I've been asked to share some of my experience as a foster/adoptive mother at a GPS class next week. GPS is a ten week training class that prospective foster parents must go through in order to receive their license from the state. Hopefully writing this post will help me get my thoughts in order! So if you are reading this, just pretend you are considering becoming a foster parent.
Turn on the T.V. at ANY time of the day and you will be able to find a "birth story" an "adoption story", a "wedding story", an addiction story...people want to know all about other people. What you will not find anywhere is a foster story. For good reason. Privacy is one of the first things you learn as a foster parent. You simply cannot share every detail of what you will witness in your daily life with your kids. Nor will you want too. However, as a society we have grown accustomed to too much information. You won't find much on the internet, on T.V. or even at the library. If you do, it will most likely discourage you. The road that you take as a foster parent will often be very lonely. You will have social workers, directors, counselors and other foster parents. You will be surrounded by people who can provide you with valuable information and advice but no one can prepare you for the children that your will foster. Because just like these stories that we all love to watch, every foster child is different. Because you are here at this GPS, I trust you know the Lord. Ultimately, He is the only one that understands the needs of your child. It is essential that you completely trust Him to guide you through this. This is not to say that you will not need all of the people that I mentioned, you will! You all share a common goal, taking the best care of your foster child until that child is in a permanent situation. You are the one who will be there 24/7 until that need is fulfilled.
I will begin by telling you what we do not have experience with, this might be your experience. We have never fostered older children or a sibling group. Because of our location we have never fostered easy children. We got the children who were a little harder to place simply because the DHR social workers do not like to drive more than an hour for visits. We don't have much experience with birth parents. Our first placement saw her mother twice before her adoption three years after coming into our care. Our second placement did return home to his mother after nine months. He was granted supervised weekend visits and was transported by a social worker. We met her a month before he was returned home to her. Our third placement was abused by his mother. Again, because he was a possible adoptive placement we were not able to meet her for his protection once he was adopted.
My husband, Shawn and I are not currently fostering. I guess the main reason would be that we adopted two of our three permanent placements. We're out of room! At the moment we are parents to a college freshman, a senior, a seventh grader, a second grader and a preschooler. That translates to one home with me all day and one in every division of the school system!
We have three birth children. We answered the call to foster when our oldest was thirteen and our youngest was six. If you have children, that's probably one of the first questions that you would ask. Is what we are doing fair to our children? That is a question that I still ask myself six years later. In some ways the answer is no. It's not fair. They give up a lot and too much is expected of them. I can't know the people they would be now if they had not been through this experience. I can see positive and negative ways that it has affected each of them. All of them have told me at one time or another that they struggle with this question too but in the end they cannot imagine our family any different than it is now. They love their siblings very much and are extremely protective of them.
We did a lot of respite before we received our first placement. Probably because of the fact that I worked for the Children's Home. I completely bonded with the first beautiful baby girl that we did respite for. She looked exactly like my middle daughter. I begged Louise to let me keep her as a full-time placement. Because Louise is ever-wise and is completely unaffected by tears she sent her to live with the family who had her older sister. It took me three months to get over loosing a child who was never mine and had only stayed with us for a week. You will get attached. Looking back, God was preparing me very early to trust all of the children in our care to Him. The week that Kamryn stayed with us our church was rehearsing an Easter Cantata One of the songs was "At the Foot of the Cross". The song talks about laying your worries, everything at the foot of His cross. I held that baby girl close to my chest that week and sang my heart out. I could visualize laying her at the foot of his cross. It was five years later that I realized the logo of the Children's home is the little children in the shadow of the cross.
Another little one that we did respite for was an African American baby with Down's Syndrome. He was in a wonderful foster placement but was up for adoption. We did not feel called to adopt him but I worried myself sick over what would become of him. I remember rocking and praying for a mama who would sing to him. Again, God was teaching me that our role was different for each child that would be placed in our care. Every child that came through our home was known to God. Our job is to be His instrument.
About four months after we completed GPS training we got the call for our first placement. Most of the time you will get a call and then you'll need to meet someone or they'll bring the child to you that day or the next. This call was open ended because she was transitioning from another foster home. (Amber's Story) (Christian's Story)
When my oldest left for college this past fall, I asked her if she was nervous. She said, "Mama, I'm going to college with no expectations". At the time I read fear all over that statement. As the year has played out I realized it was trust. She was ready to meet whatever God sent her way without telling Him what that would be. Because of that attitude she is completely content. If I could have two minutes with my pre-foster/adoptive self with her rose colored glasses, that's what I would say. Meet this calling with no expectations. Take the child that God gives you, and give your best to that child, whether that's for a day, a week or forever.