Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Impact of Doing Foster Care In Our Family

I was recently asked to write a post on how doing foster care has impacted our children living at home.  So I thought today I would share some of my thoughts on this topic in a broad sense.

When Tim and I felt the calling to do foster care, 18 years ago, we had two biological children.  Stephen was 9 years old and William was six months old. 
We thought we would step into foster care slowly but there was so many children in care that our home quickly filled up and became a revolving door for many foster children.  Each story sad, many just terrible.

We, as a family, must have been very sheltered from hearing much about this part of society, as we were not prepared to see the amount of abuse or neglect that we regularly saw.  When we went to foster care meetings, we would talk to other families and hear the stories of their cases as well.  It was almost over whelming at times.

Many of the children came with major issues.  Who could go thru what they did and not have any?  Being torn from the only family they ever knew, whether good or bad, is enough to cause great stress and emotional trauma.  Then add to it what they had seen and experienced in the form of neglect and/or abuse and you have a child whose normal development is off.  Their idea of love is off.  There emotional structure is just not normal.  There behavior can be all over the place and uncontrollable.  Some hoard food.  Many have trouble sleeping. Some scream and cry for hours on end with no way to comfort or console them.  To our children who live in a normal loving stable home, these behaviors are hard to understand.  We spend a lot of time talking to and explaining things to, our children that live at home.

So many people, myself included, go into fostering or adopting, thinking that faith in God, a stable home and love, will fix and heal all that is going on with a child.  Very soon we learned that is just not the case.  Those developmental years are so tender and the imprinting done on them will effect a child for life.  Children can and will change and improve in areas over time but some will always just be compromised in many areas of their person, just by not having anything normal in those developmental years.  They often also develop survival skills and behaviors that become part of who they are and can not be changed.  Also, when doing foster care, the only form of behavior modification you can use is "time out" and in older children, restriction of some privileges.   So for bad behavior, options are very limited.     

Laying these thoughts and ground work for what I am about to discuss, allows you to see that there are many facets to the children that come into our homes in foster care.  We have to take the good with the bad.  What I am about to say is hard to do and practice but... it is best to embrace and love a child for who they are, the way they come and pray and hope for the best for them.  Then the improvements and milestones they achieve will be so sweet and such cause for joy and celebration.  If you take in a difficult child with hard behaviors and think you can "fix" or change them, you set yourself up to always be frustrated with that child and possibly never bond with them.  It sets you up for a possible placement disruption and honestly, you will truly never be of any help to them at all.  It really is so hard to put into practice with some children though.

We have certain rules in our home, in place, that can not be broken, ever.  There are never boys allowed in girls rooms or girls allowed in boys rooms.  Not even for playing.  Tim and I are the only ones that change any diapers, ever.  The only bedroom with a door on it, is the Master bedroom.  No one is ever allowed to lock a bath room door.  These are just some of the rules that stand in our home. Not just when doing foster care but also when we took a several year break.  When one has special needs children in the home, in all stages of growth, development, cognition and back rounds, this is just best.  It is better than having something very unexpected happen and have regrets. 

Tim and I have been thru a lot in life.  Every hard time brings us closer and closer and makes us more united and one.  We try to serve God in all we do.  When we know a foster child is coming to live with us, we sit down and explain the situation the foster child is coming out of, to the children in our home, that can understand.   At times, Tim and I have been asked to take a foster child or children and we have asked the oldest child or children, in our home, if they think we should take them because in some situations, it would not only increase Tims and my responsibilities but theirs as well.  It would be more work for everyone in the home and cause a season of intense stress.  So, we often ask the older children, in our home, to get their opinion on the situation before acting.  Since Stephen was the oldest child for many years, in our home, we often asked him the question about taking in one more child.  He would always listen carefully to the background of the child and say, "No".  "I don't see how we can take even one  more." and go to his room.  It was never even five minutes and he would be back and say,  "I'm sorry, I was wrong."  "How can we say no."  "Where will they go."  "Who will take them.  We have to take them." 
Now that William is the oldest, he seem to go thru the same pattern.  Hearing the stories of these children, knowing the system is full and there are sometimes no other placements for these special needs or harder children, it builds a compassion into my children that they would not other wise have.  A selflessness that I am so happy to see that has grown in them.  I could never have taught them this without them experiencing being a foster/adoptive sibling to these children, that have come thru our home.  Only God can take a situation so broken and bad and use it for such good in all of our lives.  To have my children grow up seeing how blessed they really are.  How much they have in life, to have God, family, love, food and stability.  What they have seen and heard about theses foster care cases  has brought only good in their character and hearts.  God has done this and it is so good to witness.

