Foster care is not for sissy’s or people who think that it will not hurt like a knife through the heart when it is time to separate yourself from a child that you have been taking care of for months or years. Foster care is not for people who think that they can make a ‘living’ at it, or for people who cannot withstand the pressure of people automatically assuming that they are doing it ‘for the money’. Finally, foster care is not for people who think that this will not seriously impact themselves, their spouses, their marriage, their children, their friends, and their extended family.
I can sum up who foster care IS for very quickly…….Servant’s of Christ.
MATTHEW 25: 34-40 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
You see, foster care is heart wrenching work because there are no guarantees that the child will get a happily ever after. Foster care takes financial creativity, so that you can see to it that the child gets to experience great things while he is with you, yet still have enough left over to make sure that all of his needs are met. Foster care takes the whole family to make it work…..if your son (or daughter or husband or wife) is not on board, then you will be constantly in battle with yourself and with them on whether or not you are doing the right thing. If your parents or extended family disapproves, then going to family functions will be hard for you and the foster children in your care. You can only be truly at peace if your whole family, or in the very least, your immediate family, is on board with the sacrifices (and rewards) of foster care.
However, peace is not always possible, and we must accept that if we are going to be Servants of Christ, a peaceful life might just elude us. After all, Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, but while on this earth, He did not receive very much peace. As most of us will never be prince’s, we can surely not expect any better treatment or peace than what Jesus was given. We are instructed to model our lives after Christ, and if that is so, we must inconvenience ourselves, go against what the world has deemed normal, and sometimes, even clash opinions with our brothers in the name of God’s Calling.
Knowing all of this, can you still answer the call? If you are reading this post, then you obviously feel like you are being pulled in the direction of becoming a foster parent. It’s not as if How-To Possibly Become a Foster Parent just pops up on a search engine……unless you are searching for it.
I have a post all about why my family came to the decision to foster. It was not an easy decision, but one that we prayed about for over a year before we came to that ultimate determination. This post is all about facts. Some of them cold and hard, yet others might be just what you needed to learn to push you over the edge of setting your decision in stone. Any which way you look at them, they are what they are…..so here they are:
1. Do you have the space to foster a child or children? It doesn’t take a mansion, but each child does need his or her own bed and space. How much space depends on the agency, but your heart and mind will usually guide you on what is a good space. Something that we did not know when we applied to be foster parents was the ages of children that can room together….our social worker told us that she would not put a 3 or 4 year old in the same room as a 14 to 16 year old teenager. Seeing as how we were going to let my son (age 16) share with another boy (age 3 to 6), and my daughter (age 14) share with another girl (age 3 to 6), this presented a problem. Yes, we had another room set up for two infants or toddlers, but we were in the process of adding twin beds into our biological children’s rooms as well. Good thing that she stopped us when she did, because she would not place children into their rooms (they were clean and roomy, it was just the age difference). Now, if we adopted children, then they can share a room with my biological children, we are just talking foster kids here.
2. Can you support these children financially with some reimbursement from the Foster Care Agency in your state? Yes, let me say flat out, you will receive a reimbursement check from the agency every month. The check will not come to you until one to two months after the child has arrived. That means that you have to have funds available to feed them, clothe them, and house them all with your own money. Here is what usually happens in the financial department of fostering children:
a. You agree to a foster placement, the child is dropped off to you, and you might receive a voucher for clothing and a voucher for baby equipment (if you accept infants and toddlers). The social worker will ask you if you have a car seat, crib, etc. If for some reason that you do not, a voucher MAY (or may not) be given. You should already have all of this type of equipment, in my opinion, if you already know that you will accept infants and toddlers (read my post on getting ready for a Home Study which gives you all of the information on how to get ready for infants and toddlers). Even if you do have all of your big equipment, the equipment voucher could still be issued and you can use it for toys, diapers, baby monitors, baby gates, etc. Normally, a voucher for car seats, cribs and what-not is given if you are asked to foster a child that is an infant or toddler, and you had originally stated that you were not interested in accepting this age bracket. Say there is a 10 year old girl (which is in the age bracket that you agreed to), but she has a two year old sister (which is not in your age bracket). They knew before they called you that you probably would not be set up for the two-year old, but they figure it would not hurt to ask. Because of that, they will help you to get your home set up to accept that child. If this type of situation happens, and you accept the child, then rock on! However, if you already know you want infants and toddlers, please be prepared for them, as the financial support that you receive from the agency WILL NOT be enough to buy everything that you need for this age bracket, including the vouchers that you receive.
b. The right to apply for WIC if the child is between the age of birth and 5 years of age. WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children, and is a nation-wide program for food supplement. It is NOT food stamps, so it is not enough to feed a child on a regular basis. It is just to supplement their diet with healthy foods such as milk, eggs, cheese, fruit juice, beans and peanut butter. Infants will receive checks for formula….which helps out A LOT in the financial department. Only your foster child will receive assistance from WIC, in the form of checks that you will then redeem at your local grocery store. You can call the WIC office in YOUR CITY (not the city of the Foster Care Agency), as soon as the child in this age bracket is placed in your home and make an appointment to see a benefits coordinator. Once at the appointment, they will ask for the child’s MEDICADE number, which you may or may not have at this point (getting a MEDICADE number may take one to two weeks). They will then automatically determine the child eligible based on the fact that they are a foster child. You will then go directly to a nutritionist, who will determine what type of food the child will receive based on age, and after they take the child’s height and weight (to determine if they are overweight or malnourished). You will usually receive enough checks to last for two to three months, then you must go back to meet with the nutritionist before receiving more checks.
