As we sat around the dinner table still reeling from the pain and heartache of our miscarriage and years long infertility issues my wife said seven words that would drastically change the course of our lives forever.
“Maybe we should try fostering or adoption?”
Boy howdy, I’ll tell you what, there have never been a combination of words that have shaken the core and foundation of our lives quite like those.
It’s been a year and three months since we answered the call to become licensed foster parents and opened our homes and hearts to children in need. My initial thoughts were it didn’t seem too difficult of a task, we’re just basically taking care of kids right? I’ve always wanted to be a dad, I’ve babysat tons of kids, know a lot of people with kids and I’m basically a big kid myself. Easy peasy, I was basically built for this! Right? Right?
Oh, how life has a way of humbling us!
After searching the internet for “how to become a foster parent,” we started looking into agencies until we found one that we really liked. We contacted them, exchanged information and started the process. We took the classes, attended the seminars, Googled like crazy and met with other foster parents to glean from their experiences. The process itself is pretty extensive and the length of time it takes really depends on the family and how focused and available they are on completing the checklist items. Typically, the rough average length of time to become licensed is three to six months.
At this point, reality was starting to sink in that this was not the proverbial “walk in the park” that I had envisioned. How the heck did I have those blinders on? This is not “babysitting,” this is real life; this is a real child with real needs! This is a child that has been hurt, rejected, neglected, unloved, cast aside, born with drugs in their system and abused in ways that we could never imagine. The fire inside grew deeper and we were now more determined than ever to help these children no matter what!
I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not all sunshine, roses, sweet family dinners, ice cream, tickle fights and laughter … sometimes it’s the equivalent to walking on LEGOs covered with sticker burrs while barefoot! Sometimes it’s a child telling you they love you and random hugs that melt you to the very core. Sometimes it’s them waking you up by continuously banging their head on the floor at 3 a.m. because they can’t cope with whatever is going on in their mind. Sometimes it’s watching the progress of potty training, learning to eat with utensils, working in the garden, water fights and chasing each other around like dinosaurs. Sometimes it’s night terrors or breaking down and laying on the floor beside their bed for tow hours to keep them feeling safe so they can sleep.
In this short time, we’ve had our hearts filled with joy and broken into pieces, our minds sharp at times and muddled at others, our wills strengthened and broken more times than we can count. We’ve wanted to keep going and wanted to quit all at the same time, but knowing that these kids are in our homes safe, fed, loved and hyped up on ice cream makes going forward worth every minute. Ask us if we had the chance to go back and time if we’d do it all over again and you’ll get a resounding “absolutely!” In fact, if I could go back in time I’d have started this process way sooner.
For anybody interested in becoming a foster parent, one of the biggest things is to get plugged into a support system. Foster parents aren’t just taking a child into their home — they are also taking in the case managers, CPS, CASA, Ad Litems, ECI, behavior and speech therapists. They’ve got the medical logs, weekly and monthly reports, court appearances, permanency hearings, parental visitations and maintaining licensing requirements. Our homes are revolving doors of people there to help these kiddos, which is great, but it can get overwhelming at times.
That’s why in Cooke County we started a monthly foster support group, a quarterly foster information meeting and a network of foster parents and resources willing to walk this out with each other. Remember, the best investment a person can make is in a child’s life. The investments into their lives from a foster or adoptive parent can have an impact that changes generations.
Change The Face of Fostering is a community focused group dedicated to providing support and resources to current and prospective Foster and Adoptive families in the North Texas Area. If you or anybody you know are interested in becoming a foster parent, supporter or just interested in learning about fostering you can reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by following us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ctfof