When doing foster care, there are constant conversations, with our children, about the foster children that we have in our home.   We try to always be open, honest and upfront with our answers.  Our children always have so many questions....why were the children taken from their parents?  Are they staying or going somewhere else?  Why does this child or that child do this behavior, hoard food or have night terrors?  To explain why, helps our children give these foster children grace in their hearts, about the behavior they are seeing.  A compassion.  All of our children have at one time or another said to me.  "Mom, I will never do drugs or drink and do this to my child."  This is a profound statement.  I could talk to my children about the addiction of alcohol, not doing drugs and pray that they understand and stay away from these things in society.  I could preach to them about the damage they can cause in a persons life but them seeing the outcome, disabilities and struggles of the children exposed or neglected because of addictions, speaks volumes to their core.  They see the broken families because of it all. 

Now that I have spoken my heart on the heavier issues, I will share the precious side.  The love.  God has used the many foster children who have come thru our home, to grow us and shape us all.  All of our children embrace all children no matter the skin color, ability or disability.  They see the beauty in all children they meet.  My older children are so tender and loving with the young foster children we have. 
I see them stop and regress to sit down and play patty cake or peek-a-boo with the baby.  Or choose to watch Sesame Street or Blues Clues with the toddlers when told they can watch a show.  I have seen my older children, try to help the babies we have had, learn to crawl or walk.  Pick them up and rock them just because they feel like it or give comfort when the child is fussy and I am busy. 
All of our young children we have adopted used to climb up onto Antonio's lap, in his wheel chair and be cuddled when sleepy and needing to be still for a while.  This is our normal and it blesses my heart.

More specifically...child by child... I can say that doing foster care this time around...

Even though Stephen does not live home anymore, he comes to visit often.  He loves to play with  and spend time with his siblings.  True to form, even though he questioned if it was wise we take in more children at our age,  he is supportive of our decision and loves the foster children we have in our home.  I believe it is because he understands the big picture of it all, as he was raised in it.  He does special things for each child and spends time with them all when he comes.  Even with baby "K".

Antonio loves the toddlers and baby.  I can ask him to watch a toddler play in the living room while I cook dinner (I can see the living room from the kitchen) and he feels like a big help to me and tells me every move they make and what they are doing.  He was the first one to ever see our baby "K" roll over, as I had asked him to watch her playing in her crib while I was doing something for a moment in the next room!  He loves all our foster children.

William has a tender heart and understanding for what the children have went thru as he is older.  William and I have had very long and in depth conversations about the state of this world and how and why these things happen to the children that come into foster care. 
He often picks up baby "K" and plays with her, rocks her and loves on her.  She always gives a smile and squeal when he picks her up as she knows how much fun she has with him.  William often will pick up one of the toddlers and throw them in the air, tickle them, chase them around or pick them up and run them thru the house with their arms out pretending they are airplanes.  They LOVE this and want me to do it too.  Not a chance.  Ha ha.  They are way to heavy.  He also will sit and build with legos with "B" or build elaborate railway systems for them out of the wooden rail way. 

