You know those rare situations when you meet a beautiful couple whose love for one another fills the room, they are tons of fun to be around and you can just tell they are good people? Well, Sara and Stuart, a special couple I met when visiting the Pacific Northwest is one of those couples. I friended Sara on social media after returning home from my trip because we talked briefly about my non-profit organization and adoption and she seemed like a cool chick I would want to stay in touch with. I was right. At the end of 2015, Sara joyfully posted on social media that she and Stuart, were officially licensed foster parents! Awesome! There aren’t nearly enough foster parents in this world to house all of the deserving children that need homes and these two would be perfect for the job! After their big announcement, I got in contact with Sara and asked her if she would share her journey to foster and she agreed. Below is Sara and Stuarts’ journey in her words.
Thank you, Sara and Stuart, for changing the lives of the children who are lucky enough to be placed in your home and for inspiring people like me, who hope to foster to adopt in the future!
There’s a lot of misconceptions about foster care. So many people say “Oh, I would love to be a foster parent, but I can’t because of X,Y,Z.” Here are some of the ones I’ve heard recently.“I can’t be a foster parent because…”
– I have roommates. As long as your housemates agree to get finger printed, then you’re eligible.
– I work full time.Child care is paid for. They have programs that will find you emergency child care so you don’t need to miss work.
– I can’t commit to being a full time parent. Most counties are in desperate need of respite care (short term care, 24-48 hours). You can take a kiddo for a weekend a month if you’d like too!
– There are only older children in Foster Care. Nope! There are lots of babies. We get emails on a weekly basis for kiddos who are infants.
– The kids in foster care are damaged/troubled/aggressive. Foster kids have done NOTHING wrong to get themselves into foster care. Their parents are just unable to take care of them. Bad things have happened to these kids, that doesn’t make THEM bad kids.
– I’m too young, too old, a student, single, have pets, already have kids etc. If you have enough room in your home and your heart to care for a child, you should definitely consider applying. So many of these things don’t matter in the application process.
This was our process chronologically.
FosterCare Orientation– This was a simple 3 hour class that explains the need for foster parents and what you can generally expect with foster care. It also explains the rest of the application process as well as giving you the massive packet to start filling out.
Caregiver Core Training– These classes take place over the course of a month. They’re 24 hours total. I loved this part of the process. They had experienced foster moms come in and tell you their stories/ tips & tricks. They had bio moms come to talk about their children were in foster care and were successfully reunited. They also had young adults who either aged out of foster care or were adopted come in and talk about their time in foster care. These classes really gave you a taste of what foster care is like for everyone involved. I think it was also really beneficial to prospective foster parents to meet bio moms and hear their stories. I can’t speak for everyone but it definitely made Stuart and I a little more empathetic to some of the struggles that these women go through when they lose their child and how much work it really takes to achieve reunification.
The Packet of Hell– SO MUCH PAPER WORK! You need 3 people to write you detailed references, you need to go to the doctor for a check up and get a bunch of vaccinations (including flu shots for anyone living in your house), you need to get finger printed for background checks, you need to get pay stubs and provide proof of car insurance, you need to go to a CPR/blood borne pathogens training, get your pets vaccination records, and fill out the most extensive packet about the entirety of your life thus far.
Homestudies– The worst anxiety of my life was the hour before our first home study. Which turned out to be really silly considering we had the sweetest social worker ever. He didn’t do a white glove test and he maybe spent 5 minutes total walking through the house. The questions were definitely personal, but he made us feel super comfortable while he was asking them. It’s important to remember that these social workers want “real” people parenting these kids. If you’ve had a rough childhood, a past of drug use, etc. In a lot of ways it can make you a little more compassionate to what these kids lives are like, or maybe help you relate to the bio parents a little better. You don’t have to be perfect, you need to be real.
It’s always been the plan for Stuart and I to try and grow our family through foster care adoption. As far as we know, we’re perfectly capable of having a child biologically, but adoption is just something that’s always made sense to us. We started the process in May 2015 and got our license that December. We started getting calls/emails the day we were licensed. We just started taking placements in early January. We did respite care for a 17 month old boy who was awesome. We spent lots of time going to parks and made it to the aquarium. He was surprisingly easy and had us laughing the entire time he was with us.
Right now we have an adorable 3 1/2 year old boy staying with us. He’s so funny and has the most incredible imagination. He makes up stories that are so articulately thought out and are full of amazing detail. Bed time is a struggle and there have been a few temper tantrums which have been tricky to navigate, but all in all it’s been completely manageable and a lot of fun. He may be longer term, but we’re not sure. It sounds like we’ll get more answers mid- February.
Foster Care is a wild ride. It’s the craziest thing Stuart and I have ever done. There’s nothing like getting a call for an emergency placement on your way home from work and then 45 minutes later have a kid dropped off at your door. We’re so excited to eventually grow our family through foster care adoption, but right now we’re just trying to take it day by day. My job contract ends in June, and I’ll be staying home for awhile after that. Stuart and I l would love to be able to take in a sibling set eventually.
Some things I would advise for prospective/new foster parents are:
– Try not to get frustrated with the application process. It’s going to be long, irritating and stressful. You WILL get licensed and it will totally be worth it.
– You will be forced to learn how to “go with the flow.” I’m a total type A. I like lists, plans and knowing what to expect. If you’re a foster parent, you literally have zero control. At any point in time things can change. Foster care has made me realize that there is no point worrying about “what ifs?” because there is absolutely nothing you can do about the situation.
– If you have a kiddo of a different race then you, get ready for a lot of stares and questions. The little boy we have right now is black. We’re white. When we’re out in public and he addresses us as “Mommy and Daddy” you start to see heads turn. Random strangers will ask you a lot of questions, specifically “Soooooo what happened to their real mom?!” There’s a funny parody that addresses this here https://vimeo.com/110548783
It’s been a little tricky to figure out how to shut those kind of questions down tactfully and quickly, especially when our little guy is within ear shot.
– Goodbyes will suck. I haven’t been a foster parent long enough to really understand the heartbreak of getting attached to a child and then having to say goodbye. But I do know that the time you spent with that child is important. You gave them a stable, loving home when their bio parents couldn’t. You were the parent they needed at that point in their life.