c. A room and board check (your monthly reimbursement check). This is a supplement check that may have different names based on the agency in your area. For all intents and purposes here, we will call them a room and board check. Each age bracket has a different monetary amount that will be reimbursed to you (remember it could take two months after the child has been placed with you to receive a check). This money is to reimburse you for the child’s room, clothing, food, and other necessities. The amount could also differ based on the needs of the child. If the child has medical issues, etc. you could receive more money for their care. Again, if you are fostering infants or toddlers, this money will not go very far. Everyone knows that a 1 to 2 year old can grow out of four or five different sizes of clothing in one year! They also need much more age specific toys and equipment that they could grow out of in a few months time. Just outweigh the cost of fostering an infant or toddler to your own funds and provisions (and remember that almost everything for children this age can be purchased second-hand, which will cut costs significantly).
3. Do you have the time to help these children deal with the pain and heartache of becoming a foster child? Not all of the children come with outward bruises. Many of the wounds are on the inside. Because of that fact, these children can be like nothing you have ever seen, but who could blame them? A lot of the situations that these children are coming out of could be taken straight from the screen of a horror movie. Yet, beware, there is a strange period of time that a foster child goes through that could fool even the best of foster parents……’The Honeymoon Phase’. There is a honeymoon period between a foster child and their foster family. The first month or two that the child is with you, you could think that you hit the jackpot of good and obedient behavior. Ummmm…..no. They are just being on their best behavior because they are not sure how you will react if they act up. After all, they are scared, and lonely, and nervous, etc. You and your family are also on your best behavior, because you want to soothe and love away all of the hurt this poor sweetheart has endured, so you might overlook tiny infractions for a little while that might later become a behavior problem. These are not like your own children whom you have raised since birth, these kids have been through traumatic events, sometimes major ones. Even infants can differ from your own biological or adopted baby, because some of these little ones are born addicted to drugs. Just make sure you are ready to deal with a lot of things that you are not used to…..with the reassurance that your social worker is just a phone call away if you need help with a particular behavior (and these social workers have seen it all, bless their sweet souls).
4. Can you interact with the relatives of a child placed in your care without judgement and ridicule? Almost all children in foster care get to visit with their families on a weekly basis. A visitation worker will come and get your foster child and take them to see mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandma or grandpa, etc. You will send a copy of the child’s Life Book (there is a post about how to write a Life Book on my blog), and as you write the daily or weekly entries in this book, you must remember that this is the only way that the relatives know what is going on in their child’s life. Key words here are THEIR CHILD. It is not up to the foster parent’s to pass judgement on these relatives. Sure, it will be hard, but all we need to do is focus on providing the best and most loving care that this child could possibly receive. Let the judge and jury decide the rest. Remember, we are all God’s children, no matter what it is we have done (you will have to remind yourself of this often, when something happens that you do not agree with).
5. Can you willingly give back a child to their parents, relatives, or new adoptive family, when the time comes? It is that cut and dry. Can you do it? Can you take care of a child for months or years, and then in a blink of an eye, pack up their clothes and toys, walk them to the door, say goodbye, and let them go forever? Yes? Good. Now, can you let them go even if you think that the courts got it all wrong, and there is no way that the child should go back to his/her mother, father, grandmother, cousin, etc.? Yes? Then you are ready. I am not saying that you will be able to do all of these things without secretly wishing that you will get to adopt, or that Uncle Fester will suddenly decide that he doesn’t want to seek custody, or even that you will be able to say goodbye without completely falling apart and go on to cry for days. All I am asking you, is can you always keep your eye on the fact that foster care, by it’s very design, is temporary. If you can temporarily offer care, support, and love to a child, while their parents and relatives go through the necessary steps of getting their children back, the becoming a foster parent might be right for you.
6. Would you be willing to adopt a child that cannot go home or to relatives? Some people, especially people who want children through adoption, might think that this would be the ideal situation. However, I caution you that ‘ideal’ is not a word that should be applied in this case. Say the parents were extremely abusive, neglectful, etc., and it was determined that they cannot go back to their family. There are also no relatives in the area, or there are no relatives who are willing to take on a child (or legally, they would not be approved to adopt the child), or it may be that there are no living relatives. So, you are asked to adopt the child. Sure, if you have bonded with the child and you are open to adoption, this can be a very good thing. If the child is happy in your home, and would like nothing better than to become a permanent part of your family, that is extremely awesome. I am not trying to be a downer in the adoptive department. After all, some of these kids really need a good and stable family to call their own. My point is, by gaining a new family, they ultimately must lose their old one. No matter how bad that old family might have been, it is still their family, and always will be. In my perfect little world, there are never any children who must emotionally endure losing their family, even if they are gaining an awesome replacement family. Yet, that is not the world we live in, and if you are willing and able to provide a permanent home to some precious child of God, then that is such a sweet and wonderful thing.
Just as with everything in life, the hardest things, the things that require the most discipline and the most time, are usually the most rewarding. Look what our sweet Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, did for us. I do not know of a single person that would knowingly and willingly make the sacrifices that He did. Yet, He received His rewards in the end, just as His Father promised Him. Being a foster parent will have great rewards, but will also require great sacrifices. Therefore, it is not for everyone. Having all of the facts laid out bare for you to see, will hopefully help you with your own personal decision in becoming a foster family. As with anything and everything you do in life, pray….pray….and pray some more. He will lead you to the right decision….God Bless!