Carolyn LOVES children.  On sunny days, she asks to take "T" out to swing, as it is his favorite thing to do.  She will also watch "B" ride his bike or play on the playground. 
She wants so badly to mother baby "K" but with the baby's floppy tone and weight, now that she is older, it is not safe for Carolyn to pick her up and carry her around but Carolyn longs to.  She wants to.  I let Carolyn hold baby "K" and rock her in the recliner and Carolyn often sits down to play with her on the floor with baby toys.  She begs to feed baby 'K" but I prefer to do it.  Once in a while when I am very busy I will let Carolyn do it and she is in heaven.
Carolyn loves to pick out cloths for the children and would just love to take over with them if I would let her.  :)

Zeke has autism and does not like change at all.  When we first talked to him about going back into foster care he told me one day he was praying the child we took in would be a girl.  He told me this many times.  I thought it was very sweet to want a baby sister.  One day I asked him why and he said, "So he didn't have to have a baby in his room crying all night and smell the stinky diapers."  :/  Ok...not so sweet.  :)  But very honest.  When the foster toddlers came to live with us, they were a handful, very loud and screamed a lot as they were detoxing Meth.  Zeke literally hid and stayed in another room from them for a few weeks.  He would come and peek into the room they were in, watch them and then go and play in his quiet area on the front porch.  He slowly started to warm up to them and now loves them very much.  Zeke functions at about a five year old level in many areas, so he likes a lot of the same things that "B" does.  So they actually play together a little.  Zeke likes to play toddler games with "T" like chase me. 
He likes to take "B" out to the playground to play as "B" likes to run and climb and ride bikes like Zeke does.  So they have buddied up some.  It has actually been good for both of them and myself as it burns off some of "B"s high energy and helps Zeke be more social.  Zeke is still trying to figure out his relationship with baby "K".  He does not speak much and "K" likes to be talked to.  But Zeke will walk up a lot to her and give her toys or rub her soft head for a moment and smile at her.  It is very sweet and tender to watch him with her.

Elizabeth has deep issues with close personal relationships.  She is a pleasure around strangers or acquaintances but can not act appropriately to the people that love her and are close to her.  She deeply enjoys playing with the toddlers but because of her strong, stubborn, personality, she often ends ups squabbling or fighting with them while playing even though they are much younger.  I have to supervise her with them at all times if she plays with them.  So the rule is she is not allowed around them unless she asks permission. 
She would never hurt them but fights over toys, tattles every few moments and wants to be bossy and correct every little thing they do that bothers her.  We have always had to work on her people skills around all people.  It is part of who she is.  She is very sweet with baby "K" but again, I have to supervise her.

We have a large, diverse and busy family.  It is loosely structured. 
Tim and the foster toddlers playing Legos.
I have to have routine in order to get so many things done in a day but it is loose enough to run out to a doctors appointment or take the children out to a play park on a nice after noon.  Most foster children placed in our home have done very well, by the grace of God.  They see the structure,  respect, love general obedience and behavior of our children and try to model it over time.  All of our foster children are allowed to call us what they wish.  All have chosen to call us mom and dad I believe because our children call us that.  I think having a large and loving family is so good for the children that come into our home because they get bathed in love and positive stimulation all day long.  There is always someone to play with, a lap to sit on, some one to comfort them.  I am not always available.  I have barn work to do, food to prepare, a home to keep clean, home schooling to get in and appointments to make and keep.  We all work together to do what needs to be done.  This is a family calling.  A family mission.  God is worthy, we give Him all the glory, for all the positive things that anyone sees in our life and family.  Days are not always good, many days are down right long and hard but in it all is such sweetness and joy.  A lot of how you feel about life is where you place your focus.  We feel honored to serve in this way.  To see the miracles and changes made in these children, we have been blessed with, is enough.  Tim and I are blessed to overflowing.   God is so good.

Psalm 100:5  For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.




