy was being taken from our home. Seeing this precious little human being taken away, literally from our arms, was just heartbreaking. Devastating. We didn’t know if we could do that again.
You see, the whole point of foster care is Reunification. To have foster parents take care of the children that the biological parents would not provide for because of something in their lives. The goal is to get the biological parent the help that they need, get them on the path to recovery and wellness, and eventually return the child to said biological parent.
While we knew that, given how our first case had gone with no communication from the birth family at all, we didn’t think that was a reality. Until it was.
PLAYING THE WAITING GAME…AGAIN.
A few months went by of radio silence. We were still licensed and still available, but did not get any placement calls. Our dreams of being parents actually started to lose their luster.
This does happen quite a bit because when you become licensed, you set “perimeters” of the age, sex, any mental disabilities, you are willing to accept as a placement. We had set our terms as any child, boy or girl from the ages of zero (newborn) to ten years old. This demographic is very much sought after. Again, who doesn’t love babies? Hence, why there was always what seemed to be a long waiting period.
THE CALL – ROUND TWO
I was at work one day and got the call again.
“Hi Nick. We have a potential placement for you. Two children.”
Wait… what? Two kids? At once?
“Two children. A boy and a girl. Ages 2 and 3.”
I called Hubs again. He said that it was up to me if we wanted to take on two. I pondered for about five minutes and called her back.
This placement was a bit different because they came to our agency as an emergency placement. They were removed for a second time because their biological mom did not follow through on what she was supposed to do. I won’t go into further details but it was not good.
Due to the nature of how the kids came into care the second time, the agency placed the kids into another foster home with four other kids. It was clearly too much for the foster parents, the kids already in the house, and these two new kiddos. That is why we got the call. We had the space and no other children in the home.
The agency had us do something rather unusual. We arranged a meet and greet with the kids to see how they interacted with us and get some insight from the foster mom. After being with them for a few hours, we agreed to do a weekend “trial”.
The foster mom dropped the kids off with some of their things and we had ourselves an interesting weekend.
THE TRIAL RUN
THEY WERE WILD!! Our first morning with them, the little boy had soiled his diaper and smeared it into his cereal.. and continued to eat! The kids didn’t like hot dogs or grilled cheese or macaroni. Knew all about McDonald’s and Taco Bell though! (We didn’t feed them those but they asked!)
After the weekend was over, an exhausted Hubs and I talked about it. Even though they seemed like a challenge, we thought we could really help them. We called our agency and they were officially placed with us.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY
We enrolled the kids in childcare and preschool. We knew they needed structure because they came from an environment with mom that had none whatsoever. They had some big issues adjusting socially but you could tell that they were smart beyond their years because of the traumas that they have been through.
We started to have a routine in place. Things were stressful as any household is with children but manageable. Lots of tears on my part. I cried in the shower a lot. Actually, still do. It’s my only time to let it all out! Especially since Hubs won’t let me punch him to get the frustrations out!
We started to see ourselves as a family unit. We are a family unit.
During the time they have been with us, we have had to go through a termination trial. A very long and emotionally draining process where you hear everything that has taken place in these children’s lives. Several times, we had to fight getting up and SCREAMING because we were in so much shock! We have had parenting time with one biological father. We still are actually. The ups and downs that are involved with that. The missed court hearings on his part, the lack of motivation to get his life together after coming out of jail.
After the trial ended and rights were terminated, we filed paperwork to adopt.
Fast forward a bit to May 8th. We knew that we had gotten consent from the courts before the pandemic. There was a lot of paperwork that needed to be done and we weren’t sure if it was going to go through anytime soon.
Much to our adoption workers surprise, the judge, given the global situation, just signed the paperwork. We had no official court hearing or zoom call to have an “official” adoption day. It was literally just a text saying “Jayden is officially your daughter!”
That morning, I was so taken aback that I quickly ran up to my craft room to make her a shirt. I wanted something to commemorate this day in her life and in ours!
She is a spitfire. Testing her limits constantly. Pushing my (our) patience daily. BUT. She is ours!
Her brother is still in the reunification process so time will only tell what will come of that. We can only hope that it is the best for him!
To say it has been a lot for everyone is an understatement. Would I take any of it back? Absolutely not. Do I think there are things that need to change in the system? TOTALLY! Are we different people, and do we parent differently because of what we have witnessed? 100%.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS…
So, to end this post, on this day of National Foster Care Month, I would say that it has been the most challenging and rewarding journey that we have been through. While we have heard unspeakable things, we have seen the GOOD in so many people. Our social workers have been amazing and the work they go through is unimaginable. They truly are angels!
We have met so many class acts and befriended other foster parents out of this. I was introduced to one of my closest friends, Stefanie (hey girl!), through us both being foster parents. She has been an inspiration to me and we talk every day! Especially when The Real Housewives are on!
Foster care is NOT for the faint at heart! It WILL harden you a bit. Make you slightly jaded. With that, it is one of the most important things I have ever done and will continue to do.
So, please, if you can, learn more on how to become a foster parent. The system needs you. These kids need you! They need love and guidance to become the human beings that God intended them to be!
To ALL the foster moms and dads, social workers, lawyers, CPS workers, and agencies, I want to say THANK YOU!!
For more information on how to become a foster parent, please visit this website.
Lots of love,
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