I often hear the same questions from friends and family. I had those questions, too, before we started this process. My opinions expressed here are based on my own personal experiences in Ohio. This is not legal advice. I encourage you to talk to other foster parents to get the bigger picture! Each family will have a different perspective and insight into navigating the system.
1. What made you think about becoming foster parents?
After learning I had infertility, we had some decisions to make. First, we grieved. I had to take time to grieve over my infertility and my original ideas of having children. We kept quiet about it as reality set in. But it was a hard time of grieving and growing together as a couple. After a few months, I knew I needed hope. I could not STAY in grief.
My OB-GYN encouraged us to consider fertility treatments. We did some research and determined it was not the right option for us. I was not emotionally ready to go through negative pregnancy tests again and again. I don’t think I’m personally strong enough to handle repeated failures, so instead of hoping in pregnancy, we chose to hope in helping vulnerable children.
We decided to put our energy toward loving on children who needed safe homes — even if it was temporary. We wanted to pursue a license to foster parent. It took my husband longer than it took me to be okay with that decision. But we did decide together. That’s not the right decision for everyone, but for us it was. I don’t think every couple should be foster parents. Moreover, I don’t think anyone should feel selfish or guilty or irresponsible for having biological kids (if you can) — they should be received with thankful hearts!
God will open your home and your hearts to the right kids at the right time. We truly have JOY in fostering kids.
2. It takes a “special person” to foster; I don’t think I could do it. Don’t you get attached? How do you cope with so many good-byes?
Each birth family is different and every interaction with caseworkers is different. As a foster parent, you are considered the caregiver. The judges, agency, and/or caseworkers are the decision makers. We voice our opinions and keep the caseworker informed. We are to advocate for the child. However, this also means we can be neutral in the eyes of the birth parents. Ideally, we can enter a relationship with moms and families without being a threat. With God’s grace we seek to love on the parents, to let them know that we’re rooting for them, to encourage them to overcome obstacles, to remind them that their child loves/needs them.
Our ultimate focus should be on the children, though. What is best for them? (In Ohio, the goal of foster placement is eventual reunification with a family member.) We believe that, as their parents are making changes and/or getting the resources they need, the children should stay with family. If “the system” works, their family will be stronger.
We HAVE to believe it’s better for the child to be with their birth parents, even if their home isn’t like ours. It’s our prayer that we will provide a safe, stimulating environment so the child thrives. And we pray their parents really have made better choices when it’s time for them to return home. As we wait, we get tired or frustrated. We hurt and grieve. We love “our kids” — a lot. We sometimes cry when a child leaves. We are not special. But we know we are making a difference — even for a short time.
3. How can I learn more about becoming a foster parent?
For us, we started by calling our local county Children’s Services Board. The agency set up an appointment and a caseworker talked to us about the process, beginning with 36 hours of pre-service training. The training was long and tiring but REALLY HELPFUL! Many people take the courses and decide not to foster. Others move forward. You can take the training without a commitment; you’ll definitely learn a lot!
Remember, you are in control of the placements you accept. The agency will call you and should provide all the information they have about the child and the family. You can say yes or no. But, often, they don’t have a lot of information!! I always try to ask questions and probe deeper but, sometimes, the family dynamics and history just aren’t available – yet.
Your state or your county may do things differently. The first step is to make a call and ask questions. In Ohio, most counties give you the option to be licensed with a public agency (PCSA) or a private agency (PCPA). Explore all your options; however, you can only be licensed by one agency at a time.
Ohio recently shifted to an Alternative Response (AR) focus for all counties. Now, agencies have the option to intervene or assist families WITHOUT removing children. Caseworkers can offer services or resources to the parents so kids remain with their families in certain situations. It’s meant to help them get through crises and move toward healthy self-reliance. (Serious cases of child maltreatment continue to have traditional investigations.)
4. What made you want to adopt?
After completing training, we started the application and home study process. This takes up to six months. During that time, we told our caseworker that we wanted to be licensed for both foster care and adoption. Basically, when a child is in care, if reunification is not possible with birth parents and a family member is not available to care for the child, then we (the foster parents) have the option to adopt. This is what happened with our daughter, “M”. She came to our home as a newborn and never left!
I often felt like EVERYONE knew about our fertility struggles because we were working toward adoption — as if it is who I am. I could easily believe that, but I know infertility does not define a woman. Neither does motherhood.
We wanted to adopt because a child needed a safe home and caring family.
5. I’ve always thought adoption was great — for a different family. But, now, I’m not so sure. How can I learn more about adoption?
Begin by prayerfully reading more about adoption to really understand it from God’s perspective. (This may help too.) If led to move forward, determine next if you want to pursue domestic or international adoption.
Adoption through foster care is nearly free. Our expenses were minimal (or, even, reimbursed).
Please use discernment as you navigate adoption-related advice online. Private adoption is a business; many, many ad campaigns and books are parent-focused. All adoption comes with loss for the child.
6. How are you able to love another person’s child like your own?
We hold them tight and love them while they’re in our home. And we pray for them when they leave. We have SO MUCH love for each child.
Sometimes, I forget that “M” is not our natural child — it seems very natural. We’ve also found that we truly love her birth mother (she is so very important). We have experienced how “God equips when He calls.” We accepted this life. God has given us the strength to complete that task with joy. He enables!