  1. Wow, thank you! This is very enlightening. It is a great resource for people interested in foster care, particularly the long term effects of children who have even been placed at a young age, such as (seemingly) Elizabeth, Carolyn, and Zeke. Thank you for your honesty regarding them, I didn't realize the limitations of their interactions, I kind of imagined they (children in their situation) would act a bit younger than their age, but have the responsibility of that age (if they're 14, act like a 10-year-old, responsibility of a 10-year-old).

    With William off doing adult things, I'm sure it is great to have Antonio keep an eye on things even though he probably can't physically help kids/keep them safe. Plus making someone feel valued is always rewarding :)

    Your job sounds really hard, but it sounds like you're doing a great job. It means a lot that B, T, and K will have the stability in their young lives from the time they came into your home.

    Anyway, this was a great insight, thank you!

    1. Thank you for your interest in our family and lives. I appreciate it so much when people ask questions and leave comments. It encourages me so much. I pray I answered your question fully. There is so much to say on this topic and it is hard to condense it down into one post. :) Blessings!

  2. If Antonio goes know he's at my house! LOL! I need him to help me!

    I wish I could say my adult children (as old as 39 and as young as 20) thought that our foster care and adoption had been s good thing. But they don't. They have so many complaints "now" about the screaming, crying, behaviors etc. It makes me wonder- where did they live? Because I have photos of everybody living happily and compatibly. And of course it was hard! God never promises easy!
    Of course none of them are interested in doing it themselves. Nor are they interested in sufferings of others. And only one cares about the siblings left behind. It hurts. I pray for them, I loved them, and I continue to love them. That is all I can do!

    I never realized as we fostered and adopted that my precious first birth son would become severely mentally ill by age 18. It started when he was 12. Fostering and adopting had nothing to do with it- but it had an effect on fostering and adopting. Loving hurt children and trying to save my son. He has not been legally allowed near our home for over 16 years because he is a felon. My foster license says that I can not allow felons near Mary Ann and Sandra. He can call. I saw him in prison once, but he is dangerous.

    Anyhoo just some thoughts I was having.

    My 35 yr old daughter told me when she was in her early 20s that she'd heard a preacher say that when you are a child you live with your parents faith, but when you leave home you have to get your own. I just assumed my children could have my faith as they left ingrained in them. That my love could make a difference. Yet in a fallen world each of us has our own choices.

    Sorry for rambling. It all brings up so many emotions!
    (((HUGS))) God Bless You for all you all do to the very best of your abilities! We keep you in our prayers

    1. Your so funny! Yes, Antonio can not do much, his body is getting in such bad shape but he is invaluable as a child watcher for me. For a few moments when I need to step away. He loves to watch the children play and tells me EVERYTHING they do as they are doing it good or bad. So he is a huge help. Truly he is. And it makes him feel good to help me. I am never far away though. He has over the years kept an eye on Elizabeth for me to make sure she stays on task in her school work. He is such a good boy. Or should I say man. I am so sorry about what you have went thru with your son. I think behaviors and mental disabilities are the hardest to parent. People are always asking us questions about adopting special children and how on earth we do it. But I tell them it is all God and that anyone could have a child born to them this way or something happen in life to cause a disability in their child. You love them and just do what needs to be done as a parent. William is our biological child and has autism. You are never guaranteed perfect or normal in this world. All that is over rated anyways. Hardships and trials builds our faith and relationship with God. I know it is hard when our children become adults and say and do things that are not nice or even kind. But you are right. All we can do is love them and pray for them. If they only knew the truth and how much we have invested into them. God is so good. Hugs to you and much love from me here in the North Georgia Mountains.

  3. What a good post... I love your transparency. Though I have no experience in foster care or adoptions, I so do enjoy reading, seeing pictures and hearing you and Elizabeth in your lives and conversations with one another though all of this. You two amaze me!

    1. Thank you for the love, prayers and encouragement. I am blessed to have you as a friend. God be with you.