Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Joy in Being a Foster Family

A couple of months ago, by husband and I became foster parents for a beautiful baby boy. We have learned so much since that time, both from the baby, and from becoming licensed for foster care.

Allow me to backtrack.

A few years ago, our nephew moved in with us on a kinship placement foster situation. He was 17, and only stayed with us for a few months. While we had a temporary license, we hadn't go through the required 16+ hours of training. I really wish we had done so back then. I think our experience, and his, would have been much better. We learned so much about what to expect regarding traumatized children. And all foster children, even infants, are traumatized. They have been removed from their home and the people they know and love. Regardless of how unpredictable and damaging, and even dangerous their home's may have been, it was their home. It was all they knew, and they have been taken from it.

Jump to the present.

We were asked to take a relative's sweet little 2 month old for a weekend. He has now been with us for over 2 months, and we are grateful every day for this boy. We are so happy that he has been able to remain with family members. He still see's his maternal grandmother and grandfather, his sister, his aunt, and other family members.

I should make it clear that this placement may or may not be permanent. We would love to keep this boy that has brought so much joy into our lives, but the choice lays completely with his birth parents. His father doesn't seem interested in reunification, and has said as much. His mother has some things that she needs to work through in order to have the little guy back in her care.

The foster system is set up in such a way that reunification is the main goal when that will be best for the child. In most cases it is. In our case, adoption is a secondary goal, only if reunification with birth parent(s) isn't an option because they have chosen not to comply with the things necessary to show that the child would be in a safe, nurturing environment.

  • Are you free of drugs? If there has been a drug issue, the parents must test free of drugs, through random drug testing, for a period of time. 
  • Can you adequately parent? If neglect was an issue, parenting classes and/or a mental health evaluation may be ordered. 
  • Do you have a job? The parent(s) have to have income in order to financially support their children, 
  • Do you have a home? They must have adequate housing. Generally, this means paying rent on your own place, not staying with friends/family/boyfriend, It should be a permanent (or semi-permanent) place so that the child can feel secure. From what I have seen, crashing on someone's couch, without paying for your space often ends quickly with hurt feelings. 
  • Do you have transportation? This can be a reliable automobile or public transportation. In our case the parents were given bus passes, but didn't use them much. In fairness, Utah doesn't have the best public transportation. 

Other than showing up for court, and staying out of jail, I think that is it. Now those are things that most people can answer yes to. But for some, those things may seem so out of reach, that losing their children has become a possibility. For others, a reality. This makes me very sad for both the parents, and for the children that are inevitably traumatized. I am happy to be able to step in right now and help out one boy, while his mother tries to make some changes to her life that will help her to be better for him, and for herself.  

I know that more foster parents are needed all the time. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent in Utah, check out this website. It has been a lot of work to get here, but for our family, it has been an incredible blessing.