Sunday, November 10, 2013

Foster Care

Honeymoon at the beach but went to see Universal Studios.

Tim and I were married in 1995.  I went from running my own cleaning business where I worked hard daily to provide for myself and Stephen…to a stay at home mom.  It was a huge adjustment.  

I struggled in this new life at times.  I soon started home schooling Stephen to fill my days and in 1996, I gave birth to William.  
I knew that being a wife and mother is a huge calling and is a ministry all by itself but still I felt as if I was not doing anything for the Lord and had so much empty time daily.

As Tim and I prayed about our lives and what God wanted us to do with our lives for Him, He started bombarding us with foster care advertisements, movies, videos, bill boards and I would constantly run into people who were exuberant to share with us all about foster care.  After a few months of this constant daily exposure to everything foster care, we finally said…"I think God is calling us to do foster care for Him".   Yes, we were that slow to get it.  We were so slow to “get it” because we had never talked about it or considered it before.  We were very uneducated about it.  It was not even on our radar or in “our” plans. Actually, I myself had no idea what it was all about.  I was one of those people who only thought negative things about foster care.  As I had only heard bad things about it from people who either had their children taken or those bad stories that made it into the news media.

I personally went into the classes with the mindset of “how could anyone take a child from its own mother?”  How naive I was.  After taking the classes and reading story after story of drug addiction, abuse, dysfunction, and poverty, some of these children and families have went thru…  God had my full attention and my eyes were wide open.  I had no idea about this part of our society and left a few of those meetings emotionally drained and with so much to think about.  What hard lives these children and families had.  After taking these classes we were much better equipped to handle going thru the hard cases that came our way and had a heart for all involved.  We started doing foster care with only fostering in mind as a way of serving the Lord.  We wanted to help.  I don't think I could explain it any better or write it any better, than this foster mom in this short blog post.

I will try to list all the things I can remember we had to do to become a licensed foster home.  If you look at it all closely, we really didn’t have to modify or buy much of anything as most of the things they require most people do anyways.  The hardest thing was filling out all the paper work and getting official documents copied and to them.

Because we live in the country and have a well, we had to have our well tested.
We had to have an environmental inspection done because we have a septic tank.
We had to take the required classes.
We had to have a fence around our pool if an in ground or lock on the ladder or deck if above ground.
We had to take CPR classes.
We had to have all fire arms under two sets of locks.  Like trigger lock and in a locked cabinet. 
All dogs and cats have to be up to date on rabies vaccinations.
Physicals done on all people over 16, TB tests and drug screens. 
During our home inspection we had to have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.  Medications up in a locked cabinet.   Knives and cleaning chemicals up or with toddler proof tabs on all drawers or cabinets if taking in toddlers.  If taking in babies or toddlers you need to have all electric out lets pluged with safety plugs in them.
You need to be finger printed and back-round checked. (DFCS orders this and takes care of it)  They need a good bit of paper work filled out with copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates and any past divorce decrees. 
They also do a home study.   Which is a very invasive, deep study, of each adult  and child in the home and evaluates the home itself for safety. 

These things are just what I can remember off the top of my head believe it or not there is probably more.  I know it is a long list and is invasive but we are talking about taking care of human beings.  If I was going to send my child somewhere for a while, to be cared for, I would want all the above done as well.  When we as foster parents take in a child, we are saying we are going to be responsible for their safe care, in every way, till they return home or to a safe home.

Why am I sharing all of this today?  You guessed it!  Because it is International Adoption Awareness month.   I wanted to share with you that even though Tim and I had never talked about adoption at all when we were dating or early in our marriage, that when doing foster care, eventually we had a child come to live with us that sadly had its parental rights terminated on.  We were given the option to adopt that child because she had been with us so long and of course we said YES!  How could we say no?  We had her for two years at that time and could not imagine life without her.   
By doing foster care for nine and a half years… God showed us, He not only called us to foster care but to adoption!  We had over 40 foster children come thru our home and adopted five times over the years! 

I wish I had kept better documentation and could say I remember each and every child we had.  Sadly, I cannot.    Sometimes we had children just a day or few days.  Some stayed years.  Sometimes we had waivers signed to have extra children in our care temporarily.  I remember having 9 children at one time, including my own, for a short while.  (My main vehicle was literally an old bus we bought!) We did respite care for many foster homes when they went on vacation or needed a break.  
 Clifford the big red bus!  You know everyone knew us when they saw us in town!

Did we adopt every child that was in our care that had parental rights terminated on it?  No.  We had several we sadly said no to for various reasons.  We were also offered many children for adoption, that had parental rights terminated on, that their current foster parents could not adopt for one reason or another.  We were never in a position at the time to be able to adopt one.  We also perused a few children that were free for adoption and Antonio's case was the only one that worked out.  We have found that it is best to wait on the Lord and let him build our family the way He wants it to be.  God is so good.

Adoption is a huge part of foster care!  There are so many children in our country, in every state, sitting in foster care just waiting to be adopted.  For someone to give them a chance.  

I do know God calls people to different things, even to different parts of fostering...Some people only want to do foster care.  Some foster/adopt meaning they foster and are willing to adopt if the situation arose.  Then there are also some families that totally only want to adopt thru foster care.  They are willing to either just look for a child off the "Waiting Children's List" or will take high risk placements hoping to adopt at some point.

Foster care is not for the faint of heart.  These cases are extreme.  Children are not taken into custody unless there is a great danger to them.  You would just not believe some of the stories and twists and turns in so many of the cases we had.  Cases where we did our job in keeping the children safe while with us and then the system let them down.  Times when the system did not work.  Times where we were so unhappy and concerned when the judge said that child could go back home.  Times when we became very bonded to a child or children and had a very hard time saying good-bye.  Times that we could not wait for a child to leave and the case to be over with and then feeling guilty about our feelings.  Or that the over worked under paid case workers were not there for us because they are spread so thin and were there for another family that needed them.  We also had some cases that went well and ended well.  That when Tim and I took that child to DFCS to be returned to their parents we felt happy and satisfied with how things turned out.  I truly don't know how anyone can do this without the Lord helping them to navigate it all.  Knowing we can give it all to God and He will help us with the emotions of it all.  Thank you God!

If you have not ever thought on these things...please take the time to pray and see if God is calling you to help the orphaned or fostered children of this world.  There is a lot that can be done with out actually  becoming a foster parent.  One can offer to be a free tutor to a foster child, helping them build their self esteem and helping them raise their grades.  One can volunteer to become a mentor to a foster child thru an agency like Big brother Big sister.  Mentors make the world of difference to these children, especially the older teens.  One could donate new clothing or offer to pay for a child to participate in a sport.  One could "adopt" a child for the holidays and pay for their presents.  I know this sounds extreme but one could also offer to bring a meal to a foster family or do a "fix it up" project around their home that would help them out.  I know when we had a lot of children I would often struggle to  put a meal on the table at the end of the day.  Especially, if helping a new child work thru their grief of being moved and still caring for everyone else.   

May God raise up an army of His people to reach out to foster and adopt around the world.

Proverbs 19: 17  He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.




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