Friday, January 8, 2016

Are You Scared of Foster Care?

We put off signing up for foster/adoptive classes for several years for many reasons. Still when all other reasons took their leave, there was a piece of me that was still terrified of what signing up would mean. I had heard countless horror stories, as I'm sure the majority of the world today has. I watched movies that portrayed foster children as either dangerous, exploitative, or disgusted by their foster family. I read books that would very successfully rip my heart out when an adoption fell through.

As if all of that isn't frightening enough, I heard all kinds of crazy things regarding your privacy, finances, and religious preferences. Things like, 

"They'll come by your house completely unannounced to go through all your stuff." 
"You have to have quite a bit of money saved up before they'll let you take a child in." 
"You have to show proof that you have plenty of extra money all throughout the month." 
"Each child has to have their own room."
"You have to remove all religious items from your home." 
"You cannot ask the child to go to church with you." 
"You can't pray aloud at the table."
"It's a huge headache to take the child out of state on a trip with you."
"You literally have to lock all your cabinets and doors up."
"It's nearly impossible for you to be offered a child under 3 years old."
"The birth family will cause a lot of problems with you if they find out you have their child."
"You can't ever let the child stay with anyone that's not an approved foster parent."

I promise you there are so many more appalling things that I could have added to that list. Easily. But I figured that was enough for you to understand why the whole process freaked me out. It freaked me out a lot. I've talked with some other people for very short periods of time who were leery of this opportunity because of rumors they'd heard, as well. There may be more of you out there dealing with this same love/hate relationship with this idea, too, so I wanted to try and answer some questions and possibly tame a few fears.

For one, while they do complete a thorough background check on you, it's really not that bad. You go to a place, they scan your fingerprints, you sign a paper, and voila! You're done with that part. 

They ask you to provide some figures regarding your income, just so they can insure that you won't be overwhelmed by another mouth to feed. They do prefer that you have a little money saved up just so you can run out and get the kid some necessities at their initial appearance. (And, yes, the state will provide some financial assistance for the needs of the child, also.) 

The religious thing? Well, that scared me the most. Religion can be a very serious offense to some if handled improperly. Aaron and I are Christians and very active within our church, so I wasn't sure how that was going to work. It was honestly the first question we asked. The answer?
"I've never seen it be an issue for a foster family to take a child to church with them. Just ask the birth family before you accept the child, but they almost always say its okay. They actually usually seem to prefer it." 

Now, you can't have any religious items in the child's room, unless they request it. Which, that only makes sense to me. You don't want the child, or their family, to feel like you're forcing anything on them. However, the rest of the house is still yours and you can have whatever you want in it, pretty much. 

They don't come by your house unannounced either. I'm sure if they had good reason to feel like the child was being mistreated or anything similar to that, they might. But, that's a good thing and should never be an issue anyways, right? I've only had 2 visits thus far and another one for next week. FYI- I've been the one to schedule every visit. They're not intruders. Promise.

Each child does not have to have their own room. They have to have their own bed. Sure, there are limits that this will cause, according to gender/age/relation, etc. Still, it's not impossible to have more than one child in your home, if you only have one extra bedroom.

I was terrified about how taking in a child would affect our traveling. I want to go everywhere possible, and Aaron's family lives in other states, so how was that going to work? When I asked the question in class, I couldn't believe how simple the answer was: "Just let your R&C worker know, and they will pass on the word. They'll let you know if it's going to be an issue, but they love seeing families include the foster child on their trips, so they usually encourage you to travel with them."

The home study was what I feared the most, as far the prerequisites were concerned. I thought it would drain our savings and completely alter our lives. Nothing was further from the truth. We had to lock up guns and ammo in separate places, and then we had to do the same with medications, too, of course. We had to put knives up out of reach, make sure our smoke alarms were working, get a fire extinguisher, and a carbon monoxide detector. There were a few other minor things we had to have because of the ages we were shooting for, but honestly, that's about the extent of it. Life continues on as smooth as it ever has.

I remember being told it was all but impossible to be offered a child under the age of 3. A baby was pretty much out of the question, in my thoughts. When I asked about this in class, I learned quickly that this was also completely untrue. They rarely have babies already up for adoption, just because they want to allow the birth family time to step in, but that doesn't always happen. So, you can foster babies all day long... and it's always a 50/50 chance on whether or not you'll adopt a child of any age... unless they're already up for adoption before you meet them.

Saying I was concerned about our safety is putting it lightly. I really thought it was a common occurrence for there to be major issues with the birth family. Now, I can't say that all stories refuted this thought. There were, on rare occasions, instances where members of the birth family got a little out of line. But, again, those were rare occasions. Most of the time, the birth family and foster family become close. Once the family realizes you're there to help them and their child, their opinion of you suddenly shifts. Always keep in mind that you have someone else's child in your home. They don't know who you are or what you'll do. And while to some that seems foolish, seeing as how they've at least temporarily lost custody for some reason, the birth family almost always really loves their child and feels that they have done their absolute best. So, assure them that you will care for their child, and show the family respect during the child's stay. Should restoration not work out, at least you'll know you did your absolute best for that family. 9 out of 10 stories reflected good relationships between both sets of families.

It is a little more difficult in finding a place for your child to stay when involved in foster care. You can't necessarily just call someone up and send them off. They have to be approved to provide respite. That does not mean, though, that they have to go through the entire process that you did. They will have to do a background check and their house will have to be child-safe, but that's it. It's not a difficult process.

There are other things I'll address later, but thought this was good for now. Believe it or not, the state really appreciates people willing to provide housing and care for these children. They don't want to make it hard on you, but they do want to make it as safe and as comfortable for the children as possible, and we should all be glad about that.

I'm thrilled that we've started this process. We've spoken with our R&C worker on a few occasions here recently, and have been told we're on the top of the list. Whenever those children that God has set aside for our care need a place, we'll be called. I'm a little nervous, as any new parent is. I'm feeling a tad selfish, as anyone who has to give up free time would be. But, I'm also eagerly anticipating what joys and rewards will come to me through those precious little humans. I can't wait to find out! And I'm extremely grateful for the foster care system. It brought me my brother, and now it will eventually bring me my babies.

If you've ever even vaguely considered it, I highly recommend it.

I think Jesus does, too.

James 1:27-  "Look after orphans... in their distress."

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  1. We did foster care for 7 yrs. And I wouldn't trade those years and that time making memories and impressions on those kids for anything. I won't try to be negative at all, but, I will say with our experiences working with the state and the children's social workers can be difficult. We had an instance that yes an investigative worker did show up unannounced to question us and the children in our home for lies that the child went and told. They treated us like criminals and we had done nothing wrong. I am only saying this not to scare you, but to be cautious. I know it will be a rewarding journey for you and Aaron as the children are so precious. I will be praying for you guys and if u ever need any help we will be happy to do so!!! Sandra Miracle

    1. Thank you, Sandra! I just may take you up on that!