Parenting is not an easy job. It is hard protecting our kids from all the dangers that surround them in today’s society. We live in a world overflowing with drugs, gun violence, school shootings, sex trafficking, bullying and countless other horrible things. The world is not a safe place for anyone especially children. And if you’re a foster parent not only do you have to fight off the world you also have to work with a system that in many ways is broken.
We became foster parents to bridge the gap the kids get stuck in while their mom and dad try to figure things out. So many kids are thrown into the system without any wrong doing of their own. One of my biggest pet peeves is when we have a child say under two years of age and someone finds out they are in foster care. Normally the first question out of that person’s mouth is “What did he(or she) do to get themselves placed in state care?” Seriously ??? Like a child that young could do something that bad. Most of the children in care, including the older kids and teens, are there because of the bad choices their parents have made NOT because of what they have done.
Kids in foster care have seen more, been through more, and lived with more than many adults. They need someone to let them be kids, someone who will love them as they are, who will fight for them and who will protect them at all costs. That’s a pretty big responsibility for a foster parent, but one we are were willing to take.
The system does not always make it easy. If you wanted to be heard then your best bet was to be at the MDT’s (and we will pretend you get notified about all of these). These meetings are the one place foster parents can openly express their concerns for the child and where you will hear from the caseworker, lawyer’s, birth parent’s and GAL’s. Every state and every county are different when it comes to allowing foster parents inside the court room. For example where we use to live foster parents were not allowed inside courtrooms during the case. So I sat in the hallway at every hearing for every child so that the lawyers and judge knew I was there for my kids. Because while they are with me in my house they are my kids. Correction even after they leave they are still forever mine in my heart.
The caseworkers are overworked so it is not always easy to get ahold of them and even if you do it may take awhile for them to help you out. The red tape they have to go through to get what should be simple things done is unreal. So you learn to be patient with them. We were blessed to have amazing caseworkers on most of our cases. In fact, I have become good friends with a few of them. It is important to remember that while you have a question that you feel is “top priority” they have 30 other cases that have someone thinking the same thing. Email, text, call and leave a message whatever works best for them, keeping open communication is vital, just dont over do it, they will get back to you. Now I know not all caseworkers are good and that some kids get lost in the cracks of the system. It’s sad but true. Happens every day. There are way to many kids and to few good workers to care for their needs.
As a foster parent our top priority is always reunification of the child and the parent. In many cases I did not want to agree with this. It is the job of the worker, the judge, the lawyers and the system to figure out what is best for the child. Many times as foster parents it feels as if our voices are unheard and our thoughts don’t matter. But we fight for what’s right anyway. We fight to make sure the kids are taken care of, we fight for a stable home life, warm meals, therapy, and a loving home. We fight because its what’s best for that precious child looking up at us asking “Do I really have to go back there? I like it here. I have a bed and food everyday” We fight so that they have a voice, even if it is a small one. We fight because we care. We will always be the “bad guys” in the eyes of the birth parents. I have had many yell at me I was stealing their child away from them, when all I am trying to do is help them. I blame TV and movies for making foster parents look like the bad guys all the time. Only on a rare occasion do you hear something good about foster parents.
The truth is foster parenting is stressful however it’s one of the best decisions we ever made. And if I were asked I would do it all over again. It’s a long hard road, but if you can hold your own the outcome is beautiful. We have been blessed to adopt our five Littles out of foster care. All of the court dates, the delays, the different caseworkers, the home inspections, the monthly visits, and the unknowns were all worth it. On any given day in the U.S. there are an average of 650,000 children in foster care. And of that around 7% are in care longer than five years. It took 2 1/2 years from the time we first held our little guy until we were able to adopt him and his big sister. Our second adoption took 2 years. Thankfully in both cases we were the only foster home they were in, many kids are not as lucky. With the goal being reunification the parents normally get chance after chance to improve their situation. If they are truly trying I am all for it. In many cases however it’s just a stall tactic and the ones that suffer are the children. Give them a second chance yes, a third maybe, but a fourth, fifth, or tenth……no. Many foster parents grow impatient and end up giving up as the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years, they decide the system is failing the kids and then the kids get moved from foster home to foster home. The kids deserve better.
November is National adoption month. Foster care is a wonderful way to make adoption a reality. In our six years and over 20 long term placements we only had one child go back to their birth parents one. All the other precious little lives were moved to their new forever home or we adopted them. If you feel God is calling you to adopt, pray about foster care. There are so many kids in group homes right now that need someone like you. Why not take a leap of faith and open your heart to a child in need? It might just change your life. It did mine.
From our beautiful chaos to yours remember everyone needs a super hero in their life, someone willing to come in and safe the day. After all even Superman was adopted. Are you willing to be that hero?